From traditional Italian-American to authentic Northern Italian, from casual to fine dining, and more between, Louisville loves its Italian Eats! April’s Top 5 reflects the variety and vibrancy of Italian dining options in and near the city’s heart. So raise a glass - and a fork! Cin Cin! Salute! Buon Appetito!
1540 FRANKFORT AVE LOUISVILLE, KY 40206 (502) 409-8440 PIZZALUPO.COM
After closing the dining room and opt- ing to remain carryout and limited delivery only for over a year, Pizza LUPO Executive Chef Max Balliet is excited to get back to plated dishes and serving customers in-house - this month! Previously featured in our July 2020 Top 5 Dining: Pizza article, Pizza LUPO will reopen for in-person dining in April 2021, serving all the scratch-made pasta, appetizers, and desserts that don’t necessarily travel as well and require more elaborate preparations.
Pizza LUPO opened in Butchertown in 2017, specializing in wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. “We can’t wait to make it in front of you again so that we can tell you about it and share the experience,” says Max. If you’re new to Pizza LUPO, you can’t go wrong ordering a genuine Pizza Margherita with mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil to honor the Italian flag’s colors. Pizza LUPO prides itself on using seasonal ingredients obtained through its strong relationships with local farms.
At 800°, the wood-burning oven turns out a pita bread made with sesame and the same pizza sourdough for scratch-made falafel and next-level muffuletta sandwiches. The muffuletta features Genoa salami, Red Hog mortadella, a 10-month aged sharp provolone, and traditional olive salad. Max also recommends the house-made Bucatini Alla Puttanesca with anchovy, San Marzano tomato, capers, olives, garlic, and herbs.
Their amari program sets the restaurant apart with over 60 unique bottles, perfect for sipping or crafting cocktails such as the classic Italian Negroni, Spagliato, Americano, or Aperol Spritz. According to Max, the Aperol Spritz is “effervescent, light, and has a low ABV (alcohol by volume) perfect to sip on a nice day outdoors.” For the oenophiles, Pizza LUPO now supplements its Italian wine selection with natural wines fermented with wild yeasts. And the limoncello is like a sip of sunshine from the Amalfi Coast.
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2300 FRANKFORT AVE LOUISVILLE, KY 40206 (502) 894-4446 VOLARE-RESTAURANT.COM
“At the heart of our success is our longevity in the community and our consistency for over 17 years,” says Executive Chef and Managing Partner Joshua Moore of Volare Italian Ristorante. Josh has been in the restaurant business since he was 14 years old. As early as preschool, his mother would catch him watching cooking shows instead of cartoons. Cooking has always been his passion, despite a lack of formal training. He started in pastries at Vincenzo’s. Volare General Manager and Managing Partner Jonathan Tarullo began his career with the beloved Louisville chef and restaurateur Dean Corbett. Josh and Jonathan are proud of what Josh calls “the Volare experience” - the synergy between the front and back of the house and how they complement each other.
Chef Moore grows produce exclusively for Volare on his 10-acre farm in Taylorsville, including over 1500 heirloom tomato plants each year representing more than 70 varieties. He became a Chopped Champion in January 2019 on Food Network’s Season 38 “Deadly Catch” episode. On Fish Fridays, Chef Moore posts a whole fresh fish, along with fisherman or boat of origin info, on his personal Insta- gram @joshuadmoore so that customers can see what’s cooking. He is also an Ambassador Chef for Certified Angus beef. It shows in Volare’s great steak program and Recommended Beef Carpaccio served with sea salt, arugula, burrata, and caramelized shallots.
For pasta, Chef Moore recommends Linguini Frutti di Mare: “fruit of the sea” shrimp, scallops, sea bass, salmon, mussels, and clams in a spicy white wine tomato sauce. From the Piatto Principale section of the menu, he suggests the Sea Bass or his favorite Vitello Saltimbocca - veal sautéed with prosciutto, sage, and mozzarella in a white wine butter sauce. For dessert, his Tiramisu is ladyfingers soaked in espresso, layered with a sweet mascarpone Frangelico cream, and served with crème anglaise, fresh berries, and a dusting of cocoa powder.
Chef Moore is looking forward to more warm weather patio dining, the Derby, and launching a new dry-aged beef program. Volare will continue its curbside and direct delivery services. For updates, visit volare-restaurant.com and follow @volare_italian_restaurant on Instagram and @VolareLou on Facebook.
2311 FRANKFORT AVE LOUISVILLE, KY 40206
(502) 891-0411 • DIFABIOS.COM
The original location of DiFabio’s Casapela was opened by her parents in Madisonville, Kentucky, when Caity DiFabio was just five years old. After working several years in Louisville restaurants, Caity (and her family) opened a second location in the big city. April 6, 2021, marks the eleventh anniversary of DiFabio’s Casapela in Louisville. Executive Chef/Owner Caity DiFabio and her husband Jonathan Riley (DiFabio’s chef/owner and resident handyman!) met when she was a bartender, and he was a server at VaraneseTM. They were married at River House. “John Varanese has been a big help, is supportive, and gives lots of good advice,” says Caity.
According to Caity, “We stick to traditional Italian-American fare - no frills. Our focus is on serving really solid, straightforward, good food consistently.” She says the greatest compliment they receive is, “We feel like we’re eating at your house.” One of their top sellers is the very popular Lasagna - “Just like Nonna DiFabio used to make!” A lot of work goes into the 72 hours of preparation, culminating in the layering of house-made ricotta and sausage, marinara, and meat sauce, all smothered in mozzarella cheese and baked.
