London’s Best Italian Restaurants

City slicker: L'anima

City slicker: L’anima

Welcome to a series of articles rounding-up the very best restaurants in London for specific cuisines. We’re not talking authenticity here, rather the kind of food we really love to eat. Value is kept firmly in mind, and most of our picks represent this; on the flip side, of course, some places are so good that they are worth saving up for. As ever, please do let us know your thoughts and other recommendations in the comments below.

Bocca di Lupo
Restaurants don’t get much more Soho than this buzzy spot just off Rupert Street where a daily-changing menu spans small and larger plates of vibrant, feel-good food. Be it fresh salads, gooey fried cheese or spaghetti tossed with oil and anchovies, simplicity and ingredients are key. If you’re happy to soak up some bustle, a seat at the bar, a few small plates starting around £7 and a glass or two from the extensive Italian wine list is a fine way to spend an evening. A selection of fine gelato desserts are another draw (though you can also buy this from the restaurant’s dedicated gelato shop Gelupo opposite).

Enoteca Super Tuscan
Tucked away on a quiet Spitalfields backstreet that feels untouched by the last hundred years, there’s much about this place that doesn’t feel like modern London at all. In fact, of all the restaurants in this list this is the one that’s most evocative of Italy itself. As you might guess from the name, wine is as important as food here, and there are some very impressive bottles from Tuscany and beyond on the list, along with more affordable options. Food is kept simple, with hefty and creative antipasti platters among the most popular wine-soaking orders; homemade pastas, grilled meats and Tuscan bean stews are also well worth a go.

Franco Manca
This sourdough pizza restaurant that opened in Brixton Market way before it was cool to do so now has six branches across London. It’s still one of the best pizzas in town, with an enviable chewy base and toppings that benefit from high-quality ingredients. The main attraction is backed up by selections of Italian cheeses, cured meats and gutsy salads.

L’anima
Chef Francesco Mazzei heads up this modern City Italian where comfy surrounds are switched for glass walls and hip white furnishings. Thankfully, the food is more homely. Cheffy techniques work only to draw out flavour in a menu of classics that includes a take on his mum’s lasagna alongside slow-cooked pasta dishes and grilled meat and fish where the ingredients are quite rightly left to do most of the talking. Mains range from around £15-£30 on the a la carte menu, but we’d suggest you try the set menu in the bar area (three courses for £19.50) for a cheaper and almost as fulfilling eat.

Mele e Pere
Specialising particularly in rich, meat and cheese-led dishes from Northern Italy, this Soho restaurant pleases with a mix of boldly-flavoured salads, small antipasti-style plates and indulgent pastas that make frequent and liberal use of truffles, parmesan and butter. We’ll admit to finding the chili-stuffed deep-fried olives addictive on a Class A scale, and the strong, slow-cooked flavours of a beef ragu aren’t far off. Propping up the bar is a great way to sample a few of the smaller dishes, and from 4-7pm every weekday is ‘aperitivo hour’ meaning 50% off drinks with any food order. The bar team also make and serves their own vermouth, which is well worth a try for rarity alone.

Polpo
Russell Norman’s trendy set of Venetian-inspired small plate restaurants present humble but hearty Italian dishes made for sharing. Signatures range from meatballs to stews via simply cooked greens, all washed down with Campari-led cocktails or Italian wine. There are branches in Soho, Covent Garden and Smithfield, as well as the newly opened Polpetto in Soho, which we reviewed here.

The River Café
An unlikely London institution in an even more unlikely location, this restaurant set by the Hammersmith riverside has been churning out simple, ingredient-focused dishes since 1987. At around £30 for most main courses, it doesn’t come cheap, and we reckon there’s much better value to be had elsewhere on this list. That said, some things are worth experiencing, and for a fan of Italian food in London The River Café is one of them: mark it down for a special occasion.

Salt Yard
The Salt Yard Group run not only this namesake restaurant, tapas and charcuterie bar on Goodge Street, but also Dehesa, Opera Tavern and most recently opened Ember Yard. This entry is for all four spots which meld Spanish and Italian foods and cultures to create buzzy small-plate eateries that serve up as tempting an atmosphere as they do food. From their signature deep-fried courgette flower stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled in honey to grilled octopus, cheese platters and croqueta-style fritters, this is food you want to keep eating and eating. The downside of this is that meals which have the potential to be pretty good value can quickly start to add up…

Trullo
This Highbury Corner restaurant is a real gem, displaying with prominence the from-the-heart style of cooking that Italy is known for. In fact, you’ll probably see the chef (glass of wine in hand) carefully dishing up plates of food at the open kitchen as you tuck into specialities including meat and fish from the charcoal grill and gutsy freshly-made pastas. Expect to pay around £8 for starters and £15 for mains.

