Best Italian restaurants in London

Italy is the home of comfort food, with filling portions and rich flavours characterising the nation’s cuisine. Luckily for Londoners, there’s no need to hop on a flight to taste some of the finest Italian nosh to ever exist. If you’re searching for an authentic slice of Italy, check out our selection of the best Italian restaurants in London. When it comes to London’s best Italian restaurants, you’ll find them right here. Think of yourself as a pasta professional? Then peruse our pick of the best Italian restaurants in London and get booking. Scroll on to check out our list of great Italian restaurants in London.  

Updated on 10 December 2018

Best Italian restaurants in London

Discover the very best Italian restaurants in London with Squaremeal’s handpicked guide to the top Italian restaurants in London. Italian cuisine is one of the most popular cuisine types in the world and can either be brilliantly rustic, beautifully refined or simply elegant. With a wealth of fantastic ingredients, it is only natural that Italian food is so flavourful and full of colour and each region of Italy brings something special to the table. From simple pizza and pasta to more complex Italian dishes, there is something for everyone to enjoy with Italian food.

London has an abundance of great Italian restaurants to offer, from simple pizza restaurants to elegant Italian fine dining restaurants and it is often hard to choose. To help, Squaremeal has compiled this handy guide to the best Italian restaurants in London, aiming to make your selection an easier one and to ensure that you are guaranteed one of the best Italian dining experiences in London.

Every one of the Italian restaurants featured in Squaremeal’s list of London’s top Italian restaurants have been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with Squaremeal today. As well as the restaurants on this page, we have listings for Italian restaurants in the Central London including Covent Garden and Mayfair and Italian restaurants in The City including Moorgate and Clerkenwell, as well as Italian restaurants throughout the rest of London. Each Squaremeal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from diners, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.


Hai Cenato

Hai Cenato

£30 - £49
Italian

2 Sir Simon Milton Square, London, SW1E 5DJ

The buzzing centrepiece of the shiny new Nova development near Victoria station, Jason Atherton’s homage to his favourite New York pizzerias is tricky to locate, but once inside you’ll find a slickly designed, noisy space lined with plate-glass windows and a wall of chef caricatures that’s proving popular with restaurant nerds. The line-up of sourdough pizzas includes plenty of “big hits”, from goats’ cheese and zucchini to a “hearty” combo involving lamb neck and aubergine, but that’s just the beginning. The kitchen also deals in “simple flavoursome food” done to Atherton’s usual high standards: confit guinea fowl and Barolo risotto offset by bitter radicchio; corzetti pasta topped with “decadently sticky” venison ragù; perfectly timed whole gilthead bream stuffed with saffron, lemon and fennel – cooking with real heart and soul. Sides of chilli-kissed cavolo nero almost steal the show, although the dish destined for signature status is salted caramel gelato sandwiched in a warm brioche bun. Sure, it feels a tad corporate, but with seven-day opening and a first-floor cocktail bar (The Drunken Oyster), Hai Cenato is a brilliant all-purpose addition to the Victoria scene. 

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Zafferano

Zafferano

£50 - £79
Italian

15 Lowndes Street, London, SW1X 9EY

For more than 20 years Zafferano has managed to maintain the highest reputation despite changes of chef and the vagaries of London’s restaurant scene, so it’s safe to say that this Belgravia sophisticate is now very much part of the capital’s gastronomic establishment. No wonder it’s a go-to for a smart international crowd, who come here in search of reliable, precise Italian cooking with one foot the classical camp. Our all-time favourites include their signature lobster linguine, chargrilled rib of beef with roast potatoes and veal Milanese with saffron risotto, but in keeping with the seasons, there’s a sprinkling of white truffles in the autumn and black truffles in summer. Meanwhile, those looking for more innovative dishes should peruse the daily specials. Zafferano also scores highly when it comes to creature comforts (in the luxurious well-upholstered dining room and on the attractive pavement terrace), while top-notch service and a patrician regional Italian wine list add to its metropolitan kudos.

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L

L'Amorosa

£30 - £49
Italian

278 King Street, London, W6 0SP

He made his name at Zafferano, but Andy Needham is now wowing Ravenscourt Park with this “wonderful neighbourhood gem” – an Italian restaurant that lives up to its amorous moniker. Inside it’s “pretty, stylish and cosy”, while the menu focuses on “really fabulous” ideas using carefully sourced seasonal ingredients. “Don’t be put off by the simplicity of the dishes”, notes one fan, singling out a “divine” plate of burrata, Parma ham, figs and rocket. Lunch is especially good value (our homemade pappardelle with pork belly ragù, guanciale and saffron was rich and satisfying), while dinner ploughs a similar furrow – although prices are a tad higher for the likes of cuttlefish with green beans and Taggiasche olives followed by chargrilled lamb with pickled girolles, peas and salsa verde or sea trout with asparagus and sauce vierge. To finish, try the orange, ricotta and almond cake with honeycomb ice cream. “Lovely service” earns bonus points.

