Best Italian Restaurants in Saigon

food - Saigon/HCMC: Sept. 12, 2018

Foreigners come to Vietnam, and especially Ho Chi Minh, its most international city, with curious palettes for the local cuisine. But, no matter how delicious Vietnamese food is, eventually everyone craves grub from their place of origin!

Luckily, Saigon is a metropolitain playground for foodies. It seems that most of the businesses open in Saigon are offering something or other to eat but what you may not know is that with the influx of expats that have entered the city over the last few decades an impressive number of restaurants have emerged offering all manner of international cuisines, including Italian.

italian restaurantsImage source: crazyitalians.com

Italian food is loved and valued worldwide, but is undoubtedly the most appreciated by the people who call the boot-shaped European country their own. Italians need their comfort foods. Luckily for them, and all lovers of Italian food, there are a handful of exceptional options in Saigon to choose from. So whether you’re looking for a low-budget lunch or a night-time fine dining experience, City Pass Guide has tested and tasted Italian dishes across the city to bring you what we think is our list of the best Italian restaurants in Saigon.

FAMOUS FOR PIZZA AND PASTA

Pendolasco

Address: 36 Tống Hữu Định, District 2
Opening Hours: 10:30AM - 10PM
Price: VND160,000 to VND450,000 for a main course.

If you’re looking for a bona fide Italian dining experience in a serene environment, you have to check out Pendolasco, situated in its own French villa in the heart of Thao Dien. Pendolasco, a favourite amongst foodies in District 2, is notable for its famous "pizza alla palla" for which its Pizza Master chef Manuel Reale won the Prestigious World Pizza Championship in Parma in 2017.

italian restaurantsImage source: Pendolasco

Pendolasco is one of the longest-running and best Italian restaurants in Saigon. The lovely garden atmosphere combined with the selection of traditional foods cooked up by world-class chefs from the old country, it provides one of the all around best Italian food experiences you’ll find in Saigon.

Boasting a selection of nine fresh pastas and four dry, the chefs are veritable scientists who have mastered the art of cooking pasta that is both pleasing to the taste as well as the stomach.

The Carbonara pasta with pork cheek is a crowd favourite. This homegrown culinary mainstay from Rome is traditionally made with a sticky egg-based sauce and bacon, but Pendolasco’s chefs have added delectable chunks of pork cheek, which make each bite explode in your mouth like a juicy bacon-flavored bomb.

Along with pizza and pasta, Pendolasco has a revolving door of main dishes made by chefs who understand that, as owner Carlo Anzon said, “Cuisine is not static, it is a dynamic art.”

Our favourite dish: The pasta "mare e monti", a Central Italian pasta dish made with seafood and clams with a porcini mushroom base. The flavour is warm, subtle and earthy.

Reviews:

Overall, Pendolasco gets a strong rating of 4.5/5 on Facebook, 8/10 on Foody.vn and 4/5 on TripAdvisor. The lowest negative review was centred around a potential client being unable to find the restaurant. However, we here at City Pass Guide find it in bad form to leave a 1-star rating for a restaurant you were unable to eat at because you got lost. The majority of reviewers spoke about the consistently good food and comfortable atmosphere.

Kid Friendly: Absolutely. Pendolasco even offers cooking classes for kids. Check their Facebook page for the schedule.
Business Lunch: Yes
Romantic Dining: Yes, soft lighting and a garden setting make this a great date venue but since this restaurant is very kid-friendly you may find that you and your amante are dining “family style”.
Large Groups: Yes

Pizza 4P’s

Address:
8 Thủ Khoa Huân, District 1 
8/15 Lê Thánh Tôn, District 1 
MD2 Đại lộ, Nguyễn Văn Linh, District 7
151b Hai Bà Trưng, District 3 

6th Floor, 65 Lê Lợi, Saigon Centre Shopping Mall, District 1 
Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. everyday (Last Order: 10:30 p.m.)
Price: VND250,000 - VND500,000

Although, Pizza 4P’s in largely known as a fusion restaurant, it also has its fair share of classic Italian offerings, the quality of which grant it a formidable position on this list as one of the best Italian restaurants in Saigon.

