Authentic Italian Food in London Will Leave You Full and Happy
By Emma Wallis
Do you love Italian food? We do too, and that's why we dedicate ourselves to finding the best places to enjoy Italian cuisine in London. We've diligently scouted out the top eateries, and we've listened to our readers and their reviews of London restaurants. We share the places that get great buzz, like Bocca di Lupo, and we showcase the ones that have proven themselves over time, like Enoteca Turi. We also point out good neighborhoods for Italian restaurants in London - Soho, for instance. When the craving hits, we'll make sure you get your fix! The British love a good Italian restaurant, along with most of the rest of the world, and you can't walk more than a few meters without coming across an Italian restaurant or chain. Most of them are good enough, and if you're in the mood for a nice bowl of pasta and a glass of wine, then you can't go far wrong, but there are some in London which are just sublime, run, owned and managed by Italians, who bring with them, their know how and regional specialties to the table, to ensure that you eat better than mamma could ever have served and get to try some things that perhaps you wouldn't yet have tried at home.
The River Cafe has been credited with bringing rustic style Italian food to the Middle Classes of London, and then through the six cook books the two founders wrote, to everyone else in Britain too. There is no doubt that they have done a lot to change the face of British gastronomy and introduce new Italian tastes past the 1970s version of Spag Bol that was served up in many other restaurants. However, lately, some people have complained that the restaurant may be resting on its laurels. Most people agree the food is still a lesson in simplicity, but the prices, and sometimes haughty service can make it difficult to justify the expense. The bright, well-appointed room offers fabulous views of the river Thames as its name suggests though. TUBE: Hammersmith (20-7386-4200)
Pizza Express is a chain restaurant, and is all over London and the UK, but mostly it still serves good pizza, good pasta, and a nice selection of reasonably priced wines. For a quick meal after a walk in the park, before or after the cinema, a concert or the theatre, you can do worse than go to a pizza express. They were the first people to move Brits away from having ham and pineapple on their pizzas, a staple of the eighties, and towards fresh ingredients with seasonal changes, and thin bases baked in wood fired ovens. They also do pizzas with less dough, or salads, with or without dough balls for those counting the calories. (020 7624 5577)
Accomplished cuisine leaps to the forefront at this intimate, charming restaurant, which sits not far from the Thames. Classified as "modern Italian," the food reads "simply delicious" to regulars. Simple but appealing starters range from octopus salad with panzanella to ravioli with aubergine; standout main courses have included roast rabbit with celery, onion, peppers, capers and pine nuts, and roast turbot with potato, artichokes and olives. Steaks and seafood are available as well, along with amazing pastas. Lush, fruit-accented desserts deserve notice, and a terrific list of Italian wines is a welcome boon which covers all the main regions of Italy, and can be drunk by the glass or half carafe so you can try a few different ones without committing to a whole bottle. TUBE: Putney Bridge (020-8785-4449)
Zucca has had some stunning reviews, from Londoners hungry to try the latest in modern Italian cooking. Some people have not been happy with the service in this restaurant but others have judged it the perfect night out. Sometimes you can wait a few weeks to get a booking, as the restaurant had a lot of buzz when it opened and is in the heart of one of London's newest trendy areas, Bermondsey, so is pulling in a very decent trade most evenings. The name means pumpkin in Italian, and the place is appropriately pumpkin accented, in terms of colour, throughout. Many love the fresh cut pasta, seasonal variations, and fish, more up and down reviews for the meat and the size of the portions which some feel are too small. Prices are relatively high, but no higher than the average new Italian restaurant in London. (020 7378 6809)
Franco Manca is Neopolitan style pizza, that's thicker crust to you and me, with a small selection of delicious toppings. Obviously the Margherita, created in Naples, as legend has it, for Regina Margherita, is it's basic standard, and deliciously fresh, about 5-6 other types of pizza are available on a rolling basis, and a short delicious wine and beer list, and home made lemonade finishes off the offerings. Coffee comes black here, as Italians believe that you shouldn't drink a milky cappucino after your main meal as it can unsettle your stomach. You can eat in, fast, or take away, and the turn over just keeps ticking. This restaurant which was one of the first in Brixton to open up in the new gourmet market enjoyed so much success it has opened up a branch in Westfield Stratford City and Chiswick, with more to follow. (02077383021)