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The River Café

The River Café

£50 - £79
Italian
One michelin star

Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London, W6 9HA

Although artisan competition is fierce these days, we side with the fan who reckons that The River Café serves “the best ingredients-driven Italian food in London”. This convivial Hammersmith evergreen (30 years young in 2017), which is rightfully so happy in its skin, is a very slick operation and certainly in the capital’s gastronomic ‘Serie A’, although it gains added kudos by virtue of its entrancing views and seductive riverside terrace (an absolute must-do on balmy days) as well as its decor, which some say is “dated but iconic”.

The rustic glories of Italian regional cuisine are writ large in a seasonal menu that majors on daisy-fresh salads, glossy pasta and specialities from the imposing red log-burning oven: in summer, that might mean poached langoustines with aïoli and pea salad followed by clam risotto dressed with zucchini flowers or wild salmon baked in sea salt; in winter, Tuscan bread soup with Swiss chard could precede whole Anjou pigeon wood-roasted in Chardonnay with speck, smoked celeriac and watercress. Further classics might be turbot with the greenest of beans, lobster risotto or char-grilled calamari with rocket. To conclude, chocolate nemesis is still the go-to option, but fruity tarts, grappa-laced pannacotta and the citrusy almond and polenta cake are also delicious.

Prices are top lire (a bowl of cherries is £10), although “exceptional service” is as friendly and engaging as it gets in London. Meanwhile, a list of pedigree Italian wines served at the correct temperatures in the correct glasses makes The River Café is the most well-rounded of treats.

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Bocconcino

Bocconcino

£50 - £79
Pizza
Italian

19 Berkeley Street, London, W1J 8ED

Moscow-meets-Amalfi at this Russian-backed Italian, which - on the plate at least – does a pretty good job of whisking you away to an Italian trattoria. Cavernous Mayfair-by-numbers interiors (Imposing reception desk? Tick. Plush beige seats? Tick. Columns, muted colour scheme and lots of giant chandeliers? Tick, tick, tick.) are a million miles away from an alfresco table at a piazza, but it’s the quality of ingredients and an expert pasta chef that does the talking here.

We kicked off with a creamy, oozing buratta with cherry tomatoes and some exquisite wafer-thin coppa, before being bowled over by the quality of the freshly made pasta. Bright yellow tagliatelle swimming in a buttery sauce and topped with a decadent, perfumed and nutty black truffle, and a comparatively rustic (but devilishly hard to perfect) pici cacio e pepe – tagiatelle with pecorino Romano and black pepper – were truly bellisimo. The lengthy menu also features a host of trattoria staples – veal Milanese, frittura mista - as well as over a dozen pizzas. For desert, hazelnut semi-freddo is a good pick. This being Mayfair, service is top-notch and there’s a sommelier to help guide you through the Italian wine list, although none of this comes for cheap.

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Enoteca Turi

Enoteca Turi

£50 - £79
Italian

87 Pimlico Road, London, SW1W 8PH

Enoteca Turi’s move from its longstanding Putney site to a new home in SW1 seems to have been smooth enough, and though the new restaurant is smaller (there are plans to add a private room) it still has the bare-brick charm of the original. Owners Giuseppe and Pamela Turi know many of their loyal customers and are expert oenophiles, while their cooking celebrates the multifarious flavours of Italian regional cooking “at its best”. Expect classics such as wild mushroom risotto from Veneto and a Tuscan lamb ragu with pappardelle, alongside more unusual specialities like a Puglian dish of pancetta-wrapped lamb’s kidneys with Pecorino and herb salad, or marinated beef carpaccio with salt-dried egg yolk and Parmesan from Trentino. Giuseppe’s meticulously annotated 300-bin wine list is a wonder to behold, and with suggestions for every dish on the menu this restaurant more than lives up to its ‘enoteca’ billing.

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Pastaio

Pastaio

Under £30
Italian

19 Ganton Street, London, W1F 9BN

Pastaio is the newest site from restaurateur Stevie Parle, who already oversees the likes of Rotorino and Palatino. Here at Pastaio, the name of the game is to serve plates of handmade pasta at pocket-friendly prices. Tightly packed tables lend themselves to creating buzz, while we have a sneaking suspicion that the vibrant pops of colour and marble-topped tables were chosen with Instagram in mind. Other millennial-bait includes great lemon-dashed Prosecco slushies and a moreish fried ’nduja, mozzarella and honey sandwich which is satisfyingly ‘dirty’, if not the instant classic we’d hoped for. Where  Pastaio really shines is in its eight pastas. Soft shells of malloredus are served with crispy shards of pork and a thick sausage sauce, while supremely velvety agnoli is folded over a gamey filling of pheasant, rabbit and pork. Desserts stick to the Italian classics, with the likes of tiramisu and a selection of gelato, but we were impressed by a flaky cannoli, dotted with jewels of pistachio and completed by a fluffy orange and saffron filling. It may not live up to the giddy heights of the much-lauded Padella, but for affordable, fun comfort food in the heart of Soho, we reckon Pastaio is worth every penne.

