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Stracci with gorgonzola and onions at Padella
Andy Parsons

London’s best Italian restaurants

From rustic plates of pasta to finely crafted regional specialities

Written by
Time Out London editors
,
Sarah Cohen
&
Leonie Cooper
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September 2021: From super spenny spots like The River Cafe and Luca to cheaper but just as tasty neighbourhood joints like Artusi and Marcella as well as everyone's fave one-stop pasta shop Padella, London’s Italian dining scene is on point. A note: just because a restaurant isn’t on the list any more doesn’t mean it’s not still great. As places open and close, seasons and menus change, this list will as well.

Pasta and pizza are way more than just fast-food comfort carbs at these restaurants that excel in showcasing Italian cuisine. The basics – a creamy carbonara, say, or a simple margherita – are done exceptionally well, but the repertoire extends to stylish antipasti, crusty sourdough pizzas, richly sauced pasta and beyond. You can also find finely crafted specialities drawn from the traditional trattorias of the rustic south and fashion-conscious north at London’s best Italian restaurants.

Artusi
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Peckham
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? This honest-to-goodness Italian is just about the most perfect local restaurant you can imagine: smart but low-key; cool without being pretentious and brilliant value despite its sky-high quality.

Why go? For a concise, market-led chalkboard menu that offers constantly changing seasonal dishes such as crispy ox tongue, roasted sprouts with homemade ricotta and hazelnuts and leg of lamb with bagna cauda, borlotti beans and kale.

Price? £25-£35 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Soho

What’s the vibe? The buzz is as important as the food at Jacob Kenedy’s enduringly popular Soho Italian. Dine at the bar and you’re in for a fun time – especially if you sit by the window, watching celebs swan into the clamorous dining room. 

Why go? The ever-changing menu celebrates the best of artisan regional cooking in diverse ways, while enticing cocktails and impressive all-Italian wines also make an impact. We’re big fans of the Sicilian Workers Lunch deal: £12.50 for starter, main and salad plus £10 for dessert, a glass of red or white wine and coffee, available daily until 6pm.

Price? £35-£45 per person.

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Emilia’s Crafted Pasta
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Tower Bridge
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? What Franco Manca did for pizzas, Emilia’s cute-as-a-button pasta specialist is doing for Italy’s other carb of choice.

Why go? The seven-dish selection 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. Antipasti, dolci and wallet-friendly wines complete the picture. There’s a second branch in Aldgate with a third set for Canary Wharf.

Price? £10-£25 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Bermondsey

What’s the vibe? A window showcasing trays of homemade ravioli lures passers-by into this Bermondsey pasta specialist. The menu’s short and affordable (around eight dishes), the pasta is commendably al dente and the flavours sing out.

Why go? For tortelloni with roasted pork shoulder and sage butter, linguine with monkfish, tomato, garlic and chilli or taglierini with preserved truffle, butter emulsion and parmesan. F&G doesn’t take bookings and there’s a strict 90-minute time slot, but the queues just keep coming.

Price? £10-£25 per person.

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • London Fields

What’s the vibe? 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.

Why go? Crisp-based pizzas with leftfield artisan toppings are a highlight, along with vegetable plates and homemade pasta. Sit at the bar and watch the chefs preparing your order.

Price? £25-£30 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Marylebone
  • price 3 of 4

What’s the vibe? 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 flagship restaurant. 

Why go? Although the setting’s polished and the food is Michelin-starred, it avoids pomp – instead, expect a joyful gallop through the styles, regions and ingredients that make Italian cuisine such as pleasure. Our tip: don’t stint on the luscious desserts.

Price? £80-£100 per person.

 

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Luca
  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Clerkenwell
  • price 3 of 4

What’s the vibe? From the creators of Shoreditch’s Clove Club, this upscale venture channels the Riviera-style glamour and primi-secondi decadence of Italian restaurants that are a world away from ‘Lady and the Tramp’ trattoria set pieces.

Why go? Luca is billed as a ‘Britalian’ eatery, so expect Italian dishes using British ingredients – as in Scottish halibut with sweetcorn, tarragon, girolles and white balsamic vinegar. Pricy but worth it – try the a prix fixe for £75.

Price? £75-£100 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Soho

What's the vibe? From former Sager + Wilde head chef Chris Leach and Smokestak founder David Carter comes this classy 'nose-to-tail' Italian restaurant, with elegant hand-rolled pasta and a sustainable cooking ethic. 

Why go? For the mindblowing menu, which includes ‘nduja steamed mussels with cream and parsley, fazzoletti with duck ragu and duck fat pangrattato and tamworth pork chop with grilled peaches.

Price? £50-60

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Deptford
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? The owners of Peckham’s hit Italian Artusi have applied the magic formula to its Deptford sibling Marcella, where you'll find the same sleek, simple design and the same helpful staff.

Why go? Dishes change throughout the week and come chock-full of homemade elements (pasta is one of the stars), but everything is counterpointed with market-fresh ingredients and even the simplest ideas reveal surprising depths. Pro tip: on Sundays between noon and 8pm there’s a three-course set menu for £20. Beats a roast, right?

Price? £20-£40 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Borough
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? A south London sibling of Trullo, this sleek, speedy pasta joint serves up dishes that are small enough and cheap enough to let you overindulge.

Why go? The daily menu might run from tagliarini with crab, lemon and chilli to fettuccine with Scottish girolles, although pappardelle with eight-hour beef-shin ragù is a fixture. 

Price? £7-£25 per person. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Hammersmith
  • price 4 of 4

What’s the vibe? Set back from the Thames Path, this Michelin-starred destination is not only a riverside icon but also one of the flag-bearers for provenance-led seasonal Italian cooking.

Why go? Warm, buzzy and uber-expensive (in a semi-casual way), it’s dedicated to serving unfussy yet stunning regional food based on top-drawer ingredients – salads, pastas and wood-roasted specialities are the headliners, all backed by fabulously expensive Italian wines.

Price? £100 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Highbury
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Highbury’s star Italian has been combining irresistible food with spot-on service and some of London’s best pasta since 2010.

Why go? For the pappardelle with slow-cooked beef-shin ragù (a silky delight!) and brilliant stuff from the charcoal grill, like whole Cornish mackerel with panzanella. The menu changes daily (twice!) and a comprehensive all-Italian wine list only goes to emphasise Trullo’s calibre.

Price? £45-£60 per person.

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