Italian is hardly the first cuisine to come to mind in a discussion of Santa Fe dining. Instead “New Mexican,” “Southwestern,” and “Mexican” are the city’s culinary buzzwords. Still, Santa Fe harbors several Italian gems all of which earned Wine Spectator’s Awards of Excellence.
Address: 95 W. Marcy Street, Santa Fe (a brief saunter from the Plaza)
With the Italian reputation for romance, it’s not surprising that Il Piatto is a great pick for date night. This fine dining restaurant balances superior food and wine offerings with minimal pretention and a rustic atmosphere. Il Piatto runs both an early and late night happy hour, during which appetizers are half-price, making dishes such as the house-made honey ricotta extremely reasonable. You can use this deal to turn the appetizer menu into a small plate smorgasbord, particularly because the menu offers both full-sized and petite servings of fresh pasta. Why decide between the smoky gorgonzola and walnut ravioli and the rich duck pappardelle when you can indulge in both? If you make it to dessert, Il Piatto serves up an unmissable lemon zabaglione.
Address: 540 Montezuma Avenue, Santa Fe
Despite Pranzo’s location bordering a mall, its food is on par with its award-winning vino. As a dish, the branzino, a type of sea bass, offers a layered flavor profile. Olive, lemon, and garlic provide an intriguing exploration of bitterness and saltiness. The fish, which is moist and tender, is served whole save for the head — an appreciated touch for those who prefer not to be eyeballed by dinner! Alternatively, the grilled ribeye is coated with a delectable balsamic reduction — Pranzo excels at sauces. For dessert, a standard ricotta-stuffed cannoli is elevated with a drizzle of tart pomegranate molasses. As an added bonus, the restaurant usually hosts cabaret on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
Address: 322 Garfield Street, Santa Fe
A few years ago, the interior of Andiamo walked a fine line between cozy and claustrophobic. It has since been revamped to create a light, airy ambience. In contrast, the restaurant delivers hearty carbs and simple comfort food: crusty, country bread and fresh pasta. The standout spaghetti Bolognese is amped up by the addition of ground veal to the more traditional beef. At lunch, crowds pack Andiamo for panini such as the prosciutto, mozzarella, and tomato combo, which is united with a tangy tapenade. The highlight of the dessert menu is the profiteroles, which contain vanilla ice cream, topped with a lake of melted, milk chocolate sauce.