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Bancone

Bancone

£30 - £49
Italian

39 William IV Street, London, WC2N 4DD

The brainchild of ex-Locanda Locatelli chef Louis Korovilas, Bancone is a pasta specialist – as becomes apparent even before you enter, thanks to the kitchen team hand-rolling dough in the front window. The theatrical element then continues inside, courtesy of an open kitchen and a dining counter (bag a place here for the best seats in the house).

Furnishings are fashionably neutral, featuring a grey colour scheme and tables topped with white marble. Cool, mostly Italian staff zip between these serving up plates of house-made pasta that fill the room with Mediterranean aromas. From the regularly changing menu, we’d recommend ordering three small plates to share plus a pasta dish each. Our helping of doughy, garlicky focaccia arrived drizzled with sweet-as-can-be honey; next, strips of smoky duck breast were paired with charred artichokes while three perfectly formed balls of deep-fried arancini concealed respectively fiery ’nduja, earthy mushroom, and sweet, melting Dolcelatte cheese.

Slow-cooked oxtail ragu is just one of the many sauces that can accompany your pasta (gluten-free options also available), but we were especially taken with the potato gnocchi: pillowy dumplings that were comforting, hearty and slathered in sage butter. Our other choice, pork ragu with pecorino and tagliatelle, wasn’t as spicy as promised, but still had a thrilling kick to it. Reasonably priced drinks include Prosecco and European wines by the glass, alongside Italian cocktails such as Negronis and Aperol Spritz. For dessert (most of which are also classically Italian), try the sticky, indulgent chocolate nemesis glazed with white balsamic.

The past year has seen an influx of pasta restaurants in the capital, but Bancone’s delicious food, buzzy atmosphere and fair pricing makes this Covent Garden newcomer somewhere worth parting with your dough.

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Padella

Padella

£30 - £49
Italian

6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ

Sometimes all you want in London is a concise, straightforward menu, superb food and good value. The team behind much-loved Highbury Italian Trullo have well and truly cracked it here. Split over two floors, this cramped, no-reservations pasta bar features a marble-topped counter overlooking the kitchen (watch the pasta being hand-rolled on site) and a black and gold, low-lit basement dining room and bar. We were treated to a classic 80s soundtrack and a full restaurant, creating an effortlessly congenial vibe. Antipasti include unembellished plates of beef fillet carpaccio and burrata, leaving a list of six pasta dishes to steal the show. We ordered a second plate of the unassuming pici cacio e pepe: fat, al dente spaghetti with butter, Parmesan and black pepper, astonishingly delicious and tangy, only £6. Pappardelle with Dexter beef shin ragu was similarly bursting with flavour, the beef cooked with due respect. Almond and rhubarb tart was a crunchy, sublime steal at £4. Some portions could be larger (although none of the dishes are more than £10) and there are just three cocktails and four wine choices – don’t miss the peachy, smooth Sussex Bacchus – being succinct is Padella’s core characteristic. In a city of endless choices, Padella is a supreme antidote.

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Cafe Murano St James

Cafe Murano St James's

£50 - £79
Italian

33 St James’s Street, London, SW1A 1HD

There are many diners who prefer Angela Hartnett’s dressed-down Café to her swanky Michelin-starred Murano, and it’s easy to be seduced by its low-it appeal. The long dining room feels tailor-made for rendezvous, whether gregarious business lunches on a round table at the front, something cosy à deux towards the back – or even just a solo meal at the bar, nibbling on some truffle arancini with a Negroni while deciding what to order. Pasta is the undisputed highlight, with highly appealing arrangements such as tagliolini with broad bean pesto and ricotta salata or spaghetti with chilli, garlic and bottarga all the better for being so simple. Elsewhere, the kitchen’s attachment to carefully chosen produce might yield such clean-tasting delights as lamb topside with goats’ curd, courgette and girolles, though Hartnett can also do classy classics too – think vitello tonnato or pappardelle with venison ragù. Some feel that portions are small given the prices, but there’s generosity aplenty in the welcoming nature of the friendly staff.

