If you thought Italian food was only pizza, pasta and a fresh cheese here and there, think again – there is so much more to it than carbs. That’s why Stylist decided to round up the best spots in the capital for gorging on authentic Italian cuisine. Read on for our pick of the best Italian restaurants in London.
In your life, at least when it comes to food, you might encounter two types of Italians. The ones that, even outside of Italy, would never eat anything but Italian food; and the ones that would never even dream of eating a pizza not made on Italian soil.
I have to admit, in my first years as an expatriate, I was very much the second type. During my years in Paris, the idea of paying €18 for a Margherita (which is around five euros in my town) just seemed like the stupidest thing to do. And of course, the taste – going out for Italian food with me at the time would have resulted in a night of moaning about the poor quality of aubergines.
I am happy to say that, after almost nine years, I just got on with it and ate the pizza. And, if there is a place far from Italy that can claim to have good Italian food, that place is London.
With new restaurants popping up every day all over town, it’s impossible to not find what you are looking for. Stylist.co.uk embarked on a quest to find the best Italian food in London, here are the restaurant that made our taste buds dance the tarantella.
The Big Mamma Group is a thing of legend when it comes to unique restaurant experiences. Each of their venues (of which there are two in London, but many more in Paris) is themed differently and decorated wildly.
Gloria in Shoreditch has been created to look like a 70s Capri-style Trattoria with clementine-hued fabrics and clashing, busy prints. But although we adore the atmosphere and decor here, we love the food more.
Stand out dishes include weighty balls of creamy burrata, truffle and mascarpone pasta (a house special) and the now famous ‘il tigramisu’.
The portions are generous and the flavours are just right, so come here with an empty tummy because it’s time to feast.
Italian tapas? Yes, please!
In the buzzing heart of Shoreditch, Passo is a unique destination for great food and wine, to enjoy in a relaxed atmosphere with modern decor.
An Italian restaurant with a Californian twist, Passo’s menu is made to be shared. Order a glass (or better, a bottle) off their excellent wine selection and start with a few bits to warm up before the main courses. The truffled polenta chips and the spicy ‘nduja and ricotta courgette flower won’t disappoint but, if you are feeling hungry, definitely add the honey aubergine and the corn on the cob to your order.
Onto the pasta, the fazzoletti with pistachio pesto and the fresh orecchiette need to be on your list but a plate of pappardelle is difficult to overlook. If you managed to save some space for dessert, the cappuccino mousse is the most decadent and delicious way to finish your meal at Passo.
An Italian restaurant with a New York flair, Sette is tucked in the chic Bulgari hotel in Knightsbridge.
The setting is modern and closer to a trendy restaurant in the Big Apple than a traditional Italian trattoria, but the food is definitely there to bring you back to the sunny shores of the peninsula.
To start, a heart-warming polenta or a creamy burrata, followed by (at least) a few of their incredible pasta dishes: the classic tomato and basil spaghetti, simple but outstanding, the mouth-watering lobster black tagliolini or the earthy Neapolitan cavatelli. At last, treat yourself with the most decadent of their desserts: the gianduiotto. Nothing better to end the night on a sweet note.
An Italian restaurant with a twist, Angelina is one of the newest additions to the already incredible London food scene.
If you love Italian food but you want to experience a new way of exploring it, Angelina is the place to go. Japanese ingredients are used to recreate Italian dishes and the result is not far from extraordinary.
Risotto with burnt soy butter, black sesame panna-cotta, kale tempura and the freshest fish crudites – even after five courses, you won’t want it to stop. A must try for any foodie.
The five courses menu at Angelina is £38.
Since 1946 (when the place was a café and it was called Frank’s), Franco’s has been serving delicious Italian food to Londoners. A few years later, the restaurant gained a chic appearance but the incredible food and the lovely service remain the same.
The setting is an elegant bistrot that boasts a terracotta, dark red and green decor that makes it feel cosy and welcoming. The atmosphere is a great balance of elegance that still feels approachable, yet the star of the show remains the food.
Only fresh Italian products are used to produce the classics that everybody loves like lasagna, tiramisu or risotto. The must try? The mouth-watering freshly made pasta. Linguine with lobster or pappardelle with mushrooms, yet there is nothing on the menu that doesn’t taste incredible.
Soho House’s foray into Italian cuisine has gone very, very well. Starting with the original restaurant in Mayfair, with sites now in Bank at The Ned and Shoreditch’s Redchurch Townhouse, Cecconi’s has all the Soho House charm, with an authentic soul.
We particularly love the East London venue, which tucked between the hipster boutiques on Redchurch Street, is a sure-fire winner whether you’re going for a late-night negroni, or Sunday lunch.
Speaking of which, you can’t plan a trip to Cecconi’s and not try the Sunday feast. During the week the menu takes inspiration from Northern Italy, with highlights including truffle arancini with fontina, spaghetti lobster a selection of wood oven pizzas. But come the weekend, and the eatery’s kitchen literally opens up, inviting customers to give their boots an unlimited fill of an extended menu including cheese and meat selections, pasta, Sunday roast meats and vegetables and some of the best tiramisu going. Seriously, it’s unbelievably creamy.