This is not fine dining Italian style, but down home, how mamma maria makes it. E. Pellicci has been serving up its very own brand of cockney Italian cooking, with a bit of Portugues thrown in since 1900 in this part of London. Now beloved by hipsters, who come here for a fry up, a cup of tea, and to be on first name terms with the friendly serving staff after a hard night clubbing it in Shoreditch. The place is great for people watching, admiring the decor which won the cafe a Grade II listing in 2005, fish and chips on Fridays, and some Italian flavoured main courses like Pasta Toscana. Great for what it is and a rightful institution in this part of the city. (020-7739-4873)
Due Sardi is a tiny take away only kitchen which serves up great pizzas and a couple of other sardinian specialties to the hipster crowd who stream past its doors all day and in to the night. As well as the sourdough pizzas, they serve up spaghetti alla bottarga, spaghetti with mullet roe which has a strong smoky fishy taste, not for the faint hearted but beloved by all Sardinians, and pancakes with ricotta and spinach. The take away hatch is open from noon until 10pm daily and it is really worth a visit if you are in this region. Sardinia may not be the first region for pizza in Italy, the islands fresh fish, delicious milk and honey deserts are more what they are known for, but like everywhere in Italy, the worshiping of fresh ingredients is key here to the taste and your pleasure when you eat it. (020 7729 4192)
This Hackney restaurant, does brunch, lunch dinner, deserts and wine in a fantastically styled little restaurant. On the breakfast menu is "eggs in purgatory", a must try for the name alone. Moving on to lunch artichokes alla giudea, a very Roman Jewish specialty are very reasonably priced at 5 pounds a plate, and come warm. Also langoustines and a Lardo terrine call temptingly. For dinner a plate of pappardelle with wild boar and pancetta ragu is hearty and filling and the goats curd, sprouting broccoli and anchovy pizza offers some modern taste sensations and super foods too. If you have room for desert the prune and armagnac tart or crunchy almond florentines would finish off your meal to perfection. (020 8985 2683)
Su Sazzagoni is a Sardinian flavoured Italian restaurant tucked away in little known Clapton, the area is a beautiful place to walk around if you happen to be in the East of the city. This is more than just a restaurant, they aim to offer a "genuine taste of Sardinia" in London, and have a delicatessen, bar and restaurant all rolled in to one. Su is owned by Elena Sullai, who came to London from Sardinia in 2007. The menus change very three weeks, but always feature fresh fish, meat and vegetable dishes. WiFi is available in the cafe for those who want to just enjoy a coffee and stay and chat, and all the wines in the restaurant are also available to buy and take home with you should you so wish to recreate your experience in the comfort of your own home. (020 8985 8448)
Bocca Di Lupo
Bocca di Lupo literally means 'mouth of the wolf' and on the restaurant's website their tag line is 'for when you're hungry like a wolf', it's also an Italian expression for good luck! The food is good, and authentically Italian, the only quibble are the prices which although matching London standards and not too bad, are a lot more than you'd pay in Italy, particularly for things like 'fritti romani' that you can eat much more cheaply in any pizzeria in Rome. That said, it's worth it for a special night out in London. The rose and cucumber martini's are to die for, the fritti crisp and the meat well cooked. The wine list, broken down in to regional categories is well chosen and for the very big spenders among you, they've also got a bottle of barolo for over 2000 pounds! (0207 734 2223)
About Emma Wallis
London gives Emma a warm fuzzy feeling every time she gets back to her home city. As a writer and broadcaster she travels extensively round Europe and the world, but is always happy to return to London town. All that travel means she knows what she looks for as a visitor to a new city: insider knowledge, tips, and the feeling that she's found something that few travellers get to experience. Emma enjoys keeping her fingers on the capital's pulse, in order to make sure that everyone enjoys her favourite city, as much as she does.
Read more about Emma Wallis here.