Ítalía: The ONLY Italian in town

Impressive entrance

Impressive entrance

Me and Sverrir, our Guest Service Manager, make the 3 minute stroll from the hotel to the main street a couple of times each week to enjoy lunch away from work. A few weeks ago, we decided to splurge on what is considered a nice/expensive casual restaurant in Ítalía Restaurant. This is pretty much the first place pizza was served in Iceland when it was opened over a quarter of a century ago. And the interior has basically stayed the same the whole time, even after a serious fire, they simply re-did what had always worked. In a city where the restaurant business is fierce and things change all the time, it is comforting to know some things just stay good.

Ítalía is known for excellent pasta dishes with fantastic sauce and wood oven pizzas besides the intimate or cozy atmosphere in booths dedicated to cities in Italy. What we were not told when we sat down for lunch on the first work day those weeks ago, is that Ítalía offers 50% off all food items on the menu during lunch hours on weekdays! Not only is that great value, it´s keeping things simple for that time of day. No exceptions. You can have a fantastic pizza, the way it was meant to be enjoyed for a mere 1350isk (approx 11usd). In downtown Reykjavík at a atmospheric restaurant, that is fantastic value.

Needless to say, in the last few weeks, we have enjoyed a meal there at least once a week. Even when you double the prices for a date in the evening, you will not regret giving these guys a try. They are worth it for lunch or dinner.

Ítalía is located only 5 minutes walk from the hotel. Just take a right towards the main street and when you reach it, look 20 meters to your left and there it is. The front looks like it was imported in one piece from Florence, unmistakably Ítalían and simply open 11:30am to 11:30pm EVERYDAY!


Great Dining Options in 101 Reykjavík

ImageThe downtown dining scene is full of exciting options for every palate. A lot of our guests look to us for advice in this. Why shouldn´t they? We do have the best restaurant in town in our very own Gallery Restaurant!

But let´s say you have already had an unforgettable meal at Gallery. What are the options for second best experience? Let me give some suggestions:

Sjávargrillið/Seafood Grill: With three years under it´s belt, this is a great little place within 3 minutes walking distance on Skólavörðustígur. They are top of Tripadvisor and deliver on really good compact dishes and attentive service. They care about your experience and they are small enough to be accountable for it being outstanding. The place is nicely renovated with an upscale feel but casual attitude. I recommend the 4 course Taste of Iceland menu. It has everything.

-Grillmarkaðurinn/Grillmarket: Yes, it sounds similar to the last place but it´s different, I promise. This opened to huge expectations on Lækjartorg, less than 2 years ago and has not disappointed one of our guests so far. The decor is very impressive with lava rocks and a most impressive bathroom experience. I have not enjoyed a meal there in the evening but can say I enjoyed a very good burger there for lunch last year and outstanding service. Everyone is raving about the Grillmarket so make sure you have us reserve a table for you well in advance, especially if you are going to be in Reykjavík for a weekend!

-Fiskfélagið/Fish Company: An offspring of the now deceased Seafood Cellar, this is one of my favorites. A unique location where the designated “center” of Reykjavík is calculated right above them. The decor is rustic and a fusion of Icelandic highlands chic and Colorado mountain cabin feeling. Very cozy. I had the Around the World menu here and really enjoyed it. This is really an excellent choice for all occasions.

MAR restaurant: We have a special connection with this place. It is owned by Elding Whale Watching company, so no whale meat on the menu, obviously. But the chef is one of the stars to come out of our own Gallery kitchen in recent years. Mar is located at the newly popular harbour area and features a casual atmosphere with an ambitious menu. I´ve been twice, once for lunch where I enjoyed the best ever Chicken Salad and once on “housewives day” with my wife for the tasting menu. Really good stuff and I recommend you try it!

Steikhúsið/Steakhouse: This is less than a year old but really a great option for those who want a really robust meal. Icelandic meat is very expensive so get the valet out, but ultimately, it´s worth it. I had a fantastic meal, so did my wife and a really nice surprise were the lobster “balls” for starter. I would recommend you not to miss those in preparation of a nice big steak.

Alright, alright Snorri! What about some more diverse food that is not so very Icelandic? I´ve got it! There is a very good variety of ethnic food on offer in Reykjavík. Of course, varying standards of service and prices apply here.

Ítalia, as the name suggests, is the main option for….you guessed it. It actually opened in 1997, when I was 7 years old, by my old man. He sold it a couple of days later and it is the only place he regrets selling. When the interior was burnt to a crisp in 2005, the current owners renovated in the exact same fashion again. If it ain´t broke, don´t fix it! Wood oven pizzas, warm atmosphere, perfect location (you see it directly to the left when you hit Laugarvegur main street from the hotel) and a tradition for very satisfied customers. Don´t do Italian anywhere else.

Austur Indíafjélagið is the best Indian restaurant in Iceland. It´s of the high-end kind so expect to pay for the quality. Located on Hverfisgata, the dirty little sister of the mainstreet, one block down, this place is a small and cozy restaurant with over 20 years of history as the first choice for this type of cuisine.

Ban-Thai is the most popular Thai food restaurant in Reykjavík. With a upscale cantina decor, this place is where you go if you are not eating Thai to replace fast food. The service can be spotty and the food came out very slowly when I ate there last year, but the locals love the food and it gets rave reviews. It´s not like the “localized” thai restaurants around town so stick to only 1 pepper on the menu if you don´t know what you are doing.