Columbia’s Comfort Food
The Italian Way
By Kristin Scott
Columbia, South Carolina and its surrounding areas is known for local restaurants and comforting, southern, soul food. But another type of comfort food making its mark on Columbia is Italian. With many local restaurants and styles to choose from, you can find just about any type of Italian dish with all its comforting scrumptiousness. Here is a list of places to choose from around town and in the surrounding areas.
Villatronco.com | 803-256-7677
Villa Tronco is the oldest-standing restaurant in Columbia and for good reason. The family-owned restaurant survived the Great Depression with resilience, as well as other times in the economy when other restaurants did not survive. It has a family-style yet elegant atmosphere with history and character that is unique in Columbia. The food is spectacular and includes the famous family cheesecake, chicken soup, and Italian dishes. The restaurant has also won awards for its wine selection that pairs elegantly with the menu. There is even entertainment weekly, including an opera night. If you want to hear the entertainment, be sure to make a reservation because the tables book fast. You can find the schedule on the Villa Tronco Facebook page.
Alsupstairsitalian.com | 803-794-7404
Located just over the Gervais St. bridge, this Italian restaurant has a lot to offer. With private dining rooms with a bar located downstairs, and the main dining room upstairs, there is room to fit any size party. There is a gorgeous view of the city, making it one of Columbia’s most romantic restaurants. The restaurant also serves classic style Italian dishes, including pasta, seafood, steak and chicken. You can even find a whole flounder on the menu. The next time you are looking for a spot with a view for a date night or a room for a special event, contact Al’s Upstairs.
DeLucca’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria
Deluccas.com | 803-926-5255
If you are looking for some comforting Italian food with a laid-back atmosphere, look no further than DeLucca’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria. Known for its pasta dishes and calzones, there is something to satisfy everyone. The restaurant is also known for its customized compound butters, like fig butter, which are paired with homemade bread. If pizza and homemade bread is not what you are looking for in an Italian dish, the restaurant also serves a variety of appetizers, salads, and entrees. Stop by the next time you are looking for a casual night out with comfort food in your stomach.
Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar
TraviniaItalianKitchen.com | 803-957-2422
TraviniaItalianKitchenNE.com | 803-419-9313
With two locations, one in northeast Columbia and one in Lexington, Travinia is a well-known Italian restaurant with custom dishes and cocktails. With different menus for lunch, dinner and private events, there are options for everyone. The menu includes famous Italian nachos, a spinach and goat cheese salad and flatbreads. The several private dining rooms and patios make the restaurant one of the best places to go if you are looking for something for a party or al fresco dining. There are also evening specials, including happy hours, ladies’ nights and date nights. Follow them on each of their Facebook pages for their events.
Il Giorgione Pizzeria and Wine Bar
IlGiorgione.com | 803-521-5063
Located downtown in one of the old Dianne’s on Devine suites, Il Giorgione has one of the best flatbread pizzas in town. Going on its eighth year in business, the restaurant has a variety of flatbread pizzas, authentic pastas and anti-pasta, and an excellent wine list, make sure this restaurant is on your checklist of places to dine. Chef Il Giorgione does a great job of bringing his Italian heritage and the culture into his restaurant and his food. The restaurant has limited seating, so be sure to make reservations.
RistoranteDivino.com | 803-799-4550
Known as Columbia’s restaurant for fine Italian dining, Ristorante Divino is a staple of The Vista in downtown Columbia. Although the restaurant has been open for over 16 years, it is now under new ownership of local Chef Mike Deevey and Chef Henry Griffin. Ristorante Divino has authentic, creative dishes that have won awards. With locally sourced ingredients and one of the most unique Italian menus in town, it makes a great place to try a different dish. Ristorante Divino also offers nightly specials, a bar and lounge, and a great dining area, which makes it a great place for a date night, business meeting or evening out with friends.
Pasta Fresca Italian Restaurant
Pasta-Fresca.net | 803-787-1838
Pasta Fresca is one of the most unique restaurants in town, which is also family friendly. The menu boasts a variety of daily, made-from-scratch pastas and dishes, with unique sauces and ingredients. You can find dishes made with a classic marinara, creamy marina, Cajun cream sauce and more. With a focus on seafood and chicken, there are appetizers, salads and soups to pair with any pasta dish; starting with the mussels, loaded garlic bread and house salad with made-from-scratch Italian dressing. There are happy hour specials nightly and even live jazz bands on Tuesdays, when happy hour goes all night. The next time you are craving pasta with a unique twist, visit Pasta Fresca.