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2 Veneti

2 Veneti

£30 - £49
Italian

10 Wigmore Street, London, W1U 2RD

A happy combination of warmth, familiarity and location ensures the longevity of this one-off bolthole, dedicated to the charms of the Veneto. You’ll find more directional interiors and of-the-moment food elsewhere, but this is a deliberately coddling experience, all brick arches, bounteous bread baskets and low-key generosity. From the antipasti list, try sarde in saor with white onion, pine nuts and sultanas or one of the variations on salt cod, ahead of bigoli pasta with duck ragù, plain-speaking beef tagliata with a salad of bitter radicchio or fritto misto – an effort to conjure the spirit of the lagoon using squid, mullet, soft-shell crab and king prawns. Lunchtimes now stretch out with an appealing, simplified afternoon menu (served until 5.30pm) and – as you’d expect – wines from the Veneto dominate the Italian drinks list.

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Bocca di Lupo

Bocca di Lupo

£50 - £79
Italian

12 Archer Street, London, W1D 7BB

Sit at the “lovely marble bar” at Bocca di Lupo for a quick refuel or book one of the wooden tables at the back if you have more time: the vibe is the same – busy, buzzy, noisy and fun, with a menu offering some of the very best Italian regional food in London. Although the idea is to share, there are full-size versions of nearly all dishes for diners who don’t like another person’s fork near their plate. The seasons dictate proceedings at Bocca di Lupo, but some items are all-year keepers: delicate sea bream carpaccio, anointed with orange zest and rosemary; unctuous arancini filled with soft cheese and pistachio; wonderfully rich and comforting tagliolini gratinati with prawns and treviso. Also expect simply grilled fresh fish (perfect) and soft slow-cooked specialities such as white polenta with suckling pig ragù. Gelati come from Gelupo (Bocca’s own ice-cream parlour across the road), and we’d recommend them over the restaurant’s more adventurous desserts. There are also some terrific Italian regional wines by the glass or carafe for refreshment.

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Cafe Murano Covent Garden

Cafe Murano Covent Garden

£50 - £79
Italian

36 Tavistock Street, London, WC2E 7PB

Like its St James’s sibling, this second branch of Café Murano showcases Angela Hartnett's modern Italian cooking in a more casual setting than her Michelin-starred Murano. Spread over two floors, it's a convivial spot for business or dates, though we prefer dining with a group of friends and sharing a selection of characterful regional dishes. The daily menu is fiercely seasonal and allows good ingredients to prove their worth, often in simple, yet effective combinations: a salad of octopus, borlotti beans, olives and preserved lemon, for example, might be followed by rich pork cheeks with creamy white bean purée and chicory. Pasta is a particular delight, either sampled in dishes such as spicy bucatini amatriciana or bought from the ‘pastificio’ next door to take home – along with a bottle of hearty Italian red, of course. "It's hard not to stop for lunch each day I walk past", confides one local. Decent Italian-themed cocktails are another plus, and service is “always with a smile”.

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Daphne

Daphne's

£50 - £79
Italian
£30 - £49

112 Draycott Avenue, SW3 3AE

A neighbourhood bolthole and gastronomic destination rolled into one, Daphne’s is the very personification of its Kensington clientele – handsome, refined and utterly assured. From the dark-pink marble bar with its green leather stools to the European modern art and baroque conservatory for private dining, this space resembles a tasteful and expensively clad Italian townhouse, complete with classic Jags and idling chauffeurs parked outside the concertina doors. The kitchen specialises in bold regional flavours: creamy burrata with intense cherry tomatoes and grilled focaccia; octopus carpaccio with crispy soft-shell crab; pappardelle with wild boar ragù; roast rump of lamb with caponata and salsa verde; seared slabs of tuna atop sweet peperonata. For dessert, the strawberry gelato is guaranteed to clear any rainclouds away. As you’d expect from Caprice Holdings, flawless and personable service is a given, while waiters “with a good sense of humour” take pleasure in steering drinkers through the exhaustive Italian wine list.

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Manicomio City

Manicomio City

£50 - £79
Italian

6 Gutter Lane, London, EC2V 8AS

Housed within a clean, boxy Norman Foster design, Manicomio’s City offer is a popular double-decker: the combination of an easy-going café downstairs and more formal restaurant above works “very well”, with “super-friendly” service and a “low-key, buzzing atmosphere” throughout. Bar snacks such as carta di musica with lardo and honey signal the kitchen’s attention to detail, but it pays to explore the full menu. Pasta is a high point (perhaps Cornish red mullet tagliolini with squid ink, tomatoes, anchovy and chilli), bookended by seasonal antipasti and inventive mains such as hen pheasant bombetta with smoked mozzarella, Parma ham and chestnut. Pudding might be a deconstructed rum baba (“lovely”) or tiramisu parfait given a dark twist with liquorice meringue. There are bold flavours to be found and enjoyed – especially alongside the opportunity-rich selection of Italian wines.

