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.
Venue says New vegan menu available! Check out our website for more details.
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!
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.
One of London’s most highly regarded Italian chefs, Giorgio Locatelli displays a deep connection to his country’s food and drink at his labour-of-love restaurant in Marylebone. Although the polished setting is Michelin-starred, the food here avoids pomp – expect instead a joyful gallop through the styles, regions and ingredients (some little known) that make Italian cuisine such as pleasure, with every dish intended to be relished as well as admired. Prices are high, but don’t stint on the luscious desserts.
There are two sides to Italian cuisine, and this upscale venture from the creators of Shoreditch’s Clove Club channels the Riviera-style glamour and primi/secondi decadence of those restaurants that are anything but a ‘Lady and the Tramp’ trattoria set piece. Chef Isaac McHale’s menu is full of surprises thanks to his ‘Britalian’ approach: Italian dishes that use British ingredients (think bruschetta topped with devilled spider crab gratin, or agnolotti stuffed with local game). Pricey but worth it.
Peckham Italian Artusi is too wonderful not to share with the rest of London; too special to just roll out as a chain. So, to Deptford, where Artusi’s owners have applied its magic formula to sibling Marcella. You’ll find the same sleek, simple design, the same helpful staff, and the same cooking style: dishes chock-full of homemade elements (excellent pasta, but also delicate ricotta and pickled nectarines, for example) counterpointed with market-fresh ingredients, so that even simple-looking dishes reveal surprising depths.
For Italian dishes full of punchy flavours, this second branch of Puglian gem Ostuni is a must-visit. All the best eats of the region are represented, including the famously endless antipasti, caciocavallo-stuffed pork bombette, orecchiette pasta in richly satisfying sauce, and those bold, fruity (and great value) wines. If the liberal use of local hero ingredients doesn’t immediately whisk you to Puglia, the authentic looks of the dining room and the warm welcome provided by staff will get you there.
This sleek, speedy pasta joint (and south London sibling to Trullo) does dishes small enough – and, starting at £4 per plate, cheap enough – to let you overindulge a little. The regularly changing menu of classic pastas and lesser-spotted varieties might include tagliarini (skinny tagliatelle) with crab, lemon and chilli, and pici (fat spaghetti) with cacio en pepe (literally cheese and pepper), while Trullo’s signature eight-hour beef-shin ragù is a fixture. You can linger over the reasonably priced wines and desserts, but everyone queuing outside will hate you.
From a tiny room above The French House to a premises with space for almost three times as many punters plus an aperitivo bar, Polpetto has come a long way, metaphorically – even if it actually only moved from Dean Street to Berwick Street. The long, low-lit dining room bubbles with attentive staff serving Polpetto’s own take on the Venetian-inspired small plates that are the Polpo chain’s stock in trade: moreish fried nibbles, pizzette topped with upscale ingredients, delicate yet hearty salads and hard-hitting cocktails.
What do you get if you cross the attention to ingredients of the River Café with the creativity of Bocca di Lupo and the frontier-bending fusion of Morito? Er, in the queue immediately – duh. The food at this Shoreditch small-plates restaurant is spot on from first to final bite, whether you stick to Italian classics like silken pappardelle with full-flavoured hare ragù, or go for the slow-marinated chimichurri-topped bavette steak. Oh, and did we mention that chef Jon Lawson trained under Theo Randall?
Venue says New wines? Come and find out as we have some delicious raw wines from our special suppliers.
In the mornings, anything goes at this colourful, casual local diner – from breakfast burgers to Greek-style scrambled eggs – but the rest of the time the focus is firmly on Italy. The eclectic, inviting space is the setting for a menu that majors in Italian classics done really well – think crisp-fried mozzarella balls, the usual pizzas and the humbly delicious likes of chicken Milanese. Star turns include more unusual pasta dishes such as spaghettini with smoked swordfish, plus any dessert involving Nutella (obvs).
With starters costing from £20-£30, mains topping £40, and wines that make you gulp before you take a sip, this west London ‘café’ remains a special occasion destination. Book a table in the colourful, open-plan dining room to soak up the vibe of the close-knit team at work, or in fine weather request a table on the beautiful riverside terrace. Seasonal dishes are the status quo here: think courgette flower, ricotta and mint ravioli in summer, or slow-cooked pheasant and fennel ragù in winter.
Roma eschews theme-restaurant kitsch in favour of a more sophisticated interpretation of the cuisine of ancient Rome. The interiors set the scene for emperor-level feasting via plush drapes, mosaics and stone busts – but instead of lying down to eat, sink into one of the curved gold-velvet banquettes. Dishes include banquet-sized portions of cured meats, hay-smoked tuna (cooked in vine leaves for extra succulence) and desserts divined from ancient Roman recipes. Even the wine lists sticks to vineyards from within the empire.
There’s hardly a quiet moment at this perfect contemporary trattoria, which offers the holy trinity of hospitality: assured cooking, great service and value for money. Pappardelle with slow-cooked beef-shin ragù (a staple since their early days) remains a silky, substantial delight; other highlights from the mouth-watering menu include whole mackerel from the charcoal grill with castelluccio lentils and salsa rossa, and talking-point seasonal fruit tarts from loquat and almond to Amalfi lemon. Little wonder Trullo is always packed with satisfied locals.
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