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
Recommended for Italian because: River Cafe is credited with bringing Italian food to Britain and making Brits appreciate what real Italian cooking is.
Local Expert tip: Go to the River Cafe for a special occasion and be prepared to spend. If you want an intimate small restaurant, this is NOT for you.
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.
Recommended for Italian because: Pizza Express is an example of a chain which made good, and serves up a great product at a reasonable price.
Local Expert tip: Pizza Express is generally consistently good, and caters for everyone at a very reasonable price, and bonus, you can find them all over London and the rest of the UK too.
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
Recommended for Italian because: Enoteca Turi is run by Giuseppe Turi, which makes this place an independent gem in a city full of copy cat Italians.
Local Expert tip: The duck ragu comes highly recommended, and the list of wines is comprehensive with lots of regional specialties. Try by the glass or in a half carafe.
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.
Recommended for Italian because: Zucca has been highly recommended by friends and many of the restaurant industry's best critics.
Local Expert tip: Make sure you book for Zucca, and plan well in advance, many people have had to wait three weeks or longer for a table. It is modern Italian cooking come to London with prices to match.
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.
Recommended for Italian because: Franco Manca serves great brick fired pizzas at a reasonable price in a trendy gourmet area of London, Brixton.
Local Expert tip: Come to Franco Manca for a taste of Naples in London. Good food, and reasonably priced.
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.
Recommended for Italian because: E.Pellicci is a London institution and serves up family Italian style cooking to a vast clientele in the heart of East London.
Local Expert tip: Don't go expecting fine Italian dining, this is how mamma would have made it and all the better for it.
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.
Recommended for Italian because: Due Sardi does a few things very well, and offers good value for money.
Local Expert tip: Great for getting cheap authentic italian in London, not as easy as you might think despite the millions of Italian restaurants on offer in the city.
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.
Recommended for Italian because: Lardo is very reasonably priced and is offering new style Italian cuisine in the heart of Hackney.
Local Expert tip: At lunchtimes in the week, the restaurant offers a complimentary glass of wine with every pasta dish.
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.
Recommended for Italian because: Su Sazzagoni offers the chance to try a lesser known region of Italy's cuisine and you can by goodies from their shop after eating too.
Local Expert tip: Su Sazzagoni is the real deal, a genuine taste of Sardinia in London, everything is imported including hard to find fregola, a small ball shaped pasta.
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!
Recommended for Italian because: Bocca di Lupo offers the best Italian food I've eaten this side of Milan.
Local Expert tip: This restaurant does great regional food from Italy, but it's the fried food from Rome / Lazio which in my opinion is the tastiest. Their ice cream parlour across the road, gelupo is also DELICIOUS and definitely worth a visit if you can't get a table in the main restaurant.