The Italians have given London a lot over the years: its name, a bridge over the Thames AND its first proper plumbing…
Before then, it was just a pipe dream.
Fortunately a little of their culinary nous has rubbed off too, because London’s now home to a trove of authentic trattorias, Michelin-starred restaurants and casual Italian eateries.
So raise a glass to our ancestors and stop by one of their descendants’ best spots for a bite…
Campania | Hackney
An artfully dilapidated Southern Italian restaurant housed in a former dairy. Amidst worn wooden furnishings and abundant foliage, with an authentic nonna rolling out the pasta in the back kitchen, you can dine on exemplary cacio e pepe, pan-fried fish, and meatballs as big as your fist. In the summer, tables spill out onto the patio outside; perfect for a restorative glass of wine after walking down the Columbia Road flower market. READ MORE
Details: 23 Ezra Street, E2 7RH | Open Tues-Sun
Lina Stores | Soho
75 years after opening their legendary Italian deli in Soho, the folks behind Lina Stores decided to try their hand at a restaurant. You’ll find it a stones throw away from the original shop – a sweet, little vienetta-coloured space, where the best seats in the house are at their 12-seater dining counter overlooking the kitchen. Food wise it’s a mix of traditional Italian antipasti – things like Polpette di Melanzane – followed by fresh, house-made pasta. Which, as it happens, they conveniently serve in half portions (some for just £6) allowing you to comfortably feast on more than just one. READ MORE.
Details: 51 Greek Street, Soho, W1D 4EH | Open Mon-Sat
Trullo | Highbury
Housed in Highbury, this trattoria-styled diner offers a British take on Italian tuck. Tim Siadatan, formally on the pans at St John and Moro, provides a seasonal menu that changes frequently (sometimes twice daily) with a focus on hand-made pasta and charcoal-grilled meats. The net curtain halfway up the windows, the white tablecloths and the wood furnishings combine to give the place an authentic Italian flavour… which you’ll also find on your plate, in the form of chargrilled quail with aioli; pappardelle with chicken liver, sage and marsala; and Amalfi lemon tart. Add to that a stonking great wine list, and Trullo is a consistently high performer. READ MORE
Details: 300-302 St. Pauls Road, Highbury East, N1 2LH | Open Mon-Sat
Gloria | Shoreditch
Gloria sits in the heart of Shoreditch, so you’re probably imagining exposed brickwork, chalkboard menus and handlebar moustaches as far as the eye can see. Gloria couldn’t be further from it. A sea of bright, clashing textures, colours, and chintz, the bombastic Gloria brings a refreshingly different aesthetic to Great Eastern Street. The first London venture from Paris’ Big Mamma group, everything here is dialled up to 11. You’ll find “London’s longest grissini” breadsticks, 10 layer-deep lasagnes, profiteroles the size of shot-puts, and cocktails containing porcini mushroom wine and truffle foam. This is 20th century Italy remixed, reworked, and reconstructed, delivering something for all the senses. READ MORE
Details: 54-56 Great Eastern St, EC2A 3QR | Open daily
Bocca Di Lupo | Soho
It’s a stylish Soho Italian courtesy of Jacob Kennedy (the man behind much-loved Moro). Food wise, the focus is authentic, regional cooking, which you can either enjoy together as a table or individually thanks to most being offered in both small and large portion sizes. They also boast a BYO truffle menu, where the chefs will clean and slice your truffles before serving them to you in one of three select dishes. READ MORE.