Zucca
This modern restaurant on Bermondsey Street is frequently noted as one of the best value high-level Italians in London. Indeed, everything from stand-out homemade bread with superb quality olive oil to unctuously creamy burrata and homemade ravioli filled with slow-cooked meat manages to exceed expectations. And it’s the level of flavour the kitchen can cleverly put into what might seem like the most unassuming of vegetable side dishes that really shows off the skill at play here. Mains come in around the not high but neither humble £15 mark, though wine can be a tad on the pricey side.

Also try…

Caffe Caldesi: Home-style rustic Italian cooking from Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi.

Lardo: Pizzas, British-cured but Italian-styled charcuterie and blinding arancini at this hip Hackney spot.

Locanda Locatelli: Michelin-starred Marylebone classic from Giorgio Locatelli.

UPDATED 9/04/2013 with extra ‘Also try…’ suggestions

This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital’s top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.

Tags: , , ,

ben-norum-

Article by Ben Norum | 277 Articles | View Profile

  • Nick G

    Well. You’d expect Locanda to be in there, would also personally shout out Duo Veneti on Wigmore street too.

  • Lisa

    Donna Margherita on Lavender Hill in Clapham Junction is fantastic and authentic and Metro Pizza on Battersea Rise is the best Italian pizza (with Italian staff too!) that I have had in London.

  • Jim

    Cinquecento – Holloway Road and Rossodisera – Monmouth street, both highly rated by those in the know.

  • http://londonist.com/ Rachel Holdsworth

    Personal vote for Luciano’s in SE12.

  • Bina

    Zucca – the starters were excellent, but the mains weren’t anything special to be honest. Quite bland in fact.

    Mediterranea in Crystal Place is fantastic, it is actually Sardinian but does beautiful pizzas, pasta and Italian stews.

  • Cez

    La Figa in Limehouse is basically ITALY. It’s the best, most Italian place outside of Italy with the best, freshest food and the loveliest staff on earth.

    • Paolo Barone

      Trust me… a place called “La Figa” cannot be authentic Italian :)

      • HHGeek

        The name has indeed been causing a minor stir since it opened. Think it must be at least 10 years or so now?

        • Cez

          Yes, I speak fluent Italian and know what it means – trust me, it’s the epitome of an authentic Italian restaurant, the best in London!!

  • Paolo Barone

    Sacro Cuore and Santa Maria should be there as pizzeria… Better and way more authentic than Franco Manca IMHO

  • FJP

    Lardo, Richmond Road E8. Seasonal, fresh, authentic and fuss-free. And faultless.

    • Michael Blom

      authentic it is not. over-priced british take on italian it is.

  • http://www.gonemeta.com George Cathcart

    La Vera Italia on Upper Richmond Road in Putney should be on this list. Small, family run place with quirks galore and stunning, underpriced (imo) food. It’s 2 minutes walk from East Putney tube.

    https://plus.google.com/104603742942004026745/about

  • Pedro1962

    Princi in Wardour Street and Rocca in South Ken, surely…

  • Cheesus

    Al Boccon di’Vino on Red Lion St, Richmond, beats any London Italian restaurant I’ve eaten in and is better than most restaurants I’ve visited in Italy. Great cooking with the best ingredients – tomatoes actually taste like tomatoes – no menu and it’s anybody’s guess how many courses are coming up.

  • Tim

    New kid on the block Apulia on Long Lane opposite Smithfield Market is amazing. Really authentic Apulian cuisine with carefully sourced ingredients from the region. Family run business with really homely environment. Keep going back and never disappointed!

  • Tim R

    New kid on the block Apulia, on Long Lane opposite Smithfield Market is amazing. Family run restaurant that specialises in authentic Apulian cuisine, sourcing fresh quality ingredients from the region and you can really tell. Lovely homely atmosphere too, I keep going back again and again!

  • Tim R

    New kid on the block Apulia, on Long Lane opposite Smithfield Market is amazing. Family run restaurant that specialises in authentic Apulian cuisine, sourcing fresh quality ingredients from the region and you can really tell. Lovely homely atmosphere too, I keep going back again and again!

  • James

    Santa Maria in Ealing is excellent

  • Damon

    Supertuscan is awesome

  • Elena

    One thing should be taken off this list, and it’s Franco Manca. Been there once. Never again!

  • JDubz

    YAY! Great list. Mele e Pere is one of my favourite places in London for food (any cuisine) AND the drinks are top notch. So pleased to see others agree!

  • Madeline

    I love Da Corradi in Shepard’s Market!

  • http://mariannabaroli.contently.com -M.

    Well, Cecconi’s on Burlington Gardens and Novikov Italian Room on Berkeley Street Mayfair

  • Alice

    Mondello’s, Goodge St.

  • TomB

    Ciao Bella, Lamb’s Conduit Street. Bellissima!