Caity’s favorite dish is Chicken Piccata with rich white wine, mushroom, lemon, butter, and caper sauce served over angel hair pasta. She also recommends the Aperol Old Fashioned: Italian Amaro meets Kentucky Bourbon in a twist on the Louisville original cocktail. Guests are happily surprised at the trio of 6-ounce filet options - Fabio, Gorgonzola, and Peppercorn - offered at reasonable prices. Gluten-free selections include a couple of the filets, Grilled Aioli Salmon, and build-your-own Gluten Free Pasta.
Caity invites customers to call or reach out any time with menu or operational questions, especially with the current challenges. “Thank you to our customers and future customers for your support. You are the silver lining in all this, and it is very touching for us.” Visit difabios.com and follow @Difabios-Casapela-Louisville on Facebook for more information.
150 S 5TH ST, LOUISVILLE, KY 40202 (502) 580-1350 VINCENZOSITALIANRESTAURANT.COM
Located for 35 years in Downtown Louisville, VINCENZo'S fulfills the dream of brothers Agostino and Vincenzo Gabriele and is the oldest fine dining tableside service restaurant in the city. The historic location is a former federal bank building, and to this day, the bank vault is still in use - as a wine cellar! According to Chef de Cuisine Jake Brockman, Vincenzo’s “spectacular food and service” set it apart.
Chef Brockman is originally from Hagerstown, Indiana, and grew up in New York and Hilton Head, South Carolina. He worked in quite a few restaurants and completed three years of a hospitality and food management degree at Ball State
University before being forced to withdraw due to medical issues. Chef Brockman moved to Kentucky in 2013 and, by 2016, was recovered enough to resume his studies at Sullivan University. He then worked at River House, Varanese, Churchill Downs, and Old Stone Inn in Simpsonville before being offered Sous Chef at VINCENZo'S. “I hope to continue on my culinary path and one day own a few of my own restaurants.”
VINCENZo'S has Lunch, Dinner, and Theatre menus. Chef Brockman guided us through some of his favorite dishes. For Antipasti, he recommends Carciofini Marini: “Baked artichoke bottoms filled with crabmeat and scallops, glazed with lime hollandaise,” and Crepe Agostino: “Delicate crepe wrapped around a blend of beef and veal, baked in a béchamel glazed marinara sauce.” Chef Brockman’s favorite Pasta is “Spaghetti Lobster,” aka Spaghetti Con Aragosta, Pomodoro e Arugula: “Spaghetti with South African lobster tail, petite shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, and arugula sautéed with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and Italian parsley.” He suggests the Branzino and rack of lamb (Costolette D’Agnello alla Palermitana) entrées. The award-winning Tiramisu (ladyfinger sponge cake soaked in espresso, layered with zabaione mousse, mascarpone whipped cream, and topped with a blanket of dark chocolate ganache) ends the evening on a sweet note, as does the seasonal New York cheesecake.
On Wednesdays, VINCENZo'S offers “Vino at VINCENZo'S” - a $44.95 prix fixe menu (alternating weekly and including salad, entrée, and dessert) with half-price bottles of wine. “I am looking forward to Derby,” says Chef Brockman. “We are ready for Louisville to come back to life and to see everyone back downtown.” For reservations, visit vincenzositalianrestaurant.com. Follow @VincenzosItalianRestaurant on Facebook and @vincenzoslouisville on Instagram for specials and updates.
2730 FRANKFORT AVE LOUISVILLE, KY 40206 (502) 894-8686 PORCINI502.COM
On February 24th, Porcini celebrated its 29th anniversary in Louisville’s historic Crescent Hill neighborhood. As the restaurant begins its milestone 30th year, Owner/ Founder Tim Coury reflects on his background in the restaurant industry and what makes Porcini such a special place to gather. Tim’s parents were in the restaurant business, and he worked for the Grisanti's in Louisville from the mid-’70s through the early ‘80s. Chef John Plymale is a native Louisvillian and has been with Porcini since its inception.
Coury and Plymale researched and traveled together before settling on Porcini’s Northern Italian concept and Tuscan-style decor. The cuisine has expanded over time with influences from other Italian regions. According to Tim, “the look and atmosphere are timeless. We remain focused on consistency and appreciate the loyalty of great staff and customers we have and have had over the years.” That sense of loyalty remains in good hands with General Manager Jason Hester. “We couldn’t do it without him,” says Tim.
The Porcini leadership team shares their most popular and recommended menu items. To begin the meal, the Mista Eleva- ta Insalata is Baby Kale and Shaved Brussel Sprouts, topped with Pancetta, Toasted Pistachio, Sun-dried Cranberry, Citrus Garlic Vinaigrette, and Shaved Parmigiano Reggia- no. From the Pasta menu, try the Linguine Gamberi Palermo with Grilled Shrimp, Olives, Roasted Peppers, Capers, Toasted Pine Nuts, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic, Basil, and Parmigiano Reggiano, or the Gnocchi Con Salsiccia with Asiago Gnocchi, Spicy Italian Sausage, Arugula, Roasted Garlic, Pecorino Romano, Toasted Garlic Bread Crumbs, and Pomodoro Sauce. For entrées, the Agnello Alla Griglia is Grilled Lamb served with Rosemary Madeira Sauce, Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Shallot Risotto, and Fresh Vegetable. Salmone Alla Griglia is Grilled Fresh Salmon with Honey and Blood Orange Glaze served on a bed of Tuscan Beans Sautéed with Pancetta, Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes, and Roasted Garlic. Save room for Limoncello Cheesecake: limoncello ricotta cheesecake topped with Lemon Curd, Whipped Cream, and Fresh Kentucky Colonel Mint.
For updates, visit porcini502.com and follow @porcinilou on Instagram and on Facebook.