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From traditional trattorie specialising in Florentine fare to Michelin-starred menus serving up Sicillian specialities, this is where to find the best Italian food in London
Londoners have long enjoyed a love affair with Italian cuisine. Whether it’s cannoli from the local deli washed down with an espresso, antipasti with an Aperol spritz aside the Thames, or a big bowl of pro-level penne at home, we just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. Fortunately, the capital has no shortage of Italian restaurants to satiate our craving. Take, for example, Hackney’s humble Campania, Shoreditch nose-to-tail bolthole Manteca, or trendy Covent Garden trattoria Ave Mario, all of which remain staunch favourites for carb-craving Londoners with a taste for Italian cuisine. Here’s our guide on where to find the best, from Michelin-starred menus to much-loved neighbourhood Italians dishing out modest classics just like Nonna used to make…
Boasting a Michelin Bib Gourmand and breathtaking interiors – the Golden Square outpost features an olive tree in the centre of its dining room – Bancone is the sort of knock-out neighbourhood Italian that you would only expect to find in Italy. The focus here is on a small but mighty menu of freshly-made pasta drenched in decadent sauces. Choose from dishes including ‘silk handkerchiefs’ with walnut butter and confit egg yolk, wild mushroom mezzaluna ravioli with nut butter in porcini broth, pappardelle with sautéed chicken livers, brandy and sage, and bucatini cacio e pepe. Can’t decide? No problem, opt for the three-course set feasting menu, which at £35 per person for lunch or £45 for dinner, offers diners the chance to sample the best of what Bancone has to offer.
Covent Garden and Golden Square,
With a stripped-down, authentic regional Italian cuisine, Bocca Di Lupo is a buzzing family-run trattoria in the centre of Soho. The sharing-style menu – characterised as a phrasebook of the 20 core dialects of Italian cuisine – changes twice-daily to accommodate for seasonality, and everything that can be homemade, from pasta and bread to salame and gelato, is made in-house, with the rest of the restaurant’s produce sourced directly from Italy. Wines are meticulously selected and exclusively Italian (what else would you expect?), ranging from familiar favourites to little-known gems. For a memorable experience, take a seat at the chef’s counter and look on as the team works away in the restaurant’s open kitchen.
12 Archer Street, W1D 7BB,
Intimate Florentine trattoria Brutto – another Bib Gourmand holder – holds a steadfast philosophy of simplicity and quality, authenticity and big flavours. With its loud music, low lighting and all-day bar, the cosy laid-back neighbourhood Italian by Russell Norman, formerly of Polpo, is the ideal place to let go of all the day’s stress as you dig into a bowl of beautifully al dente pasta. Menu highlights include penne con vodka, panzanella, zucchini al forno with borlotti and salsa verde, and the signature biscetta alla Fiorentina. Save room for dessert, the sweet apple tart and decadent tiramisu are not to be missed. Come for the carbs, stay for the £5 Negronis. Cin cin!
35 – 37 Greenhill Rents, EC1M 6BN,
Housed in one of Shad Thames’s converted warehouses, Legare – by duo Jay Patel and Matt Beardmore – excels in unfussy service and bold flavours. Its British-sourced seasonal menu, with highlights including pig’s head terrine, Cornish monkfish with agretti, cockles & chilli oil and fettuccine with braised rabbit, n’duja and basil, puts the focus on high-quality ingredients cooked to perfection and paired with fine, natural wines.
31G Shad Thames, SE1 2YR,
Owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Giorgio and Plaxy Locatelli, Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli has been a popular favourite of London’s glitterati for well over three decades – even through a traumatic gas explosion in late 2014 that saw the restaurant close for four months. Intimate with a family-dining feel, the venue’s pared-back, stylish interior of dark-wood floors and linen tablecloths speaks to the elegance and simplicity of its menu. Stretching across the many culinary regions of Italy, the à la carte offering provides plenty of choice (including gluten-free and vegan dishes) from roast rabbit leg with Parma ham, polenta and chargrilled radicchio, creamed salted cod with mixed beans, pork belly and cicerchia puree and seasonal minestrone, to black truffle gnocchi, Barolo and Castelmagno risotto and braised veal ravioli with butter and sage. Make sure to sample one of the restaurant’s many fine wines, and don’t miss the sumptuous Sicilian blood orange souffle with Negroni sorbet. Delizioso.
8 Seymour Street, W1H 7JZ,
Named after a glass-making island in Venice, Angela Harnett’s Michelin-starred Murano has been dishing up the flavours of northern Italy in the heart of Mayfair since 2008. Influenced by her nonna’s cooking, Harnett’s dishes put a contemporary twist on classic Italian cuisine with the restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere putting the emphasis staunchly on fun rather than fine dining. Menus are divided into five sections, with guests encouraged to choose anywhere between three and six courses. Recent highlights include burrata with citrus salad and pistachio, lamb loin and sweetbreads with coco beans, trompettes and tarragon, tagliatelle with girolles and Scottish porcini, and venison with chestnut, pear, pickled celery and bone marrow. Desserts are decidedly decadent, from the caramelised Amalfi lemon tart to the Brillat-Savarin cheesecake with poached rhubarb and sorrel sorbet. All expertly paired with fine wines from independent, sustainable producers worldwide.
20 Queen Street, W1J 5PP,
One of London’s best-loved Italian eateries, the River Café retains all of the informal charm that made it such a hit when duo Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray opened the iconic Thameside retreat 35 years ago. Menus, written daily, feature rustic, simple dishes bursting with authentic flavours that allow the high-quality, seasonal produce to speak for itself. Think: Devon crab with baby artichokes and parsley, fresh nettle pasta with butter and parmesan, and wood-roasted turbot tranche with potatoes, Amalfi lemon and courgette. River Café’s indulgent chocolate nemesis is, thankfully, a year-round dessert menu mainstay alongside a selection of homemade gelati – we’ll take ours affogato. Order a round of fresh fruit bellinis or a bottle from the Michelin-starred restaurant’s regional wine list and laze on the terrace watching the world go by, or enjoy the bustle of the busy open kitchen with its imposing wood-fired pizza oven.
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, W6 9HA,
The older, definitely more grown-up sibling of London Bridge pasta haven Padella, Trullo is a much-loved local gem. Renowned for its mainstay silky pappardelle with rich eight-hour beef shin ragu, the contemporary north London trattoria serves up seasonal, ingredient-led daily menus, featuring fish and meat cooked over the charcoal grill and fresh, hand-rolled pasta. Recent highlights include fettuccine with Cobble Lane cured n’duja, mascarpone and lemon, whole Brixham monkfish tail, and burrata with datterini tomato crostini.
300 – 302 St Paul’s Road, N1 2LH,
Read more: The best French restaurants in London
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