Details: 12 Archer Street, Soho, W1D 7BB | Open daily
Sorella | Clapham
The Amalfi Coast comes to Clapham: that’s the headline at Sorella, owned by Robin and Sarah Gill of The Dairy fame. Housed in the same space as their former hit restaurant The Manor, the place oozes with the rustic style of Southwest Italy. Simple furnishings and exposed brick are the backdrop to homely, Southern Italian-leaning plates that recently won the place a Michelin Bib Gourmand. The deserts offer a twist you’re unlikely to encounter elsewhere, including Malted Barley Affogato & Vodka Milk – as well as digestifs like the “Cello, is it mint you’re looking for”. READ MORE
Details: 148 Clapham Manor Street, SW4 6BX | Open Tues-Sun
The River Café | Hammersmith
The River Café attempts to offer a full tour of Europe’s boot, from zipper to heel. Over a quarter of a century of operation, an impressive level of prestige has been cultivated here, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the founders of Soho’s Randall & Aubin. All of this excellence comes at a price – which you’ll be paying – but having earned and kept a Michelin star since 1997, you know you’ll be enjoying Italian cooking at the top of its game. With the Thames lapping against its shores, the restaurant has a few fish based signatures that are well worth a try; including wood roasted turbot and John Dory smoked in their own wood stove. The wine list offers something from every region and would require a guidebook to get through. By the time you get to the heel… you’ll be legless. READ MORE
Details: Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London W6 9HA | Open daily
Padella | London Bridge and Shoreditch
The little sister of Trullo, this fresh, house-made pasta joint seems to have been trending since the day it opened. So much so in fact they recently cut the ribbon to an even bigger site in Shoreditch, and yet still you’re unlikely to escape without queuing. It’s definitely worth it though – plates of fettuccine with Cobble Lane cured Nduja, marscarpone and lemon. Or pappardelle with 8 hour beef shin ragu. Almost all of which are under a tenner. So if you’re happy to wait this really is the best way to enjoy primo pasta on a budget. READ MORE
Details: London Bridge: 6 Southwark Street, SE1 1TQ; Shoreditch: 1 Phipp Street, Hackney, EC2A 4PS | Padella is open daily, 12-3.45pm and 5-10pm (9pm Sunday). No reservations: if you’d like to go, just turn up – and be prepared for completely insane queues.
Berto | Highbury & Islington
From the experimental pizza-making peeps over at next-door Zia Lucia (you can get black charcoal bases, gluten-free, wholemeal, etc.) this sibling is taking their carb prowess in a new direction: pasta. It’s made fresh every day by a team who’ve been trained up by Berto himself, a 25yr veteran of fresh pasta making in Rome. Here, you can get tagliatelle with slow-cooked beef ragu; gnocchi with ‘nduja and melted stracciatella; and a classic cacio e pepe with long tonnarelli pasta.
Details: 155 Holloway Rd, N7 8LX | Open daily
Legare | Tower Bridge
A tiny little pastel-hued enclave tucked at the bottom of a Victorian spice warehouse. Legare is the product of a Barrafina General Manager and a Trullo sous-chef, and it shows – with fresh pasta made daily on site, a rapidly shifting menu of seasonal Italian dishes, and a superb Italian wine list to wash it all down. READ MORE
Details: Cardamom Building, 31G Shad Thames, SE1 2YB | Open Mon-Sat
Murano | Mayfair
“If you want to learn Italian cooking, go work for a Scot” said nobody, ever – until of course Angela Hartnett opened Murano, won a Michelin star, and showed that her time with Gordon Ramsay had allowed her to unlock the secrets to Mediterranean cuisine (she also does, in fact, have Italian heritage, but if we’d told you that the set up wouldn’t have been as good). The set up at Murano on the other hand needs no tweaking to impress. It’s classic dining, in the heart of Mayfair, so the tablecloths are white, the service is silver and the food, exquisite. The devil here is in the detail. It’s a requirement that nearly all oils, vinegars, and sherries be made in house, from scratch; and all those homemade staples are expertly combined to deliver dishes such as broad bean and rosemary arancini; rabbit leg with Pecorino; smoked pork belly; and apricot soufflé. This is Italian for those living la dolce vita.
NOTE: For a more down to earth, but equally delicious version of Murano you could head over to one of two Café Muranos (St. James and Covent Garden), where the vibe is more banquette than banquet and the decor is relaxed, modern, and centred around countertop dining.
