London's Italian-restaurant scene is rich and varied, from traditional trattorias to chic new eateries, from fine dining to homemade pasta and pizza. Here’s a selection of the best to suit a range of tastes and budgets.
Norma occupies three floors of a beautifully restored 18th-century townhouse on Charlotte Street. For special events there’s a gorgeous private dining room at the top, a sweet front terrace and just inside, a raw seafood bar. Highlights of the Sicilian-inspired menu include the fantastic signature pasta: rigatoni with aubergine, tomato basil sauce and ricotta. The Cornish crab in chilli and lemon butter is beautifully presented in a giant crab shell. Seasonal whole fish stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, capers and herbs is another winner. The charming, inviting atmosphere at Norma was inspired by old school Sicilian cafe culture - a real delight.
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The newest restaurant from the award-winning San Carlo Group is authentic Italian dining at its best. Beautiful, sumptuous interiors and a colorful, eclectic art collection make for super chic surroundings. The design is by London-based studio Fettle who were inspired by classical Venetian architecture and the work of Venice’s most influential residents like Carlo Scarpa. The food, overseen by Cicchetti’s Executive Chef, Andrea Parente, is fabulous too. A tapas style menu allowing for sharing means you don’t have to miss out. The burrata with parma ham, shaved truffles and a piquant olive oil is a must, as is the tuna tartar with delicate spices, zesty lemon, olive oil and mache leaves. Decadent black truffle ravioli and black salt sea bass with herb and olive oil are also highlights. The show stopper desserts are insanely good with the chocolate bomb theatrically presented at your table. Service is attentive, charming and knowledgable.
3.Legare, Shad Thames
This petite Italian gem opened in late 2019 but like many other restaurants launching just before the pandemic, it feels new and exciting now. The neighborhood restaurant focuses on seasonal ingredients, fresh pasta and a small natural wine list. Pasta is the star; simple and delicious. Try the wild garlic farfalle with peas, courgettes, mint and ricotta or Gargati al torchio with fennel sausage.
4.Bocca di Lupo, Covent Garden
This have been pleasing diners since 2008 with regional Italian cuisine; each dish on the twice daily changing menu includes a note about which of the 20 areas it comes from. Perch at the long counter to see the chefs at work and soak up the buzzy atmosphere. If they can make something themselves, they will do it, from the moreish gelati, to breads, sausages, salame and pasta, with the rest carefully sourced from Italy. Expect dishes like ravioli with butter and sage or rigatoni with sheep ricotta, basil and courgette flowers.
5.Maria G’s, Kensington
Launched in June 2022, Maria G’s is chef Robin Gill’s second restaurant in west London, joining Rye by the Water in Brentford, as well as his popular south London establishments, Darby’s, Sorella and Bermondsey Larder. Tucked away on the ground floor of a swanky new apartment building in Kensington, the decor is stylish and there’s a really lovely garden terrace. Maria G’s menu is based around seasonal produce sourced from Chef Gill’s close network of suppliers. Menu stars include: mackerel bolognese with squid ink linguine; hand-rolled fettuccine, mussels, lemon, and chilli; and monkfish cooked in puttanesca butter. And don’t miss the sage and anchovy fritti to start.
6.Murano, Mayfair and Cafe Murano, Bermondsey
Angela Hartnett’s superb Michelin-starred restaurant shows the influences of cooking with her Italian grandmother and aunts. It’s Mayfair but the atmosphere is informal with a menu featuring seasonal, modern Italian dishes using the best of British and European produce. The wine list at Murano focuses on small sustainable producers, with Italian wines as a speciality. Also recommended is sister restaurant, Cafe Murano, south of the river and featuring a northern Italian menu full of strong flavors. Fresh pasta, made daily on site, is the star of this more casual offshoot. Menu highlights include: spaghettini, courgettes, burford brown with pecorino; linguini, clams, chilli and almond pangrattato; and grilled octopus, chickpeas, fennel and orange.
Russell Norman's original Venetian-bacari-inspired restaurant remains one of the best places for an intimate bite in Soho. Taking inspiration from the traditional bàcaris of Venice, the menu includes cicchetti (Venetian tapas) plus larger dishes including pasta and pizza, all of which are designed to be shared. Don’t miss the pork-and-fennel meatballs and the linguine cassopipa.
