As a proud European (pre-Brexit, at least) in San Antonio, I’ve loved finding places where I can experience a real taste of home. After almost a year living in Italy in my 20s, Italian food definitely has my heart… and San Antonio has some wonderful options! But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve put together a list of the six best—and most authentic—European restaurants in the Alamo City. Enjoy!
This pizzeria gets the accolade of my favorite restaurant in San Antonio, and that’s because it offers a completely authentic pizza experience. The original location on Blanco was opened by Doug and Lori Horn in November 2007 (Doug H—Dough) and has gone from strength to strength. The second downtown location is a little more chic, but both have the same great neighborhood ambiance.
Doug and Lori are members of the Association of Neapolitan Pizzaioli and are committed to producing wonderful pizzas using traditional authentic techniques. Their 800+ degree ovens churn out pizzas with an incredibly puffy and mouth-wateringly blistered crust in about 90 seconds. With house-made sausage, pulled prosciutto sugo, and other delights on the menu, you can choose from one of their signature combos or create your own pizza.
Also on the menu are hand-pulled burrata—a mozzarella-based cheese filled with creamy, dreamy fillings of black truffle or tomato and pesto—and baked Calabrian chicken wings with fiery chili and gorgonzola dips. Daily specials include insalatone (Italian for “big salad”), red and white pizzas, and seasonal appetizers. The wine list boasts whites, reds, and bubbles from across Italy, served by the glass or bottle.
When I’m missing Italy, you’ll find me at Dough.
Located at the Pearl, this authentic French bistro has already attracted some serious hype. Looking back to a golden age of Parisian brasseries, buzzing with chatter and good food, its menu celebrates well-prepared, tasty French comfort food.
The brainchild of three Frenchmen, Mon Chou Chou is a restaurant that is as beautiful to be in as the food you’re eating. The menu is broad and luxurious, with platters of cheese and meat, raclette (ooey, gooey cheese perfection), escargot, salads and sandwiches, steaks, fish, and more. If you can still face dessert, the classics are all there: pot au chocolat, creme brûlée, profiteroles, lemon tart… this really isn’t the restaurant to visit if you’re keen to shed the last of your baby weight, but when the food is as good as this, who cares?
The regular menu is available all day, but there’s also a special Sunday brunch menu. In addition to pastries, sandwiches, and other brunch items, there’s also a caviar service, lobster benedict, and a very authentic French toast. Chou Chou is definitely a great option for a special gathering, and it’s the kind of place you can’t wait to go back to.
Don’t get me wrong, a sangria margarita is a thing of beauty. But sometimes, I find myself yearning for a pitcher of sangria (shared with friends, of course!) and some authentic Spanish fare. Enter: Toro.
It’s the kind of casual and unassuming place that is easy to overlook, but Toro is another local spot that has been quietly producing amazing food, and as a result, has been able to expand to a second location downtown. I haven’t made it down to the E. Commerce kitchen and bar yet, but the original Stone Oak location is exciting and vibrant. Their mission is to bring the culture, traditions, food, and wine of Spain to SA, and in that, they truly excel.
Gather your girlfriends and start off with a Porrón of sangria and a tablado of the finest jamon iberico, cheeses, and grilled vegetables. Order a few of the kitchen’s imaginative yet traditional tapas dishes—from dates stuffed with ham, cream cheese, and Manchego, all wrapped in bacon; to baked cheese with Licor 43 honey, mussels, croquetas, and fried calamari—before moving on to a traditionally prepared paella. It’s a feast intended for sharing and is sure to induce a siesta if you stop by for lunch.
Toro offers a happy hour every weekday and live Spanish guitar on Friday and Saturday evenings. It’s a corner of Seville (my favorite Spanish city!) right here in San Antonio—a real gem that I think offers one of the most authentically European experiences you can find.
4. La Frite
La Frite has been in business for a little over a decade, and despite being pretty niche in concept, it’s not hard to understand why. With a mix of classic Belgian dishes, French wines, Belgian beers, and a cozy atmosphere, it’s one of the brightest and most inviting spots in Southtown.
It would be pretty much criminal to go to La Frite and not get Moules Frites—mussels, prepared with your choice of sauce, served with frites, which are like the most delicious fries you’ve ever eaten. If you go multiple times then maybe you can tear yourself away from the mussels and explore the rest of the menu. Tender omelettes, crepes filled with crab, quiche Lorraine, and chicken salad are options for lunch; while heartier dishes like battered lobster, stuffed vol-au-vants, and steak tartare are on the dinner menu.
Good restaurants offer an experience that transports you somewhere else, whether that place is new or familiar. La Frite is doing just that, and it’s something that needs to be celebrated and enjoyed!
A true San Antonio success story, Bakery Lorraine has been delighting locals with its delicate patisserie and hearty lunches since 2011. Jeremy and Anne met one another while working at Thomas Keller’s renowned Bouchon Bakery, and the attention to detail and respect for ingredients they learned in California continues here in San Antonio.
There are now four Bakery Lorraine locations in SA: Medical Center, Pearl, the Rim, and the Doseum (moms of hangry kids rejoice!). I highly recommend going for lunch for a cup of their tomato basil soup and a sandwich. The BL BLT with avocado is wonderful, but my favorite is the Cuban. You can’t go wrong with a slice of quiche or a salad, which definitely leaves more space for one of their delicious cakes or pastries. The seasonal fruit and s’mores tarts are decadent, and the macarons and canelle truly bring a taste of France to the Alamo City.
One thing I love about Bakery Lorraine is that they’ve never become complacent or relaxed, even as their locations increased in number. From holiday pies (just buy one, trust me) to steak frites, they are continually expanding their offerings in exciting and thoughtful ways.
Another Italian option, but Nonna Osteria is more suited to a special occasion or celebratory meal. Located on the ground floor of the recently renovated Fairmount Hotel, this chic restaurant is headed up by Food Network Star runner-up Luca Della Casa. Everything on the menu is cooked or prepared with care and refinement and reflects the beautiful and varied palate of the northern Italian cities (Florence, Milan, Verona, Venice).
The bar and wine list is similarly refined—definitely sip on a traditional aperitif like an Aperol Spritz or Negroni while you work up an appetite for the main course. There’s pasta, pizza, and substantial entrees, but they aren’t the kind your Nonna (that is, your grandmother) used to make. There’s wild boar pappardelle and lobster ravioli, veal chop, charred octopus, and sea bass—thoughtfully and lovingly prepared, and served with finesse. My husband and I always start with the burrata with grilled vegetables and olive oil. It sounds simple but it’s the most delicious and refreshing combination of items I can think of.
If you’ve heard of Nonna before today, chances are it’s because you know that they serve one of their pastas straight from a wheel of Parmesan cheese. And yes, it’s as wonderful as it sounds. The “Tartufo” combines Parmesan tagliatelle with brown butter, lump crab, and black truffle, and tosses it all together in a cheese wheel. It’s deliciously decadent, and really just everything that I want for every single birthday and anniversary from here on out. I hope my husband is reading this.
Compiling this list has definitely made me excited to head out to one of these restaurants again soon. Is your favorite European eatery missing from my list? Please share it with me in a comment!