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Cecconi

Cecconi's Mayfair

£50 - £79
Italian
£30 - £49

5a Burlington Gardens, London, W1S 3EP

Brooklyn, Berlin, Barcelona, Miami – Cecconi’s has been shipped all over the world to great fanfare, but the original Cecconi’s Mayfair still holds a special allure for readers (and ourselves). Occupying a corner site on Burlington Gardens, the set-up is “faultless from the minute you walk in”: the decor “oozes class and sophistication”, while tuned-in staff can “answer any question”. Soft lighting, green leather chairs and zebra-striped floors radiate from a constantly buzzing bar, so settle in for a superb Italian-style aperitif before diving into the Venetian-inspired menu. The kitchen keeps things generous and gloriously simple, from perfectly crispy calamari fritti with lemon aïoli or zesty salmon tartare to rib-eye with broccoli and chilli or crab ravioli with perfect bite in a “sunshine” baby tomato sauce. Tables are at a premium, but spaces are always held at the bar, where you can pop in for a few rounds of Prosecco on tap while nibbling on cichetti. The vibe at Cecconi’s Mayfair varies with the crowd and the time of day – from hedge-fund lunches to weekend shopping treats and “testosterone-fuelled” Saturday jollies, not forgetting winningly enjoyable breakfasts. 

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Artusi

Artusi

£30 - £49
Italian

161 Bellenden Road, London, SE15 4DH

Blink and you’ll miss this narrow strip of a restaurant with its matt-black frontage, the name painted in tiny white type. Inside, pared-back, minimal surroundings allow the no-fuss Italian food to do the talking. The kitchen takes the best of the day’s produce and crafts a menu of bold simplicity, offering just three starters, three mains, and a couple of pasta dishes of either size. The list provides the perfect antidote to those tired trattorie with their dozens of ‘specials’. Because the chef uses cheaper cuts (lamb shoulder or ox heart on our visit), and concentrates on pulses and seasonal veg, prices are kept spot-on for a neighbourhood joint – though many would cross the capital for gutsy cooking of such quality. The ice cream alone is worth a detour. The all-Italian wine list needs better descriptions, though the friendly staff will make suggestions.

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Lina Stores - 51 Greek Street

Lina Stores - 51 Greek Street

£30 - £49
Italian

51 Greek Street, London, W1D 4EH

Opened in 1944, Soho’s Lina Stores delicatessen has managed to survive the sky-high rents and glossy redevelopments that have claimed all too many of the area’s Italian old-timers. Now, it has produced a bambino: a debut pasta restaurant just a few minutes’ walk away on Greek Street. Here, the exterior proudly displays Lina’s signature green-and-white colour scheme, which is continued inside the tiny space. Try to bag a seat at the counter and watch the chefs at work; all pasta is made on site daily. Alternatively, if you’re hoping for a chat, head to the basement – don’t discuss anything confidential, mind, as tables are packed tuna-can tight.

Charming, attractive staff explain the menu of sharing antipasti and pasta dishes. We were impressed by the lusciously fatty strips of pork belly sandwiched between slices of crisp ciabatta, and also by a vegetarian take on meatballs that came stuffed with silky aubergine and tomato. The stars of the show, though, are the comforting plates of pasta. Don’t miss the gamey veal ravioli: tender chunks of veal wrapped in delicate pasta parcels, given crunch with a smattering of breadcrumbs. A plate of sticky green gnudi was also heavenly, the smooth ricotta and herb filling melting on the tongue. In comparison, dessert disappointed: an overcooked, dry slice of cherry and almond tart. Much better was a zesty cocktail of Blood Orange Bellini. Our advice? Skip dessert and order another plate of pasta – your dough will be well spent on Lina’s.

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Sartoria

Sartoria

£50 - £79
Italian

20 Savile Row, London, W1S 3PR

Time moves relatively slowly when it comes to Mayfair’s classic restaurants, and Sartoria’s thorough refurb (along with the arrival of chef/patron Francesco Mazzei from L’Anima) is still news on Savile Row. The place now looks pin-sharp, of course, if a little stately with its heavy furniture and hotel-neutral palette – although Mazzei’s emphatically “wonderful” cooking elevates the experience to something approaching “faultless”, with back-up from an “incredible” wine list. He’s not afraid of simplicity, stuffing romanesco peppers with salt cod or pairing brown and white crab with green apple and pickled radish. Like his well-dressed patrons, he’s not averse to the luxurious, either: try Grana Padano risotto with saffron and duck livers, generous veal milanese for two, or slow-roasted Black Pig belly with pickled vegetables and black pudding. To finish, insist on zabaglione – think of it as keeping a craft skill alive, not drinking a bowl of expensive custard. Meanwhile, in the late-licence bar, it’s snacks and Negronis a go-go.

