Londoners have long enjoyed a love affair with Italian cuisine. Whether it’s cannoli from the local deli washed down with an espresso, antipasti with an Aperol spritz along the Thames, or a big bowl of pro-level penne at home, we just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. Fortunately, London has no shortage of Italian restaurants to satiate our cravings. Here’s our guide on where to find the best, from Michelin-starred menus to much-loved neighbourhood Italians dishing out modest classics just like nonna used to make…
Bringing a touch of Venetian bácaro culture to Knightsbridge, Cicchetti’s culinary offering is presented as a kaleidoscope of colourful sharing plates — perfect for lunch, dinner and everything in between. Situated opposite Harrods on Hans Road, the restaurant’s opulent decor is inspired by classical Venetian architecture, featuring polished wood and brass fittings that nod to the luxury yachts synonymous with the Floating City, while a large striking mural takes centre stage in the dining room.
The restaurant’s wine list features some of the finest Italian vintages with small, family-run producers sitting alongside better-known wineries. Journey the length of the country’s vineyards with a crisp glass of wine from Piedmont and Veneto in the north, through to Campania and Sardinia in the south. Prefer to drink alfresco? Head to the intimate terrace with the Bellini Veneziana, a summery blend of white peach and prosecco, in hand.
With its name translating to ‘small plates’ in English, diners can expect regionally-inspired dishes using ingredients sourced from Italy’s best artisan producers. Alongside perfect-for-picking crostini and stuzzichini (nibbles) — including Prosciutto San Daniele with gnocco fritto and burrata with Parma ham and black truffle — signature mains include black truffle ravioli and black salt sea bass with herb and olive oil salmoriglio. Make sure to save room for dessert with the classic tiramisu or opt for the Coppa Golosa: chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla ice cream with Ferrero Rocher and warm Nutella sauce. Bellissimo.
6 Hans Road, SW3 1RX0, visit sancarlo.co.uk
Set across three floors of a Victorian townhouse on Charlotte Street, Norma’s golden-hued, paisley-tiled interiors and decadent dining menu don’t disappoint. Inspired by the culinary fare of Sicily, head chef Giovann Attard likes to tackle traditional Italian dishes from a fresh angle by intertwining Moorish, north African influences into his cooking.
The seasonal menus change regularly, but highlights of the current offering include saffron arancino with beef ragu and garden peas; calamarata, red prawns, burrata and fennel herb; as well as pan-seared pollock, baby artichokes and Marinda tomatoes with capers. If you’d like to taste authentic Sicilian wine, the friendly sommeliers are on hand to talk you through their collection or you can pick from three types of negroni on the cocktail list. Our favourite is the warm negroni with cognac, Campari, angostura orange and double cream.
8 Charlotte Street, W1T 2LS, visit normalondon.com
The brainchild of ex-River Café alum Alex Owens and hospitality company Spook, Archway is a cosy, candle-lit neighbourhood restaurant nestled under the railway arches of Battersea. On a mission to inject some hearty, Italian food into SW11, head chef Owens has been whipping up weekly menus combining traditional fare and her take on new flavours.
Archway features an open kitchen and bar, adding to the intimate atmosphere, and also offers counter seating so you can watch the chefs at work. We recommend trying the succulent lamb sweetbreads with wild garlic and tarragon, burrata with winter leaves and hot honey, and pig cheek served with salsa verde. Don’t worry, there are pasta options for your primi course, including the likes of cavatelli with venison ragu and orecchiette with mussels and winter tomatoes. However, you must save room for the beignets served with honey mascarpone and rhubarb — utterly delicious.
Arch 65, Queens Circus, SW8 4NE, visit archwaybattersea.co.uk
Theo Randall at InterContinental Park Lane
If you’re looking for honest and fresh Italian fare, head to the five-star InterContinental Park Lane. Theo Randall first made a name for himself cooking at the River Café (is there a theme here?) in the 1990s. In 2006, he moved to the prestigious Park Lane address with his name above the door to make his mark on the world of Italian cuisine. Highlights include cured beef carpaccio with wild rocket, handmade pasta stuffed with slow-cooked veal and pancetta, and roasted guinea fowl stuffed with prosciutto di Parma. Finish off with the Amalfi lemon tart and you'll have yourself an authentic Italian feast while in the heart of the capital.
One Hamilton Place, W1J 7QY, visit theorandall.com
Bancone, across London
Boasting a Michelin Bib Gourmand and breathtaking interiors — Soho’s Golden Square outpost features an olive tree in the centre of its dining room — Bancone is the sort of knock-out neighbourhood Italian you would only expect to find in Italy. The focus here is on a small but mighty menu of freshly-made pasta drenched in decadent sauces. Choose from dishes including 'silk handkerchiefs' with walnut butter and confit egg yolk, braised ox cheek pappardelle with Barolo vinegar, bucatini cacio e pepe and smoked potato raviolo with winter truffle. Can’t decide? No problem, opt for the three-course set feasting menu, which at £45 per person for lunch or £55 for dinner, offers diners the chance to sample the best of what Bancone has to offer.