Pizza 4P’s opened in Vietnam 10 years ago with the realisation that local people love bread and might appreciate some decent gourmet pizza with excellent crust. The establishment, with five locations across Saigon, prides itself on its mission of "Delivering Wow, Sharing Happiness."

Pizza 4p’s also strives to participate with local farmers to bring diners a genuine ‘farm to table’ experience. For example, when the founders had trouble sourcing ricotta cheese for their pizza and pasta dishes, they decided to cut out the middleman and started making it themselves. They cultivate their cheeses in the central city of Dalat, where they also source the vegetables for their dishes.

The use of fresh cheese in their offerings makes each dish outstanding. Pizza 4P’s “Ricotta Cheese Parma Ham Wrap” is a refreshing and popular appetizer. Cool, savoury and with a touch of rocket, it has a unique taste that makes it an excellent starter.

Pizza 4P’s is probably most legendary for its homemade burrata cheese, which can also be individually purchased at each location. By dipping the burrata cheese in salt brine, which hardens the outer layer, a kind of bag of melted cheese is created. Once opened, the burrata spills all over and enhances the flavour of whatever dish it finds itself on.

Pizza 4P’s also partners with Saigon’s own Maison Marou to create seasonal desserts which are unique to each of the restaurant’s locations.

Some Italian purists may be surprised by the fact that Pizza 4P’s began in a backyard pizza oven in Tokyo not Sicily but as the founders write on their website: “[Pizza] has transcended borders, age and gender, and is now beloved by so many.”

This love for Italian inspired cuisine in Vietnam can be endorsed by the fact that despite having five Pizza 4P’s locations to choose from across Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be hard pressed in the evening to get a table without a reservation.

Our favourite dish: The House-made “smoked cheese Bolognese spaghetti” is a standout. Any fan of Italian food has surely eaten Bolognese spaghetti at some point but an added morsel of smoked burrata melted over the pasta bring out the flavour of the Bolognese beef and takes the dish to another level.

italian restaurantsImage source: Pizza 4P’s

Reviews:

Out of 3,312 restaurants in HCMC, Pizza 4P’s ranks #32 on TripAdvisor. 2,565 people took the time to review one of the five Saigon restaurants and only 17 people left a negative review. Pizza 4P’s also enjoys a relatively high score of 7.9/10 on Foody.vn and a strong showing of 4.5/5 on Facebook. Most reviewers were blown away by the inspired and unusual flavours. However, this might not be the place to go if you prefer traditional Italian cuisine.

Kid Friendly: Yes. They have special bamboo plates and cutlery for kids and are always happy to accomodate with baby chairs or extra cushions for little ones.
Business Lunch: Yes
Romantic Dining: Yes
Large Groups: Yes, but be aware without a reservation you may be out of luck.

The Long @ Time Square

Address: 22 - 36 Nguyễn Huệ Boulevard, District 1 
Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 0:00 a.m.
Price: VND138,000 to VND238,000 for a pizza

The Long @ Time Square restaurant is located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, stretching between the two popular streets of Đồng Khởi and Nguyen Hue. The Long is more of a cafe type venue with a simple yet very slick and modern design. The restaurant’s guests can sit either inside or outside.

italian restaurantsImage source: thereveriesaigon.com

The menu is presents only the best Italian fusion dishes created by the restaurant’s chef from Napoli, Italy. This might be one of the best places to experience true Italian food because a lot of ingredients are transported directly from Italy. The Long also features an enormous amount of homemade gelato flavours - 32 at last count.

Our favourite dish: The pizza! It is authentic, artisanal and some of the best in town.

Video source: The Long Times Square

Reviews:

4.5/5 on TripAdvisor, 8.2/10 of Foody.vn, 4.5/5 on Facebook. Most of the reviews are centred around the excellent pizza and cool vibe, however, a very small number of guests noted service problems.