Details: 20 Queen Street Mayfair London W1J 5PP | Open Mon-Sat, 12-3pm & 6:30-11pm
Mele e Pere | Soho
Three is a good combo in Italy: three colours in the flag, three flavours in Neapolitan ice cream, and three ingredients in a negroni. So when three Italian brothers set out to create a neighbourhood trattoria in Soho, they were onto a good thing. Independent and self-reliant, they make many of their products on-site daily, including bread, ice cream, pasta, and even their vermouth. That vermouth joins London’s largest collection of the stuff behind the bar, alongside an exclusively Italian wine list, and numerous sharing platters and light bites on offer. But for a full meal you can expect total indulgence, in the form of carbonara arancini, lobster gratin, squid ink spaghetti, steak Fiorentina, and plenty of homemade gelato. It’s simple, rustic, and utterly authentic.
Details: 46 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 9TF | Open daily
Polpo | Soho and Chelsea
A London institution for a reason. Russell Norman’s take on the classic Venetian bacaro has been winning fans since 2009, thanks to its trademark mix of rustic-industrial interiors, mouthwatering Italian ‘tapas’ dishes, and secret Campari bars. Slide into a red leather booth or take a stool up at the bar, and order up a feast of cacio e pepe, moreish polpette and crisp miniature pizzette topped with spinach and a perfectly runny egg. READ MORE
Details: 41 Beak Street, Soho, Central London, W1F 9SB | Open daily 12pm-11pm (10pm Sun)
Artusi | Peckham
Artusi is a Peckham neighbourhood joint with an Italian core. Sourcing as many of its ingredients as possible locally, it then whips them up into hearty Italian dishes. The furnishings are simple, the walls are white, a chalkboard tells you what you can eat, and the food does the talking. And as Italian is a romance language, you’re highly likely to fall in love with what’s on your plate. The seasonal, flexible menu ranges from cuttlefish ragù to cucumber and apple tonic sorbet, with plenty of pasta, pork, and cheese in between. READ MORE
Details: 161 Bellenden Road, London, SE15 4DH | Open for dinner Mon-Sat, lunch Tues-Sat, and Sundays all day, from 12:30-8pm
Marcella | Deptford
Marcella is the sister to Artusi and, sticking with family tradition, focuses firmly on simplicity. The dining room is pared back, pastel toned, with whitewashed walls and the obligatory chalkboard. The menu also makes for efficient reading with only 3 starters, 3 pastas, 3 mains, and – wait for it – 3 desserts. But keeping the options tight means each dish can flourish, and with options including spaghetti with confit cod cheeks; fried artichoke with aioli; and veal with fennel and orange, Marcella turns Deptford into a doorway to the Apennine peninsula. READ MORE
Details: 165A Deptford High Street, SE8 3NU | Open for dinner Mon-Sat, lunch Tues-Sat, and Sundays all day, from 12-8pm
Maremma | Brixton
Maremma is Brixton’s take on Tuscan tuck. Named after an unspoilt stretch of Tuscany known for its top-notch nosh, Maremma looks to recreate the flavoursome and rustic cuisine of Northern Italy. The region is a hunting mecca, and you won’t have to hunt hard here to uncover numerous game and seafood dishes, cooked lightly to bring out the natural flavours complimented by potatoes, cheese, and beans. It’s simple and sumptuous, a feel that has been extended to the decor, which like most places these days, is stripped back and casual. The wine list contains a number of rare finds, many of which have never been showcased in the UK before, so you really can take your tastebuds on a little Tuscan holiday. READ MORE
Details: 36 Brixton Water Lane, SW2 1PE | Open Tues-Sat
Last Updated: 24th August 2020 | Main image: Padella Shoreditch
Like Italian food? Then you’ll be needing somewhere for a little Italian dancing, too…