Bella Marino Ristorante & Pizzeria 3A-G-11, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong (04 899 0277/www.bellamarino.com).
A lovely spot by the marina where you can enjoy the soft breeze in your hair while tucking into a slice of Pizza Alla Siciliana or Spaghetti Ragu Alla Bolognese. Portions are generous, especially the starters – the bruschetta and baked aubergines are widely recommended.
Pork-free. Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Disabled friendly. Daily, 11am–11pm. $$$
Ecco 402 Lebuh Chulia (04 262 3178).
Ecco is an Italian restaurant with few agendas besides, simply, serving good Italian fare; it’s located in a provinciallooking lot, a pre-war shophouse, with minimal decorations and basic furniture, with the only sign of slight indulgence present in its few antique elements. Its thin crust pizza is made from scratch, as are its pastas and breads. Besides that, its chicken pot pie, crème brûlée and the Truz pasta are also noteworthy. The atmosphere is casual; the servers are friendly and efficient, and the price is, accordingly, affordable.
Pork-free. Child friendly. Disabled friendly. Tue–Sun, 3pm–10.30pm. $$
Eighty Eight Restaurant 49-A Jalan Kelawai, George Town (04 226 2821/www.facebook.com/ EightyEightPenang).
Eighty Eight’s name refers to the birth year of its owner, Chef Danny Ng.
His acute attention to detail and sense of presentation is well illustrated in dishes like the risotto mushroom, oxtail and hazelnut parfait. As a result of his apprenticeship at the Sunrise Global Chef Academy, you’ll find cooking techniques like the sous-vide method evident in some of the restaurant’s Italian menu. It’s known to reinvent its menu every month, so you’re always in for a surprise when you dine here.
Credit cards accepted. 12noon–2.30pm, 6.30pm–10.30pm. Closed on Tuesdays. $$$
Il Bacaro Venetian Restaurant 106 Lebuh Campbell (04 261 8290/ www.campbellhousepenang.com).
It may be wise to make prior reservations as the place can be quite packed with locals and tourists on weekends – which is quite a feat actually, considering the fact that Il Bacaro is quite a sizeable restaurant that spans a few lots with ample tables. If you prefer to sit outside, there are seats lining the sides of Chulia Street, offering a view of the old colonial buildings. The chef at Il Bacaro believes in the use of the freshest ingredients, so the breads and pastas are all made in-house; the menu also changes periodically, just to shake things up.
Pork-free. Tue–Sun, 12.30pm–3pm & 6.30pm–10.30pm. $$$
Mario’s Ristorante 152-B Batu Ferringhi (04 881 3775)).
The menu at Mario’s Ristorante is comprised of a multitude of pizzas with different toppings, and pastas. It’s also not afraid to deviate from Italian fare, with fajitas, tortillas and steak featuring amongst Mario’s highlights. The general consensus is of high praise for Mario’s service, and the enjoyable experience of dining here.
Pork-free. Child friendly. Kids’ menu. Disabled friendly. Daily, 9.30am–11pm. $$
Ristorante Bella Italia 149 Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Batu Ferringhi; 368-1-7 Jalan Burma, George Town (04 881 3741).
Ristorante Bella Italia has generally been acknowledged as one of the best Italian restaurants in Penang. Its many patrons speak in favour of Bella Italia’s food, despite the absence of air conditioning (both in the alfresco dining area and the indoor seating area). With another outlet in Belissa Row in Pulau Tikus (not to be confused with many other restaurants going by the same name, with one in Kuching and another in Kota Kinabalu), Bella Italia offers not just Italian mains of the highest quality but also well reputed desserts. In particular, try the tiramisu.
Pork-free. Child friendly. Kids’ menu. Free parking. Daily, 11am–2.30pm, 5.30pm–11pm. $$$
Soul Kitchen 17 Jalan Phuah Hin Leong (04 227 1388/www.soulkitchenpenang.com).
Soul Kitchen is a self-labelled trattoria – an eatery that doesn’t sport a printed menu, is slightly more casual than a ristorante and charges lower prices, in general. Soul Kitchen reserves its focus on being, in the words of its owners, ‘fresh, healthy and simple’ – a philosophy they hope is reflected in the vibe of the restaurant, in the food, in the competence of the service and in the soulful music that’s played here. They take pride in their tramezzini (grilled sandwiches with a choice of salami, mushroom, turkey ham, gammon ham or tuna) and their signature penne chicken al limone (chicken pasta in white wine and lemon sauce).
Child friendly. Disabled friendly. Thurs–Sat, 6pm–10pm.
NEW Spasso Milano 3C-G-2, Block C, Ground floor, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong (04 891 2888/www.facebook.com/ SpassoMilanoStraitsQuay).
Sporting all-white furnishing with intimate lighting, Spasso Milano primarily serves Italian food with a menu inspired by head chef Felice Martinelli's love for wholesome ingredients and fresh herbs. Take a seat and enjoy one of the restaurant’s must-try dishes, like beef carpaccio cipriani, classic risotto à la Milanese and wagyu beef ravioli, with a view of the Straits Quay's marina.
Credit cards accepted. Mon–Fri, 12noon–11pm; Sat & Sun, 12noon– 12midnight. $$$$
Via Pre 5 Weld Quay (04 263 0560/www. via-pre.com).
As far as Italian restaurants are concerned, none are going to offer Italian meals as authentic as one that is owned by Italian expatriates – and
that’s the case with Via Pre, one of the finest restaurants in Penang’s Italian dining sphere. The ambience (and in direct proportion, the price) is slightly more upscale than the other places offering Italian cuisine around the area but its pizzas and pastas, if judging by standards of authenticity, are unrivalled. In keeping with its sophistication, its front-door sign is daintily indiscreet and the restaurant only houses around 12 tables, so be sure to make reservations.
Pork-free. Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Daily, 10am–10pm. $$$