Kid Friendly: Yes
Business Lunch: Yes, but its trattoria ambience can get a bit noisy during rush hours
Romantic Dining: If you’re looking for a romantic and intimate dining experience in the Reverie hotel, we would go for R & J Italian Restaurant & Lounge over The Long. But for a casual date night the Long @ Time Square is fun and delicious.
Large Groups: Yes, but book far in advance.

Reale Italian Restaurant and Bar

Address: 27-29 Nguyen Dang Giai, Thao Dien, District 2
Opening Hours: 11AM - 10PM
Price: VND160,000 to VND290,000 for a main course.

A relatively new addition to Thao Dien, Reale Italian Restaurant and Bar is the product of Pizza Reale’s award winning chef, Manueal Reale. Whilst hispizza delivery service has been building a happy and loyal following over the last couple of years, Manuel is now striving to recreate the authentic Italian trattoria experience for those who wander down Nguyen Dang Giai in District 2.

italian restaurantsImage source: facebook.com/pizzareale/

Reale Italian Restaurant and Bar offers the comfortable, casual dining experience that springs to mind when you think of traditional Italian meal times. Outside, a couple of street side tables provide an al fresco dining opportunity for a lucky few, whilst the inner restaurant pays homage to the simple but cosy Italian décor that is famous the world over. 

For a small venue, the menu is surprisingly varied and features a wide range of pizzas, pastas, risottos and mains course to satisfy every possible craving. A selection of traditional Italian desserts including tiramisu, panna cotta and affogato al caffe, and a broad drinks menu provide customers with a chance to enjoy a sweet treat.

Our favourite dish: Aside from the pizza, which really is delicious, the Salmone Griglato from the Specials menu is highly recommended. Simple but full of flavour, a generous salmon fillet served with creamy potatoes and seasonal veg is a delicious, lighter option.

Reviews:

Reale Italian Restaurant and Bar is such a recent addition to the review sites, it has yet to gain enough reviews to gain an average score. However, with the Pizza Reale delivery service scoring 4.9/5 on Facebook, 9.2/ 10 on Foody and 4/ 5 on Trip Advisor, we suspect it won’t be long until the trattoria is also scoring well among Saigon’s foodies.

Kid Friendly: Yes
Business Lunch: Yes, but remember, that while everyone is welcome, this is an informal restaurant
Romantic Dining: A perfect spot for a casual date.
Large Group: Yes. 15% discount available for those who book in advance.

Basilico 

Address: InterContinental Residences Saigon, Corner Lê Văn Hưu Street &, Nguyễn Du, District 1
Opening Hours: 06.30 – 22.30 everyday
Price: VND 200,000 – VND 2,100,100

Despite being housed in the rather swanky and chic Intercontinental Residences in the heart of District 1, Basilico somehow manages to feel like an intimate eatery, perfect for a casual dinner with friends. Of course, not all casual dinners are made equal, and Basilico certainly deserves its place in the list of top Italian restaurants in the city.

Walking in, guests are welcomed by the aroma of authentic Neapolitan style pizza being cooked to perfection in Basilico’s wood fired oven. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this Basilico is nothing more than a fancy pizza parlour. Once seated, you are presented with an extensive menu of authentic Italian dishes that each sound as delicious as the last, making it difficult, to know what to choose. From pizza to pasta, to risotto to seafood, Basilico excels in providing diners with the finest, Mediterranean ingredients all day long. 

italian restaurantsImage source: thereveriesaigon.com

It literally is ‘all day long’ too, as Basilico opens in time to serve early rising tourists and busy business people with the option of indulging in their breakfast menu. The menu may be slightly more international in flavour than later in the day, but the coffee is still very much an authentic Italian experience, ready to give early risers that much needed espresso-sized kick to start the day. 

In true 5-star hotel fashion, Basilico also offers a Sunday Brunch option which comes highly recommended. From 12pm – 3pm each weekend, guests can indulge in a broad selection of specially chosen dishes, and, if they wish, add a free flow drinks option to sample just some of the excellent wine list that is also available.

