Pigeon Forge menus are chocked to the gills with pasta, pizza, salad and sandwiches – all boasting authentic pasta flavors.
But do you really want good Italian food in the region? Altruda’s in West Knoxville has some of the best Italian food in East Tennessee. It’s worth the drive if you’re craving really good Italian cuisine.
To me, Pigeon Forge and the surrounding areas have some Italian-adjacent options that are easy and popular enough to be profitable. And you can get Italian food at many types of restaurants.
Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen – for example – has a chicken alfredo dish. JT Hannah’s has spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan. Harpoon Harry’s has pasta primavera.
Local Goat has a Fettucine Rocco with wood-grilled chicken, bacon, spinach, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and pecorino romano cream sauce that is almost good enough to get its own spot on the list despite being the only real Italian dish on the menu.
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Where are the best Italian restaurants in Pigeon Forge?
This is a tricky list.
For the most part, most of the Italian restaurants are pizza places boasting New York-style pies. They’ll have some subs, maybe a calzone stuffed with mozzarella and Italian sausage. If you’re lucky, there might be a chicken marsala, some linguini and garlic knots on the menu.
However, with all the hotels and cabins in the area, pizza is big business in Pigeon Forge and the competition drives the quality up.
So is your vacation goal to find the best Italian restaurants in the general vicinity of Pigeon Forge or are we talking about places in Pigeon Forge that serve some Italian dishes?
Only one thing to do. Go with your gut. Let’s look at some Italian restaurants in the area:
1. Ristorante DellaSantina (Sevierville)
Yes, that’s right. The best Italian restaurant is located just off Pittman Center Road in Sevierville. But one of the things I love about the East Tennessee culinary scene is that the real estate prices on the strip are so high, that sometimes you can find true genius lurking off the beaten path in unexpected places.
The seafood is flown in three times a week so feel free to order the mussels or the clam sauce. The wine list is nice.
And the menu is classic Southern Italian fare combined with some elegant and elevated choices. The Frutti di Mare is a favorite. It has scallops, shrimp, mussels and clams over pasta with plum tomato sauce or white wine and garlic sauce.
2. Johnny Carino’s (Pigeon Forge)
So here we are. After that brilliant little slice of real Italian dining, we have a chain restaurant at No. 2 on our list.
In fairness, this is somewhat by default. In truth, as the only non-pizzeria Italian restaurant in Pigeon Forge, Johnny Carino’s moved way up the rankings on location alone.
If you want pizza, there are far better options in town. But for something akin to actual Italian dining, Johnny Carino’s is your one option.
I don’t dislike it. If I’m ranking Italian chain restaurants, Johnny Carino’s sits somewhere above Olive Garden and below Carrabba’s. And now that I think about it, why doesn’t Pigeon Forge have a Carrabba’s?
Listen, I’m not a snob. I certainly don’t mind chain restaurant food. Carino’s has a variety of cacciatore, scaloppini, tortelloni and carbonaras that are quite nice.
However, it’s something of a homogenized version of an Italian dining experience.
3. Solorzano’s Pizzeria (Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg)
With a strange lineage that tracks back to a small Italian village through Hoboken, New Jersey, this pizzeria has several Florida locations as well as spots in Tennessee.
The menu is what you’d expect, pizzas, subs and a lot of things that began their lives as dough. There’s also a handful of “Godfather” and “Sopranos” references on the menu.
If you’re looking for something less traditional, the Buffalo Chicken gourmet pizza is a classic white pizza with a ricotta base, mozzarella cheese, fried chicken, ranch and buffalo drizzle.
But if you’re looking for something more traditional, the Solorzano’s Supreme is the classic pie topped with pepperoni, sausage, meatball, bacon, mushroom, onion, green peppers and black olives. Pizzas are available by the pie or by the slice.
4. J. Del’s Pizza (Pigeon Forge)
J. Del’s has pizza, subs and calzones.
Pasta dishes include linguini, penne, ravioli, baked ziti and lasagna. The sausage roll can’t be beaten. It’s a calzone stuffed with sausage, peppers, onions and cheese.
5. Big Daddy’s Pizzeria (Multiple locations)
This wood-fired brick oven pizzeria delivers good pizza, great wings and sandwiches. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s all good.
Plus, it’s convenient. There are three locations in the Smokies area.
6. Papa Leone’s Pizzeria (Sevierville)
We go back to Sevierville to Papa Leone’s, another place specializing in pizza, wings and sandwiches.
If you’re looking for something with a little zest to it, may I suggest the Cabin Fever – which has pepperoni, Italian sausage, ground beef, sweet red onions, banana peppers and sliced mushrooms. For me, it’s the banana peppers that push it over the top.
7. Mellow Mushroom (Multiple locations)
I started not to put the Mellow Mushroom on this list, even though I think it’s among the best pizzas out there.
It just doesn’t give me Italian vibes, you know? However, I have a deep and abiding love for this restaurant, and I couldn’t leave it off the list entirely.
8. Luigi’s Pizza (Gatlinburg)
Billed as the best pizza in Gatlinburg, we banged Luigi’s on this list for location. In addition to pizza, pasta and sandwiches, Luigi’s offers a classic gyro and a variety of chicken wings. It’s good stuff.
If you’re in Pigeon Forge, is it worth driving past the closer pizza places? Probably not. But it’s good enough to make the list.
9. Geno’s Pizza (Pigeon Forge)
This is another pizza place in an endless sea of pepperoni and mushrooms. Is it good? Yes. Is it better than a half dozen other options that didn’t make the list? I’m not sure about that.
10. Olive Garden (Sevierville)
It’s okay to not like the Olive Garden. Real Italians chortle at the very thought of Olive Garden. I’m not a real Italian. I like it just fine.
It’s a safe option for a family night out where I know they’ll have food my picky eaters will like. Is it a revelation? Is it great? I think you know the answer to those questions.
And honestly, if it were located in Pigeon Forge, I probably would have ranked it higher just for trying to be an Italian restaurant and not a pizzeria. But this is the compromise.
11. The Gondolier (Sevierville)
Gondolier is a small Italian chain mostly based in East Tennessee but with locations in Georgia, Kentucky and Florida. I consider it base-level Italian.
Like the Olive Garden, it’s located in Sevierville, so it loses points for that as well. It has pizza, salad, wings and a variety of pasta dishes.
Of course, it’s fine, in a pinch.
It’s Italian food made by people whose parents over-emphasized the EYE in Italian.
Do you have a favorite Italian restaurant in Pigeon Forge or the surrounding areas? If so, let us know in the comments!