The Villa on Bush River
TheVillaonBushRiverenu.com | 803-798-6360
Italian in Columbia does not always have to mean fine dining experience and prices. If you are looking for something casual, go to The Villa on Bush River Road, located between I-20 and I-26. The menu consists of classic, made-from-scratch Italian dishes, including pasta, zuppa, pizza, salad and anti-pasta. Established in 1972, this restaurant is one of the oldest restaurants in Columbia. There was an original location in Five Points, and the existing location has been in business since 1977 and includes a larger dining room and bar. Stop by for a laid-back dining experience.
Alodia’s Cucina Italiana
Alodias.com | 803-957-1986 (Lexington) | 803-781-9814 (Irmo)
Alodia’s is one of the newer Italian restaurants in town. Located in Irmo and Lexington, both locations have mouthwatering dishes with authentic Italian ingredients. The restaurant is named after the chef’s great grandmother and has boasts Italian dishes that have been in the family for generations. When you dine at Alodia’s you can expect pasta dishes sure to satisfy as well as great customer service and a full bar with wine that pairs with the dishes. The restaurant is also family friendly with a kid’s menu and delicious desserts every night. Make your reservation for your family’s next night out.
DiPratos.com | 803-779-0606
It may not be Italian in the traditional sense, but this deli needs to be on your Italian must-try list. This southern deli is one of the most well known in Columbia and for good reason. Everything on the menu will have you leaving satisfied, including the Italian sub sandwich, pimento cheese, pasta salad or cheesecake that is imported from New York City. Enjoy your meal inside the cozy dining room or dine on in the sun room with a patio feel without the heat. There you can relax and imagine yourself on the patio of a restaurant in Italy. The restaurant also has many carryout options, including an array of pimento cheeses, spreads, dips and more that you can enjoy at home with your family or serve for a party.
Columbos.net | 803-744-2200
Located in the Double Tree by Hilton on Bush River Road, this restaurant is a great location for your out-of-town guests or just for a meal out. The restaurant prides itself on being an American restaurant with southern flare. The menu also consists of some classic Italian-inspired dishes that landed it on the list of places to get Italian in Columbia, such as chicken piccata, a chicken Caesar wrap and an orzo salad. There are plenty of options available for breakfast, lunch and dinner so you can stop by any time for a delicious meal.
TazzaKitchen.com | 803-782-0760
Tazza Kitchen may not be a traditional Italian restaurant, but there are some Italian-style dishes you will not want to miss. The founders used trips through Baja California and Campania Italy as the primary sources of inspiration for the restaurant’s menu. They fell in love with wood-fired pizza while spending time in Naples, the birthplace of pizza, and the surrounding Italian countryside. They used what they saw to create a casual, welcoming environment where memorable everyday meals could be shared. Try wood-fired vegetables, hand-made pizzas bubbling out of their Italian brick oven, or seasonal pastas. Perfectly pair any item with off-the-beaten path wines, craft beer, or handmade cocktails.
Za’s Brick Oven Pizza on Devine
ZasBrickOvenPizza.com | 803-771-7334
Plan your next night out at Za's on Devine. There you can find Italian-inspired cuisine and a full bar with a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere and a delicious menu that consists of classic Italian dishes, small plates, salads and house-made sausage, sauce dressings and more. Plan on scheduling it for a Wine Wednesday every week with $4 select wines per glass and $16 select bottles. If jazz is your thing, go to their monthly jazz night series with The Mark Rapp Group. If you are looking for a space for an event, there is a private dining room available as well.
SaporiLexington.com | 803-957-3595
A more classic Italian restaurant in the Lexington area is Sapori. Owner Karen van Heerden lived in Florence, Italy where she ran two cooking schools. Her authentic Italian dishes make it a wonderful place for your Italian fix. The restaurant also has a great selection of small boutique winery wines from Italy. There are also classes and Italian wine appreciation and wine pairing classes, making it a great place to have an interactive or unique date night. If you need a location for private dinners, parties or another event, you can book the beautiful outside garden and event tent. The restaurant also has a unique feel inside with elegance and comfort.
TerraSC.com | 803-791-3443
One of Columbia’s favorite fining dining restaurants, Terra, made the Italian restaurant list due to its wood-fired, flatbread pizzas. There are four types of flatbread to choose from, including the port-soaked cherry flatbread with duck confit which pairs elegantly with a glass of red wine. Terra is a great place to dine if you are looking for an elegant atmosphere but not everyone in your group likes Italian food. Every dish at Terra is mouthwatering and worth a try.