Our favourite dish: When in overwhelmed with choices, go for a classic, and in this case you won’t be disappointed. The Risotto Ai Porcini is excellent. Perfectly cooked and full of flavour, it would be a challenge to choose something different on a return visit! However, if you did choose to opt for something different, the selection of item available from The Grill is also highly recommended.

Reviews: Basilico reviews well on Trip Advisor (4/5), Facebook (4.2/5) and Foody (8/10). People generally praise the high quality of the foody and the attentiveness of the staff. However, some negative comments have been made in relation to the price. With this in mind Basilico may not be the best place to go if you are working to a tight budget. 

Kid Friendly: Older children yes, toddlers and younger perhaps not. 
Business Lunch: Yes
Romantic Dining: Certainly. Romantic but without being cliched. 
Large Groups: Yes, but book in advance as the restaurant can get busy.

COSY AND TRADITIONAL ITALIAN FOOD

Carpaccio

Address: 79 Hai Bà Trưng, District 1 
Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. everyday
Price: VND140,000 - VND425,000

You can find Carpaccio Italian Restaurant on a busy section of Hai Ba Trung in District 1 just past the Park Hyatt Saigon.

At first glance it seems quite humble in stature, in fact if you’re not careful you can easily pass it. However, upon walking into this restaurant that opened more than 18 years ago, the ambience changes immediately and the depth of the restaurant becomes apparent. Immediately, guests are enveloped in an Italian aesthetic, which is meant to make Italian folks far from home feel embraced by the familiar.

The staff, most of whom have been at the restaurant throughout it’s different incarnations, also help to give the restaurant a warm, familial environment. The traditional trattoria atmosphere pairs well with the homestyle cooking that makes Carpaccio a favorite for many who can’t go without Italian food in Saigon.

italian restaurantsImage source: tripadvisor.com

The items on the menu are listed in Italian, untranslated, giving an even stronger air of authenticity. There are nine different kinds of pasta on deck. Although classic dishes like the Bolognese tend to be the most popular, they also have deep culinary cuts like “pomodoro de basilico,” a signature dish made with diced fresh tomato sauce and fresh basil, which will smell and taste like home if you’re Italian.

Carpaccio makes our Best Italian Restaurants in Saigon list because of their excellent food but also because of their dedication to quality. Chefs are flown in from Italy periodically to reinvigorate the menu with new dishes, which are rotated regularly. With a more than decent wine selection, delectable meats and cheeses imported from the motherland and gracious hosts that are more than willing to guide the dining experience for newcomers, Carpaccio is great for an authentic dining experience that won’t break the bank.

Our favourite dish: Anyone visiting should try the dish that has provided the namesake for the restaurant. "Carpaccio di filetto con rucola e grana", which is slices of raw marinated beef, lemon juice, olive oil, arugula (rocket) and flakes of Parmesan cheese.

italian restaurantsImage source: fbcdn.net

Reviews:

Reviewers are overall quite happy with what Carpaccio has to offer: 4.4/5 on Google reviews, 4/5 on TripAdvisor and 9/10 on Foody.vn. Guests enjoy the traditional Italian atmosphere and burrata cheese. A few people commented on the slightly elevated prices for Vietnamese standards but this restaurant is still very reasonable when compared to other European eateries in the area.

Kid Friendly: Yes, if children are well-behaved.
Business Lunch: Definitely
Romantic Dining: Yes
Large Groups: Up to 8 people at a table is possible but it will be tight.

Pasta Fresca

Address212 Nguyễn Văn Hưởng, District 2
Opening Hours: 11.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m, 6 p.m. to 10.30 p.m, closed Mondays
Price: VND64,000 - VND214,000

Tucked down a small alley off the main drag in Thao Dien, Pasta Fresca is one of the most recent additions to the Italian foody scene. This tiny patio restaurant that opened in July 2018 serves up some of the freshest pasta in town. Everything is home-made and hand-rolled and even our die-hard Italian friends rave about the quality.

