Italian cooking can be elegantly upscale cuisine, or family-friendly comfort food – and sometimes both. The same can be said of the restaurants which serve this cuisine, especially in Connecticut, where many establishments are now in the hands of the second, third or even fourth generation of the same “famiglia” which opened them 50, 60 or 70 years or more ago. While no where in the state has a higher concentration of classic and nouveau Italian restaurants and delis than New Haven and its Little Italy neighborhood, visitors to and residents of Connecticut can find good and even fine Italian cuisine in almost every town and city in the state. Here are just five of the top Italian restaurants in Connecticut.

Consiglio’s
165 Wooster St.
New Haven, CT 06511
(203) 865-4489
www.consiglios.com

Any restaurant that has been in business for over three-quarters of a century has to be doing something right, and perhaps the secret to Consiglio’s continued and near legendary success is that this is truly a family business, and always has been. The line from founders Salvatore and Annuziata Consiglio down through their grandchildren who continue their tradition remains strong and unbroken, and the love and pride and experience is evident in every bite. From the groaning plates of pasta topped with Aunt Marie’s meatballs to the massive servings of lasagna, this is cooking a la famiglia at its finest. Consiglio’s is both a culinary landmark and arguably the flagship restaurant of New Haven’s Little Italy, and the servings are so magnifico and abundanza that no one ever leaves hungry or unsatisfied.

Carbone’s Ristorante
588 Franklin Ave.
Hartford, CT 06114
(860) 296-9646
www.carbonesct.com

New Haven is not the only Connecticut city with a Little Italy. Hartford’s South End has many fine Italian delis, bakeries and dinning establishments, and few are more famous or beloved than Carbone’s. The grandchildren of the founders now run the place, and in addition to the southern Italian traditional recipes passed down from their grandparents and parents, this third generation has added a modern touch of their own, and has even branched out to add delights from other parts of the Mediterranean. Carbone’s has come a long way from the little sandwich and chicken shop of the 1930s, and while it looks and feels (and is priced) a bit upscale, the atmosphere is still very family friendly. This is especially true on Wednesday nights, or “Pasta Wednesday” as they call it at Carbone’s, where offerings from the Captain’s List are half price and the special of the night is a three-flight tasting menu of the chef’s pastas of the day.

Campania Ristorante And Taverna
284 E. Main St.
Bradford, CT 06405
(203) 483-7773
www.campaniaristorante.com

Four generations of the Solevo family have poured their love and talent for Italian family cuisine into making Campania Ristorante and Taverna the place to go for a good old-fashioned Italian meal. Campania is intentionally not a fancy upscale restaurant. It is still the warm, welcoming, comfortable and affordable kind of neighborhood place that so many Americans – and not just Italian Americans – grew up going to for a family dinner. There are many dishes priced well under $20 even in the dinner menu, and that includes not only pasta but also some of the calamari and veal entrees as well all but one offering in the “Pollo” (chicken) category. Campania is a region in the very south of Italy, and Campania Ristorante specializes in preparing the cuisine of the region – especially its seafood.

Related: Top Spots For Mediterranean Cuisine In Connecticut

Treva
980 Farmington Ave.
West Hartford, CT 06107
(860) 232-0407
www.trevact.com

The sweet Italian sausage at Treva in West Hartford is the star of their Sunday brunch as well as many of their best dishes. The menu here is mostly central and northern Italian which means that in addition to the traditional pastas found at other Italian restaurants, there is also an abundance and focus on lamb and beef. Treva is a meat-lover’s paradise, but also presents a delightful list of chicken and seafood, of which the Branzino and Trota (whole fish and whole trout), Merluzzo (cod) and Salmone (served with saffron risotto) are among the chef’s most delectable dishes.

Sale e Pepe
97 S. Main St.
Newtown, CT 06470
(203) 426-0805
www.salepeperestaurant.com

Sale e Pepe is a relatively new Italian restaurant, but chef and owner Angelo Marini has the requisite credentials necessary to make this contemporary bistro an authentic Italian experience. Although raised in Connecticut, Angelo was born in Italy and has spent his adult life working in family Italian restaurants. In 2005 he opened Sal e Pepe in Newtown with an eye to adding his own spin to classic dishes, and thus were born such delights as Fettucine Pescatore (scallops, shrimp, calamari and clams in a spicey plum tomato sauce served over fettucine) and Short Rib Ravioli (pasta pillows stuffed with braised short rib and fontina in a sherry cream sauce with mushrooms, caramelized onions and roasted red peppers). There are many more traditional Italian restaurants in Connecticut, but there is only one Sal e Pepe.

Related: Top Italian Delis In Connecticut

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.

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