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Trullo

Trullo

£30 - £49
Italian

300-302 St Paul's Road, London, N1 2LH

“Always packed to the gills, Trullo hits the mark every time”, declaims a fan of this much-loved Islington spot. Everyone adores its lively (sometimes noisy) atmosphere, eager-to-please staff, calming contemporary interiors and a helpfully annotated regional wine list – not forgetting the “idiosyncratic Italian menu”. The “sublime” handmade pasta (perhaps pappardelle with exquisitely rich beef shin ragù, or ravioli of summer squash and sweet onions) is just the start. Also expect plates of wood pigeon with black figs and cobnut salad, baked skate wing with braised hispi cabbage and brown crab or char-grilled Dorset lamb rump with borlotti beans, datterini tomatoes and anchovy – “perfectly executed” dishes of top-drawer seasonal ingredients. To finish, we’re sold on the decadent chocolate tart and the regional Italian cheeses (Rocchetta Ubriaco) with matching wines. Be warned: this place is addictive.

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Caffe Caldesi

Caffe Caldesi

£50 - £79
Italian

118 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2QF

It’s part of a bigger empire including a cookery school and a restaurant in Bray, but Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi’s solid corner spot retains a “family-run feel”, something that readers value. There’s an easy-going air about the ground-floor bar and coveted pavement tables, where you can eat properly or sip fashionably bitter cocktails as you please. Upstairs in the restaurant, a neat carte includes unusual ideas such as a polenta soufflé with asparagus alongside simply roasted fish and homemade pasta – try fettuccine with Italian sausage and fennel seeds. Pudding might be the famous house tiramisu, now served (inexplicably) in a jar. On Sundays there’s Italian brunch, and while Caffè Caldesi might not be the obvious place for spending big money on wine, there’s enough to keep Italophiles interested. “Good for business lunches” too.

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The Petersham Covent Garden

The Petersham Covent Garden

£50 - £79
Italian

27-31 King Street, WC2E 8JB

It’s only to be expected that Petersham Nurseries has lost a little something on its journey from bucolic Richmond to Covent Garden, but it has gained plenty in the process too, namely a wine merchant’s, café-bar (La Goccia), florist’s, delicatessen and sun-dappled courtyard. The business started in 2004 as a shabby-chic garden centre but is now a ‘lifestyle brand’, with the Petersham (the complex’s more formal restaurant) at its apogee.

The venue looks gorgeous, a World of Interiors centrefold of abundant cut flowers, Murano glass, artworks and glistening chandeliers. The courtyard area is somewhat less convincing, the presence of passing shoppers compromising the idyll. However, it only takes one Rose Petal Prosecco to shake off the feeling of dining in a mall – along with a glance at a menu that transports you to Italy by way of an English country garden. The kitchen observes the seasons with gusto: in early spring serving pea, lovage and quinoa tartlets with even more peas on the side; and in midsummer, introducing broad bean hummus to heritage radishes. Italophile starters such as risotto, or sopressini pasta with beef shin ragu, lead naturally into a shared main course of salt-baked hake; seasonal side dishes always include the Petersham garden salad.

Living the dream here is an expensive business, so dip a toe in first with the £29.50 pre-theatre menu and order carefully from the all-Italian wine list.

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Theo Randall at the InterContinental Park Lane

Theo Randall at the InterContinental Park Lane

£50 - £79
Italian

InterContinental Park Lane, 1 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7QY

One of the nicest chefs in London, Theo Randall celebrated a decade at the InterContinental in 2016 with a refurb intended to channel the more relaxed mood of the 2010s, rather than noughties fine dining. Gone are the tablecloths and moody lighting, replaced by an expanded bar area and a lighter colour scheme: it still feels very corporate, although no one is here for the surroundings. Instead, the unaffected charm of Randall’s “superb” cooking is the main attraction: pasta has always been the star, eschewing clichés in favour of fresh ideas such as plump ravioli stuffed with ricotta and cime di rapa, but there’s much more besides. Pan-fried calf’s liver is embellished with cavolo nero and earthy Castelluccio lentils, beef tagliata features a really excellent piece of Longhorn sirloin, while juicy scallops are spiked with chilli, vinegar and anchovies. The Italian wine list is oddly divided by season, although helpful staff are on hand to advise. “Fantastic cocktails” and notable private rooms, too.
 

