The bodies of four dogs and the cat were found in a freezer in the annex of the pizzeria, which formed part of a farmhouse that had been partially converted into the restaurant in the town of Tagliolo Monferrato, La Repubblica reported.
The 45-year-old couple who rented Rondinaria Farmhouse claimed they put the corpses in the freezer because they had wanted to bury them, but when the animals died in winter the ground was too icy to dig a hole.
Another sixteen dead dogs were found still left in their cages. In some cases, the bodies had been there for so long they were almost entirely decomposed.
The couple did not explain the state of the kennels or where the animals had come from, the newspaper said.
Just four dogs were found alive, although severely malnourished, and were taken to a kennel in nearby Ovada.
Police searched the property following an anonymous tip-off.
In the pizzeria itself, the authorities found rotten food and an extremely poor level of hygiene.
There was also food in the same freezer as the animal corpses.
The pizzeria had been closed for around ten days prior to the police investigation.
It is believed the couple had been threatened with eviction from the farmhouse. Now the entire area has been closed off.
The couple has been charged with killing and maltreating animals.
By Louise Naudé