All day menu prices in the week are reasonable and the Sunday feasting menu is definitely worth the £25, which gets you an hour and a half of unlimited starters, mains and desserts.
Café Murano, Covent Garden
Nestled in the heart of Covent Garden, Café Murano has Venice at its heart and a Sardinian chef in the kitchen.
The menu is built to be shared, if you are out and about with a group, their selection of small delicious Italian tapas will make everybody happy. Start with some mouth-watering arancini and a Spritz, in real Italian style, before heading into the ‘real’ meal.
You won’t even have to chose, share a selection of pasta dishes to make sure to try every corner of the peninsula in one night. We recommend the handmade gnocchi with porcini mushrooms, speck and wild garlic and the light yet rich tortelli with lemon and ricotta and, to finish, the incredible salted caramel pannacotta.
Margot, Covent Garden
Sitting on the edge of Covent Garden’s hustle and bustle is Margot, a charming Italian restaurant that serves up class and style as well as award-winning food.
A lovely place if you feel like going somewhere that feels a bit special, but without any pretentiousness, the dark blue leather booths and gold touches make putting on something smart worth it.
Margot has a brilliant selection of wines, so we suggest starting with a glass of champagne or asking your waiter what they would recommend. As for the food, there’s much to choose from. If antipasto is your thing, you’ll be delighted with the array of small plates on offer, heaped with different meats and cheeses. While the raw carpaccio, tartare, pasta dishes and mains are all excellent choices too.
We also recommend that you leave room for dessert. From glazed light chocolate mousse, wild berry marmalade, almond dacquoise, wild berry coulis and almond flakes to cocoa Éclair with caramel mousse, pistachio cream and pear ice cream, it’s not a course we think you’ll want to miss out on.
Chucs, Mayfair is an opulent, old school Italian restaurant. And it’s so authentic that, after a negroni (or three), you could be forgiven for believing you’re actually dining on the glamorous Amalfi Coast, rather than on London’s Dover Street.
Located just a stone’s throw away from Berkeley Square, the Mayfair branch of Chucs is the original restaurant from the owners of the luxury yachtswear brand of the same name. Following on from the huge popularity of the Dover Street venue, which A A Gill called “a fantasy made real in miniature,” four other Chucs restaurants and cafes have opened, on Westbourne Grove, at Harrods and the Serpentine, with the fifth opening in South Kensington in summer 2019.
The Italian menu reflects the chic surroundings, with dishes presented as beautifully as they are delicious. We recommend fully embracing the Riviera experience and beginning with an aperitivo of Lady Tonic or Campari Spritz, while sharing the truffle aranchini.
Chucs is one of those delightful places that encourages pasta as a starter, so if you are feeling really hungry, go for the Amalfi lemon tagliatelle as your starter, before moving on to the tuna steak, served up with borlotti beans. Best of both worlds.
Located in Islington, minutes from Angel station, Radici brings the warmth of Southern Italy to London.
The restaurant is owned and ran by Francesco Mazzei. You might have seen him on TV before, he’s a Calabrian chef that has made London his home with three restaurant in the capital under his belt.
A fully Mediterranean menu, from ‘nduja from his native Calabria to Sardinian fregola and bottarga or Puglian burrata, the sunny side of Italy is well represented here. Our top dishes? Smoked aubergine crocchette, creamy stuffed courgette flowers and all the pasta you can fit in.
But remember to leave space for dessert, Radici is one of the few places outside of Italy where you can find the famous Tartufo di Pizzo – ice-cream stuffed with more ice-cream, anyone?
Enoteca Rebezzana, Barbican
A gastronomic wine bar with a twist, Enoteca Rebezzana brings the coziness and the charm of an Italian enoteca to London’s Smithfield Market.
Think Italian tapas that travel from the North (with the decadent grilled Tomino cheese) to the South (with the delicious octopus with beans and ‘Nduja) of the boot. On top of this, though, we also have mouth watering full dishes like the classic cacio e pepe or the chef’s signature dish: tonnarello pasta with red mullet, lime butter and pistachio pesto.
If after all the wining and dining you still have space for dessert, make sure you get a taste of Enoteca Rebezzana’s pannacotta – there isn’t a better way to finish a good meal.
If you want to treat yourself to a fabulous – for all your senses, not just the taste – Italian meal, Francesco Mazzei’s Mayfair restaurant is the place to visit. Tucked on the fancy Savile Row, between the perfect tailoring shops, Sortoria is a sparkling slice of Italy in this foggy city.
His native Calabria is always the star of the show, thanks to the ever-present ‘nduja (a spicy and creamy sausage) or the cured cod cooked in liquorice – an unusual combination for some, but a tasty hint to the way his native region vividly uses liquorice - but Sartoria is a multi-faceted restaurant.
From the north to the islands, the most famous Italian regional specialties are all represented. Sardinian fregola, classic Milanese veal or a real Roman carbonara – no matter your preference, your Italian food cravings will definitely be satisfied.
Pictures provided by the restaurants.