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Locanda Locatelli

Locanda Locatelli

£50 - £79
Italian
One michelin star

8 Seymour Street, London, W1H 7JZ

Eating at Giorgio Locatelli’s Michelin-starred flagship brings you one step closer to la dolce vita – so writes a fan who adores this polished purveyor of “old-school glamour” and pure-bred Italian regional cooking. Beaded curtains, cream leather and dramatic domed mirrors create just the right amount of chic elegance, while neatly designed alcoves offer privacy for those who are at Locanda Locatelli for discreet assignations. Meanwhile, the kitchen delivers value, authenticity and culinary cred as it fashions an array of vivacious dishes inspired by provenance-led cucina rustica. Superlative hand-crafted pasta is the undisputed headline act (ring-shaped calamarata with monkfish, samphire, dry capers, chilli and lemon, for example), but everything at Locanda Locatelli is imbued with seasonal freshness – from a grilled vegetable salad with stuffed peppers, pine kernel and basil to roast grouse with stewed lentils and game chips. To round things off, try the Neapolitan ‘baba’ with Chantilly and orange cream or gorge on some artisan cheeses, offered lovingly with Italian honey. Service seldom falters and prices are “not ridiculous” – although you’ll need to shell out a pretty penny to do the patrician wine list full justice. 

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Tozi

Tozi

£30 - £49
Italian

8 Gillingham Street, London, SW1V 1HJ

Bright, modern and gregarious, this light and airy Italian ‘tapas’ restaurant was quickly adopted by the local populace, and has maintained its place thanks to snappy service, a great menu and an on-the-ball kitchen. The line-up looks as cheap as chips and regulars take full advantage at lunchtime, dropping by for pizzette topped with Taleggio, mushrooms and sausage or tomato, mozzarella and goats’ cheese, plus some elegant salad on the side – avocado, Parmesan and radish with baby gem, or asparagus and quail’s egg with black truffle, perhaps. The menu’s long enough to make it a three-day-a-week ritual, with smarter dishes such as roasted cod with clams or lamb Milanese useful for client entertaining. In the evening, there are larger, grander dishes to share – think chargrilled wild sea bass with salsa verde or rib of beef with rosemary and garlic. Alternatively, head to the attractive bar for Prosecco on tap and other potable pleasures.

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Murano

Murano

Over £80
Italian
One michelin star

20 Queen Street, London, W1J 5PP

Angela Hartnett’s flagship restaurant is Mayfair dining at its very best – “fabulous” food, “unobtrusive” staff and a first-rate wine list manned by a “brilliant” sommelier. The sleek white-and-beige dining room with the odd art-deco flourish may still have echoes of its Gordon Ramsay days, but Hartnett’s Brit-Italian cooking keeps Murano apace with London’s vanguard. The ultra-flexible menu lets you choose up to five courses at will, from an exquisite scallop crudo with plump greengages and crunchy oats, piqued by a lemon verbena foam to gorgeous parcels of rabbit meat and sage in a clear broth or a star dish of confit pink fir apples, crispy skins and a creamy Tunworth cheese foam. The huge wine list stays true to Hartnett’s Italian heritage, and you can keep costs down by ordering the “excellent-value” set lunch. “Murano is perfect for any occasion”, confirms one fan.

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Luca

Luca

£50 - £79
Italian

88 St John Street, London, EC1M 4EH

The second outing from The Clove Club’s Isaac McHale, Johnny Smith and Daniel Willis proves that the Young Turk trio are more than one-hit wonders. Luca, they say, is a ‘Britalian’ restaurant – ie Italian cooking recast with British ingredients. It’s a clickbait-friendly concept, although the most striking feature of the place is its styling, which suggests 1950s Italian design adapted for current London restaurant trends: no tablecloths, fabulous lighting and a pasta-making room that transforms into a private dining space once the day’s work is done. Meals follow the classic four-course format, but go easy on breakout stars such as the Parmesan fries (actually gloriously gooey churros) if you want to make it to dessert. Pasta was the unequivocal highlight for us, from spaghettini laced with Morecambe Bay potted shrimps (blitzed into a buttery, bisque-like sauce) to classic pumpkin and chestnut ravioli, still with some stiff al dente bite. Elsewhere, we also liked softly crusted roast scallops sitting on an earthy splodge of Jerusalem artichoke purée, with ’nduja butter bleeding down the gutters of their shells, and a hefty rump of Hereford beef lined with a crisp sliver of pancetta – although a delicious plate of Hebridean lamb chops with rosemary breadcrumbs and mashed swede seemed more ‘gastropub’ than ‘gastronomia’. The only real let-down was service, which was standoffish, slow off the mark and dodgy in the wine department. Alternatively, nibble on sandwiches, salads and small plates in the bar, which is as beautifully designed as the rest of the restaurant. 

