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(Photo Courtesy of Dolce Vita Italian Bistro)

The Best Old School Italian Restaurants in Tucson

Updated March 6, 2024

Red Sauce Lasagna, ravioli, manicotti; it’s the kind of food that satisfies both body and soul. Tucson has no shortage of Old School Red Sauce Joints and thankfully, they’re located all over town. You’ll find enormous portions, family friendly vibes, and plenty of vino. Whether it’s the Joe’s Special at Mama Louisa’s or the Eggplant Parmesan at Dolce Vita or the stuffed ravioli at Bazil’s, you won’t be disappointed.

These are the best classic Italian restaurants in Tucson.

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a picture of pasta
Cioppino at Bazil's Italian (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)


If you’re looking for a fun atmosphere and great Italian food, then you MUST eat in the bar at this Foothills fave. (Pizza is only served in the bar.) The vibe is right out of the swinging 60’s; the food is right out of Nana’s kitchen. Start with the toasted ravioli, but be forewarned, ALL entrees come with the antipasto salad (YUM!) and pasta fagioli soup.

a picture of a restaurant sign
Caruso's Italian (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Caruso’s Italian Restaurant

The grandfather of old school reds, Caruso’s has been serving the tastes of Italy since 1938. And while pizza is the draw for many people, the lasagna is primo. Folks also rave about the antipasti, with its assortment of meats, cheeses and bites. The best tables are on the patio, which may be one of the most beautiful in town.

a picture of spaghetti and meatballs
(Photo Courtesy of Dolce Vita Italian Bistro)

Dolce Vita Italian Bistro

Dining here brings together all the senses. Aromas of garlic and tomato hit as soon as you open the door. Frank and Tony and Andrea sing with passion and pluck, Portions fill the plates. And the tastes? Bella. The eggplant parmesan and the Vitello Marsala or Piccata are crave-able.

a phot of shrimp scampi pasta on a plate
Shrimp Scampi at Dominick's Real Italian (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Dominick’s Real Italian

For those living on the far Northwest side, Dominick’s Real Italian offers plenty of choices to get their Italian fix. Appetizers include fried ravioli and steamed mussels. Pastas are as simple as spaghetti with meatballs to Dominick’s Scampi, that tosses both chicken, shrimp, and veggies in the house’s special scampi sauce. Two kinds of risotto are on the menu. Check out the Monthly Specials menu.

a picture of pasta and pizza
Italian food at Fresco Pizzerian and Pastaria (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Fresco Pizzeria & Pastaria

Pastaria isn’t in the name just for the hell of it. Chef Mat Cable uses his mom’s recipes in everything from the Caesar salad to the New York style cheesecake. In between, there’s artichoke fonduta, lasagna, linguini Florentine, cannelloni, cannelloni, and other pastas for every craving. Stromboli and calzones with various fillings are served along with subs. The meatballs pass my very finicky test….as good as mine.

Porchetta at Mama Louisa's (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Mama Louisa’s Italian Restaurant

Mama Louisa’s can fit in both categories. The Heritage Menu offers fresh pastas and a full menu of Italian dishes. Try the famous, Joe’s Special, which was created by Mama Louisa herself for her son, Joe. Thanks to the creative mind of Chef Michael Elefante’s Third Generation Menu you can savor Roasted Bone Marrow or Cioppino. Lunchtime is popular with the folks from Davis Monthan.

(Photo courtesy of Piazza Gavi on Facebook)

Piazza Gavi

For over twenty-five years, folks on the Northeast side of Tucson have been enjoying the best of Southern Italian fare at this lively eatery. Chef Gaetano “Gavi” Colaleo has created a full slate of tasty dishes. The pasta menu is mix and match. First you pick a pasta topped with whatever sauce you crave. Choose the simple aglio olio (olive oil and garlic) or a rich carbonara or one of the dozen others. Entrees feature plenty of seafood choices, as well as beef, chicken and pork. The Cioppino is not to be missed.

Pasta at Rocco's Little Chicago (Photo credit: Mark Whittaker)

Rocco’s Little Chicago

Yes, Rocco’s is famous for their pizzas and their award-winning wings, but have you tried the meatball sub? Or the Italian Beef that’s been SOAKED in au jus and topped sweet or hot peppers (just like they do in The Windy City.) Rocco’s also offers a full assortment of Specialty Pies. Finish your meal with a couple of homemade cookies. The recipe is straight out of the Chicago Public School System.


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