8.Il Giardino, Knightsbridge
Open from Wednesday to Sunday until late autumn, The Berkeley hotel’s outdoor space has once again been transformed into a plant-filled oasis. Il Giardino offers an appealing selection of Italian drinks plus sharing plates like arancini, assorted bruschetta, rigatoncini cacio e pepe with truffle, tagliolini with pistachio pesto and delicious roasted wild seabass on a bed of caponata. For dolce, think apricot crostata with amaretto ice cream and tiramisu served alongside gelato cones of Amalfi lemon and pastel peach sorbets.
9.Sette, Bulgari hotel, Knightsbridge
Sette in the Bulgari Hotel has a great vibe and a fabulous menu. New York City’s Scarpetta restaurant family has brought authentic Italian food from the heart of Manhattan to London. The pasta is outstanding, including Scarpetta spaghetti with San Marzano tomato, basil and taglioni aqua pazza with lobster, calabrian chili, tomatoes, black breadcrumbs. Other highlights include ravioli cacio e pepe and the incredible tagliatelle with mixed mushrooms and toasted hazelnuts.
This friendly, neighborhood Italian restaurant and wine bar specialising in seafood was founded by four friends, including Sommelier Fabio de Nicola and Chef Moreno Polverini. Signature menu dishes include an Oyster tasting menu with fresh native oysters, roasted octopus with marinated bell peppers, olives and basil and spaghetti with sea urchin & green peas. Baccala has a minimal industrial meets Mediterranean aesthetic and a lovely chilled vibe that invites diners to settle in for a leisurely lunch or dinner.
The Lina Stores restaurants are easily recognisable with their pretty mint-green façades and pastel-colored interiors. The pasta, handmade in the deli every day, is the main event here and does not disappoint. The spaghetti al nero is great and for dessert, try the cannoli with ricotta, pistachio or chocolate. Bloomberg Arcade in the city and Marylebone are the two latest restaurants in this successful mini-chain.
12.Fatto, Kings Cross
Tucked away from the busy Kings Cross station in St Pancras square, this casual new Italian offers some of the best Neapolitan pizzas in London. Craft beers from independent breweries in the UK and Italy are another selling point, as is the delicious fresh lemonade. Pizza is available in vegan and gluten free options too. The sides are also excellent, especially parma, coppa and burrata and buffalo bocconcini, baby gem, tomato and pesto.
13.Crazy Pizza, Knightsbridge and Marylebone
Founded in Porto Cervo, Sardinia in 1998 by F1 legend Flavio Briatore. there are now two London locations: Marylebone and Knightsbridge. A top-secret recipe of yeast-free dough results in an incredibly thin and delicious crust. Unusual toppings include shaved truffles and zucchini flowers. The crispy pizzas, made in Italian Morello wood-burning ovens, are topped with “made on the day, eaten on the day” mozzarella and fresh tomato sauce. The Tartufo pizza with generous shavings of fresh black truffle and white truffle extra virgin oil is a highlight.
The frequently changing menu at Bancone features pasta, made in-house daily. Recently appointed Executive Chef, Ben Waugh headed up Pétrus and before that the Savoy Grill. His menu has included delicious Barolo ox cheek pappardelle with Barolo vinegar and Cornish cod served with tagliatelle. The burrata is divine; it’s currently served with heritage tomatoes and basil oil. The chic interiors feature attractive blue leather banquette seating.
15.Al Mare, Knightsbridge
Executive Head Chef and Italian native, Marco Calenzo, formerly of Zuma, has created a stellar menu at the new restaurant in The Carlton Tower Jumeirah. The restaurant offers delicious fresh pasta made in house and produce sourced from the chef’s favorite Italian suppliers. Highlights on the menu include: Ricciola al Limone and traditional pasta specialities such as Ravioli ‘Del Plin’ stuffed with Guinea fowl.
16.River Cafe, Hammersmith
This ever-popular, Thames-side restaurant has offered a daily changing menu of seasonal Italian cuisine since it opened 35 years ago. Owner Ruth Rogers and her head chefs Sian Wyn Owen, Joseph Trivelli and Danny Bohan present the wealth of flavors found in Italy’s regional cuisine.The menu is updated regularly while keeping a handful of signature dishes like chargrilled squid with chilli and wild rocket and chocolate nemesis cake.
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