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RIGO’

RIGO’

£50 - £79
Italian

227 New Kings Road, London, SW6 4RD

Overlook the rather precious typography: RIGO’ is an Italian restaurant with an ambitious, wide-ranging menu that tests the talent and technique of well-travelled Piedmontese chef Gonzalo Luzarraga. He uses luxury and humble ingredients with respect and imagination: bone marrow with oscietra caviar, an umami hit of porcini and a bonito dashi, or oysters with salty plums and bitter puntarella (a variant of chicory), for example. The prix-fixe offers plenty of exceptional stuff, but it pays it pays to trade up to RIGO’s tasting menu – an extravaganza of flavours and textures, kicking off with snacks such as slivers of crispy tripe with salmon roe on home-baked sourdough. After that, we’d single out the chef’s take on bagna càuda involving a rich emulsion of sea urchin, fermented milk and quail’s egg, as well the gutsy Cinta Senese pork with broccoli, scallop coral and a plump oyster. To conclude, a luxurious spin on crème brûlée uses chestnut cream, porcini, black sesame and caramelised popcorn, and there are artisan cheeses with wild honey too. The restaurant itself is a long narrow space with pleasingly minimalist decor, while service is friendly and well informed. 

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Sorella

Sorella

£30 - £49
Italian

148 Clapham Manor Street , London, SW4 6BX

Along with Adam Byatt of Trinity, Robin Gill has done more than anyone to turn Clapham into a serious dining destination. It’s a mark of the chef’s confidence that he has closed his much-praised The Manor and opened this new Italian on the same site. The menu is split traditionally into cicchetti, antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci, but the best bit arrives before any of that: warm semolina sourdough served with three fabulous dips – ricotta given a silky finish by Jersey milk, pressed black olives, and a delectable melted parmesan.

This alone makes Sorella worth a visit, but we’d also recommend trying the £45 chef’s menu to get a small taste of everything else that the kitchen has to offer. Delicate starting snacks include juicy little balls of truffle arancini, olives fried in breadcrumbs, and turbot smoothly sandwiched between potato crisps and bursts of lemon. Elsewhere, standout dishes include a velvety crab linguine, a comforting bowl of fiery nduja ragu paired with strips of smoky pork, and light chocolate mousse served with vibrant fennel gelato. Italian-accented drinks, meanwhile, include Bellinis, spritzes and a cherry-smoked Negroni.

Sorella is the Italian word for ‘sister’, and with Counter Culture and The Dairy nearby, it’s a very welcome addition to Gill’s restaurant family.  

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Bernardi

Bernardi's

£30 - £49
Italian

62 Seymour Street, W1H 5BN

The Bernardi brothers’ eponymous Italian fits right into Portman Village, where appearances might not be everything but are certainly a factor: the neat streetside terrace, marble tables and mildly distressed leather provide a “chilled” bolthole for daytime socialising, the brothers’ Australian influences keep things playful and service is “very accommodating”. One-time Roux Scholarship finalist Sabrina Gidda has a handle on what’s needed in the food department: porchetta with spring greens, salsa verde and polenta roasties for Sunday lunch, aperitivi snacks of polpette and arancini, plus more serious dishes in between. Try spinach and ricotta gnudi with datterini tomatoes and basil, followed by stone bass fillet with mussels, saffron and samphire or lamb rump with goats’ cheese, stuffed artichoke and black olive sauce. Desserts are simple reworkings of the greats, from Amalfi lemon posset with fennel biscotti to mascarpone cheesecake with cherries and pistachio. Also check out the colourful Dog House basement bar and courtyard.

Interior image credit: Etienne Gilfillan

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Margot

Margot

£50 - £79
Italian

45 Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AA

Margot is currently the name on everybody’s lips, because this classy Italian off Drury Lane is the result of years of impressive networking. Co-founders Nicolas Jaouën and Paulo de Tarso certainly know their hospitality: de Tarso spent nearly six years as maître d’ at Bar Boulud, while Jaouën was the first general manager of Balthazar. Attention to service is the top priority – from the bowler-hatted doorman and white-suited bar staff, to the ornate silver olive oil jugs. But on our visit, the kitchen wasn’t yet comparable with the cossetting ambience. The fairly priced menu follows the classic Italian route, incorporating interesting salumi and cheese, raw cuts, then starters, pastas and hearty mains. We began with a rather muted antipasti of crab salad served with pickled cucumber and avocado smears, followed by gnocchi in Amatriciana sauce that was fine and filling, if unmemorable. In contrast, baked veal osso buco wholly justified its high price, the jus-drizzled meat submitting to the fork with melting supplication, atop bright-yellow saffron risotto. And if you can judge an Italian by its tiramisu, Margot’s petite, light, creamy version shows a kitchen with ample potential. A jumble of patterns and artworks decorate the ground floor, leaving the more restrained basement dining room to conjure up the restaurant’s classiest, more subdued moments. With a weekend brunch menu and a wine list boasting Italian sparklers and French heavyweights, there’s much to enjoy here, but the food needs to dazzle as much as Jaouën’s smile if Margot wants to become Covent Garden’s next grande dame.

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