After 12 months of tastings and travel, we take stock. Here are the Special Awards for Top Italian Restaurants Restaurant of the Year – Era Ora, Copenhagen The Restaurant of the Year is located among the canals of Copenhagen: Era Ora. To sum up, it gave us the most complete culinary experience we enjoyed in 2017. Tradition and superb Italian ingredients went into a complex cucina with extraordinarily precise flavors. In the kitchen, the team is all Italian, all under 30 years old. Details make a difference: superb Umbrian olive oil, pungent, fragrant aromas, a light hand with pepper. The wine list – 90,000 bottles, all Italian – is the result of a visceral passion. Dishes are imagined as paired with wine from the start, and that can be sensed at the table. Even the basket of breads, all house-made, conveys sensations of other times and places, transporting us to a little town in the Italian provinces. Chef of the Year – Alessandro Cozzolino, Hong Kong We are in Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour, inside the luxurious Grand Hyatt Hotel. The award goes to Alessandro Cozzolino, Executive Chef of Ristorante Grissini. He began very young, and in Italy worked with Gaetano Trovato in Siena and Nino Di Costanzo in Ischia. At only 25 years old, he took on the challenge of this historic Italian restaurant in Hong Kong. Within two years, he has revolutionized it: Campanian flavors, mozzarella cart, air-dried tomatoes del piennolo. He cooks with a light hand, and his dishes are incisive and balanced. At twenty-seven, he already has abundant experience and talent. We are sure that sooner or later he’ll return to Italy and open his own restaurant. Wine List of the Year – Acquerello, San Francisco From Hong Kong to San Francisco. The Wine List of the Year award goes to Ristorante Acquerello, opened on Sacramento Street in July of 1989 by a Bolognese, Giancarlo Paterlini, and Suzette Gresham. Their wine list is so curated and well-written that we had to resist the urge to take it home. It even includes the disgorging date for individual cuvées. The selection is complete, not only in terms of the numbers of labels. It is done with love, including both great classics and less renowned producers that arouse curiosity. We noted an excellent selection of French sparkling wines and an amazing collection of Barolo and old vintage years of less familiar denominations, with many large format bottles as well. Wine service is impeccable, coordinated by son Gianpaolo. Prices are fair, given the context. The food, we almost forgot to say, is divine. Suzette reinterprets Italian flavors with a delightful, elegant hand. French, she would murmur. Pizza of the Year – Bijou, Paris And now we come to the pizza chapter. The Pizzeria of the Year is Bijou in Paris. It is the latest Gennaro Nasti project. He has courage, daring and the ambition to offer something completely different. He cooks on his pizza and has a great time doing it. Nasti prepares six types of dough, offered as gourmet slices, a wine list with 150 labels and sommelier service. Cooking times and ingredients are excellent. Almost everything is imported from Italy, even the basil. Bijou offers a delightful experience that reminds us that pizza is culture, fun and can be astonishing. Opening of the Year – Rigò, London And finally, the restaurant Opening of the Year. We are in London, in the Fulham neighborhood where Chef Gonzalo Luzarraga and Francesco Ferretti got off to a good start. They don’t want their restaurant thought of as Italian, and, indeed, both French and Oriental influences play a part, but as soon as you taste their dishes, you understand that an Italian sensibility is at the stove. Extraordinary research has brought food from tiny artisanal workshops, especially from Piedmont, to the table. The wine list is simply brilliant, including bottles from little-known but outstanding Italian winemakers. Even in pairings there is an identity and sensibility that is all Italian, but it is cucina that looks out at the world and successfully avoids all labels.