It’s the Germans who get all the attention in Evansville — so strong is our heritage with the republic. Yet Italians also have made their mark on the city. By 1900 there already were about 150 Italian immigrants living here — a small percentage of the population of 50,000 but still large enough to make one wonder how these people found Evansville.
It’s known Italians immigrated to Southern Indiana to work in the limestone quarries; perhaps we have them to thank for the Italian culinary influences we enjoy today. Here, our favorite places to say, “Amore!”
For wonderful, aromatic one-pan Italian sautés, like veal picatta, Raffi’s, locally owned since 1989, is your destination. Picatta is a well-known sauté and sauce preparation in which the pan is deglazed with white wine, then light chicken stock is added and reduced with lemon, capers, and other ingredients as the chef desires, and the sauce is finally finished with butter. Raffi’s serves a large range of Italian and Mediterranean specialties.
1100 N. Burkhardt Road, 812-479-9166
Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano
Rooted in a Northwestern University Kellogg School Management MBA program thesis, Biaggi’s was founded in 1998 to bring authentic Italian cuisine to the Midwest; today the popular Evansville location is one of 23 restaurants in 12 states in the admired, but small chain. We like mussels pomodoro with tomato, garlic, and white wine broth, and all of Biaggi’s signature and classic pasta entrées. Beef, pork, poultry, and seafood fans will have plenty of selections from which to choose, too.
6401 E. Lloyd Expressway, 812-421-0800
Chicago celebrated the opening of its first Olive Garden this spring; Evansville has enjoyed the popular chain for more than two decades and just this year, Evansville Living readers voted Olive Garden as Best Spaghetti in the Best Of Evansville.
1100 N. Green River Road, 812-473-2903
Experience original family recipes handed down and developed by the DiLegge family. Sister and brother pair Gina and Dan DiLegge hold their homemade secret family recipe for their sausage and meatballs close, and have been in business for more than 20 years. DiLegge’s also was the first restaurant locally to feature baked ziti or Fettuccine Alfredo on the menu.
607 N. Main St., 812-428-3004
Vecchio’s Italian Market
Give your nostrils a treat with the scents of garlic and freshly baked bread always lingering in the air at Vecchio’s Italian Market. The bread is made by hand every day and the pastas are imported from Italy. Browse the grocery for elusive ingredients to make your own perfect Italian festa.
14 W. Jennings St., Newburgh, IN., 812-490-7879
Milano Italian Cuisine
Established in 2001, Milano Italian Cuisine is a family-owned gem in Downtown Evansville. Meet co-workers for lunch and enjoy Milano’s cafeteria-style lunch buffet or select one of the many lunch combos, or stop in for dinner and select from pasta, baked dishes, or pizza before a game or concert at the Ford Center, or any evening.
500 Main St., 812-484-2222
Of course, Little Italy can be in a shopping center — Italian is a state of mind. Little Italy leaves no doubt with its full menu — from antipasta to little sins (tiramisu, cannoli, and spumoni). Meals — try the rigatoni carbonara — are served with homemade bread sticks and signature pesto basil and olive oil dipping sauce.
4430 N. First Ave., 812-401-0588
Dine on the Chicken ala Crema, a recipe accidentally made when owner Angelo Jawabreh poured Alfredo sauce over chicken Marsala. The dish found a life at the restaurant among other authentic favorites. Angelo’s promises an enjoyable dining experience with its convenient location on Main Street — at lunch when pizza and pasta entrees are featured ready-made, or at dinner, when the restaurant seems more like a trattoria.
305 Main St., 812-428-6666
Smitty’s Italian Steakhouse
One might say only in Evansville does the restaurant marriage of Italian cuisine and steak successfully wed — and that would be true at Smitty’s Italian Steakhouse. Inspired by the authentic Italian osterias, Smitty’s brings grass roots approach to Italian country food inspired by regional ingredients to Evansville’s popular W. Franklin Street. Whether your order is medium rare or with marinara sauce, Smitty’s will please.
2109 W. Franklin St., 812-423-6280