From crusty sourdough pizzas to Venetian small plates, hearty plates of pasta and finely crafted regional specialities drawn from the rustic south or fashion-conscious north, London’s best Italian restaurants offer something to suit every occasion. Cast your eyes below for our list of the city’s best.
If not everyone in your group is in the Market (sorry) for a full-on Italian offensive, then this modern European restaurant with a ‘mamma mia’ accent is a good bet: Brit and French cheeses and charcuterie, and the likes of yoghurt-drizzled lamb and bulgur meatballs, broaden the menu’s appeal. That said, to leave here without ordering mouth-watering Italian dishes such as the salsa verde-topped carpaccio, the clams in ’nduja-laced broth, or the paccheri with slow-braised beef ragù, would be a serious error.
They say a Waitrose setting up on your street is a ker-ching moment for homeowners, so God only knows what the arrival of Artusi did to house prices on the then semi-gentrified Bellenden Road. This honest-to-goodness Italian is just about the most perfect local restaurant you can imagine: cool without being pretentious; brilliant value despite its sky-high quality; with a concise, market-led menu that offers constantly changing seasonal dishes – from homemade linguine in pungent wild-garlic sauce to ricotta-and rhubarb-filled cannoli.
The buzz is as important as the food at Jacob Kenedy and Victor Hugo’s enduringly popular Soho Italian. Dine at the bar for a fun night – if you’re by the window, it’s the perfect perch from which to watch your favourite actresses swan past. Specialities from all 20 of Italy’s regions make up the menu; staff reassuringly affirm, ‘It’s sooo good,’ to virtually everything you order – and they’re mostly right. We have particularly fond memories of a deep-fried mix of Venetian-style calamari, prawns and lemon, as well as the fried olives, decadently stuffed with pork and veal.
It’s too late for upmarket Snaresbrook to turn hipster, but its residents can still enjoy a hip meal out. Bombetta delivers this via a décor of scuffed walls, neon signage and Banksy-inspired modern art, and a signature dish that channels Dalston dude food like nobody’s business: bombetta, a Puglian delicacy of meat wrapped around cheese and bound with more meat. The good news? That’s just one draw in an on-trend small plates menu of lovingly updated classics. Buonissimo!
Venue says: “Now that the sun is out, come and enjoy some fantastic Italian food at Chucs!”
If you happen to own a mansion in this part of town, you’ll love this chic Italian; if not, you’ll be panicking about the bill before you bite into your first crudité. Yes, Chucs is blummin’ expensive. But, for your money you get solicitous Mr Ripley-esque staff (in style, not homicidal tendencies…) and classic Italian dishes made with love and skill – plus the chance to shop the look of fellow diners as you exit via the adjoining boutique.
What Franco Manca did for pizzas, this cute-as-a-button pasta specialist is doing for Italy’s other carb of choice – anyone who swoons with joy before a plate of spag bol should not miss this place. The short menu of seven star dishes lets the quality of the ingredients speak for itself: the pasta is handmade on-site each morning and dressed with, say, salmon carbonara, proper pesto or slow-cooked, béchamel-laced ragù. A handful of antipasti and sides, plus wallet-friendly wines, add to its charm.
Taken on looks alone, this showy restaurant (a stablemate of Nobu and Chotto Matte) is the equivalent of a Moschino-stamped jumpsuit – its look-at-me interiors (undulating ceiling, bandage chairs, black walls inset with lights that recall Nespresso machines) will not suit everyone’s taste. The food, then, is relatively toned down (apart from the prices): a procession of luxed-up Italian staples, from truffle-topped pizza (£34.50) to short-rib lasagne (£21.50), plus star-turns from the kitchen’s ‘fucina’ micro-furnace. Dress in your best Donatella pout (and forgiving clothes).
The San Carlo restaurant group is very good at several things: conjuring up expensive, scene-y dining rooms; creating enough buzz in them that they fill nightly with fashionable sorts; and serving a huge selection of Italian dishes whose quality-to-price ratio is completely skewed in diners’ favour. Here in Covent Garden, Fumo’s small plates menu is laden with high-rolling ingredients – truffle shavings crop up here, there and everywhere – while remaining commendably accessible. Great for pre-theatre snacks or a casual date.
With its inexpensive black-and-white decor, mouth-watering wine list and deli counter of top-quality, organically produced cheeses, meats and wines from Lombardy, Il Cudega – an unassuming Italian opened underneath London Fields’ railway arches by two lifelong friends from that region – is all about simple pleasures. Open mainly during the day (and 6pm-10.30pm Wed-Sat), this tiny, affordable spot is the perfect drop-in for a chat, a glass of wine, a generous heap of mixed charcuterie and a fortifying espresso.
Hackney locals love Lardo for its pared-back style, friendly staff and excellent Italian small plates. Fittingly for a restaurant named after the cured back fat of a pig, charcuterie is a speciality: try the excellent, paper-thin fennel-pollen salami along with your antipasti, or sample the eponymous lardo on a crisp-based pizza alongside gorgonzola, basil and walnuts. Small plates of homemade pasta with daily changing sauces are another highlight: sit up at the bar to watch the chefs prepare your order.