It is difficult to find good Italian food in Austin, Texas. The city is known for fantastic tacos, hearty barbecue, and fulfilling vegan and vegetarian meals. But Italian food? Not so easy to come by.
Enter Italic – a simple restaurant tucked in the chaos of downtown with nothing but Italian authenticity inside. Developed in 2015 by Chef Andrew Curren (creator of such other popular Austin restaurants as 24 Diner, Irene’s, and Fareground), Italic is known for handmade pastas, hot pizzas, creamy gelato, and an exclusively-Italian wine list. Whether grabbing a quick cappuccino at the coffee bar, meeting someone special for a first date, or celebrating with a group, Italic is a good place to be.
Walking up to the front door on a brisk October evening, we were delighted to discover that Italic’s large floor-to-ceiling windows were open, and that cool air was enveloping the restaurant and its interior tables. The inside has a modern flair: white textured walls, sleek glossy tabletops, and an artistic display of wine bottles as an alluring art piece. Despite these contemporary features, the place itself feels warm and extremely relaxing. Opaque jars house tiny candles on each table; local bread is delivered from the kitchen with dishes of olive oil and pepper; and customers around you sip from large wine glasses filled with dry reds, talking and laughing among one another. Walking in the front door of Italic feels like taking a deep breath after a stressful day.
Glasses of red wine in hand, our first order was for baked penne. Arriving in the bakeware it was cooked in, this dish is a messy work of art. Handmade penne pasta is mixed with juicy tomato and springy eggplant chunks in a delightfully simple red sauce, then topped with large slivers of soft pecorino cheese and slices of fragrant basil. This dish isn’t trying too hard. It’s made of uncomplicated, pure ingredients that speak for themselves, and has a satisfying combination of flavors in each forkful.
Next, we ordered penne rigate Bolognese (and, to be honest, a few more glasses of Italian red wine). If you’re looking for a hearty and comforting meal, this is the dish. A savory blend of beef and pork, fresh cream, and crisp white wine come together to make a rich Bolognese sauce that coats bouncy pasta in a thick layer. A dusting of hand-grated Parmesan cheese is the cherry on top of this suppertime standout.
If you’re seeking classic flavors, a comfortable atmosphere, and — most important — food and drink that honor the essence of Italy, go to downtown Austin and find the neon yellow sign that reads “Italic.”