Federico Pinzi, the head chef, and Valerio Di Veglia, Pasta Fresca’s operations manager, have been friends for a long time. The duo both come from Tuscany in Italy and share a lifelong love of handmade pasta.

The casual al fresco atmosphere is great for a simple and delicious lunch or dinner and the head chef is often wandering around to check on clients and make sure everyone is happily satiated. Eating at Pasta Fresca feels a bit like being invited to dine at a good friend’s housea friend who happens to want to share some phenomenal Italian food with you. Don’t expect a fine dining atmosphere but do expect to leave with a smile on your face.

Our favourite dish: The pumpkin and rosemary fried gnudi with arrabiata sauce is a stand out. The pumpkin is perfectly combined with rosemary to create the comforting flavours of fall. Pair the dish with a glass of red wine and you’re good to go.

italian restaurantsImage source: facebook.com/Frescatogo/

Reviews:

Pasta Fresca is still a young restaurant since it only opened in the summer of 2018 so there are not an enormous amount of reviews to choose from. However, Pasta Fresca gets an excellent 8.7 out of 10 for quality and service on Foody.vn. The overall score is only brought down by the 6.9 average score for location.

Kid Friendly: Yes
Business Lunch: No
Romantic Dining: No
Large Groups: Not unless you book out the entire patio in advance. The restaurant is small.

ITALIAN FINE DINING

R&J Italian Restaurant & Lounge

Address: The Reverie Saigon (level B1), 22-36 Nguyễn Huệ Boulevard, District 1 
Opening Hours: 5PM - 0AM | 6PM - 10PM
Price: VND288,000 to VND688,000 for a main course.

R&J (short for Romeo and Juliet) provides the finest of dining experiences of the restaurants that have made the list. Situated in the luxurious Reverie Hotel, it boasts an absolutely stunning decor that unites both a classic and a contemporary flair. It is also one of the only restaurants in Saigon that can truly boast that all the key players in the kitchen are entirely Italian—passionate Executive Chef Giovanni Parrella runs the show while Chef de Cuisine Enrico Martino crafts each dish. The chefs focus on bringing ingredients directly from Italy so that diners can get the most authentic and luxurious flavours of Italian cuisine. 

Patrons will find themselves surrounded by gold tones, Italian mosaics and magical candelabras. R&J is appropriate for large gatherings but it is ideal for an intimate dinner. Although it’s on the pricey side, those with deep enough pockets will have their taste buds wooed by what R&J’s cuisine.

italian restaurantsImage source: thereveriesaigon.com

Perhaps the best representation of R&J’s extensive menu lies in it’s “Romeo and Juliet” offerings. The Romeo and Juliet menus are a pair of five-course dinners, which are individually picked for couples. The meals begin with crisp, subtle flavours and build in potency with each course.

Some standouts on the Romeo side of things are the Napolitano, which is comprised of Paccheri pasta, 12 hours long slow cooked Neapolitan meat ragout in what they call a “grandma recipe”. Also, the Polipo, made with Pan-seared Japanese octopus, lemony potatoes salad, salmon roe, and tarragon.

Our favourite dish: The coup de grace on the Juliet menu is the Wagyu course, made with slowly baked Wagyu beef brisket, purple potato, and porcini mushroom flavoured with spring truffle.

Reviews:

Overall, the R&J Italian Lounge & Restaurant has an enviable 8.7 score out of 10 on Foody.vn and a top-notch score of 4.5 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor. A very small percentage of diners have listed disappointing experiences at R&J on TripAdvisor regarding the price and the fact that children under 12 are not allowed. However, the restaurant strives for the top-notch quality expected of a 6-star hotel and most diners would agree that having kids disrupting the elegant atmosphere would lower the bar.

Kid Friendly: No
Business Lunch: No, they open at 5 p.m. for dinner.
Romantic Dining: Absolutely. R&J has romance in spades.
Large Groups: With plenty of advance notice.

Banner Image source: Pendolasco