Covent Garden and Soho, visit bancone.co.uk
Bocca di Lupo, Soho
Serving stripped-down, authentic regional Italian cuisine, Bocca Di Lupo is a buzzing family-run trattoria in the centre of Soho. The sharing-style menu — characterised as a phrasebook of the 20 core dialects of Italian cuisine — changes twice daily to accommodate for seasonality, and everything that can be homemade, from pasta and bread to salame and gelato, is made in-house, with the rest of the restaurant’s produce sourced directly from Italy. Wines are meticulously selected and exclusively Italian (what else would you expect?), ranging from familiar favourites to little-known gems. For a memorable experience, take a seat at the chef’s counter and look on as the team works away in the restaurant’s open kitchen.
12 Archer Street, W1D 7BB, visit boccadilupo.com
Intimate Florentine trattoria Brutto — another Bib Gourmand holder — holds a steadfast philosophy of simplicity and quality, authenticity and big flavours. With its loud music, low lighting and all-day bar, the cosy laid-back neighbourhood Italian by Russell Norman, formerly of Polpo, is the ideal place to let go of all the day’s stress as you dig into a bowl of beautifully al dente pasta. Menu highlights include penne con vodka, panzanella, zucchini al forno with borlotti and salsa verde, and the signature biscetta alla Fiorentina. Save room for dessert, the sweet apple tart and decadent tiramisu are not to be missed. Come for the carbs, stay for the £5 negronis. Cin cin!
35 - 37 Greenhill Rents, EC1M 6BN, visit brutto.co.uk
Situated in one of Shad Thames’s converted warehouses, Legare — by duo Jay Patel and Matt Beardmore — excels in unfussy service and bold flavours. Its British-sourced seasonal menu, with highlights including squid and puntarelle salad, wild garlic and cavolo nero risotto and pappardelle with pig cheek and trotter ragù, puts the focus on high-quality ingredients cooked to perfection and paired with fine, natural wines.
31G Shad Thames, SE1 2YR, visit legarelondon.com
Locanda Locatelli, Marylebone
Owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Giorgio and Plaxy Locatelli, Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli has been a favourite among London’s glitterati for well over three decades — even through a traumatic gas explosion in late 2014 that saw the restaurant close for four months. Intimate with a family-dining feel, the venue’s pared-back, stylish interior of dark wood floors and linen tablecloths speaks to the elegance and simplicity of its menu.
Stretching across the many culinary regions of Italy, the à la carte offering provides plenty of choice (including gluten-free and vegan dishes), from cuttlefish and pea salad, linguine with lobster, and gnocchi with wild fennel, mullet, garlic and black olives to grilled mackerel, sweet and sour onions, capers and mixed salad and roast pigeon, lentils and garlic purée. Make sure to sample one of the restaurant’s many fine wines, and don’t miss the sumptuous Sicilian blood orange souffle with negroni sorbet. Delizioso.
8 Seymour Street, W1H 7JZ, visit locandalocatelli.com
Named after a glass-making island in Venice, Angela Harnett’s Michelin-starred Murano has been dishing up the flavours of northern Italy in the heart of Mayfair since 2008. Influenced by her nonna’s cooking, Harnett’s dishes put a contemporary twist on classic Italian cuisine with the restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere putting the emphasis staunchly on fun rather than fine dining.
Menus are divided into four sections, with guests encouraged to choose anywhere between three and six courses. Recent highlights include seared mackerel, smoked beetroot, tarragon and walnut, duck fagottini with Moscato velouté as well as pumpkin and goats curd tortellini with trompettes, sage. Desserts are decidedly decadent, from custard tarts to chocolate and blood orange with cacao sorbet. All expertly paired with fine wines from independent, sustainable producers worldwide.
20 Queen Street, W1J 5PP, visit muranolondon.com
The River Café, Hammersmith
One of London’s best-loved Italian eateries, the River Café retains all of the informal charm that made it such a hit when duo Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray opened the iconic Thameside retreat 35 years ago. Menus, written daily, feature rustic, simple dishes bursting with authentic flavours that allow the high-quality, seasonal produce to speak for itself. Think Devon crab with baby artichokes and parsley, fresh nettle pasta with butter and parmesan, and wood-roasted turbot tranche with potatoes, Amalfi lemon and courgette.
River Café’s indulgent chocolate nemesis is, thankfully, a year-round dessert menu mainstay alongside a selection of homemade gelati — we’ll take ours affogato. Order a round of fresh fruit bellinis or a bottle from the Michelin-starred restaurant’s regional wine list and laze on the terrace watching the world go by, or enjoy the bustle of the busy open kitchen with its imposing wood-fired pizza oven.
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, W6 9HA, visit rivercafe.co.uk
The older, definitely more grown-up sibling of London Bridge pasta haven Padella, Trullo is a much-loved local gem. Renowned for its mainstay silky pappardelle with rich eight-hour beef shin ragu, the contemporary north London trattoria serves up seasonal, ingredient-led daily menus, featuring fish and meat cooked over the charcoal grill and fresh, hand-rolled pasta. Recent highlights include burrata with marinated beetroot and marjoram, Cornish monkfish tail with confit garlic, parsley and lemon, and Dorset lamb rump with cannellini beans and anchovy and rosemary dressing.
300 - 302 St Paul’s Road, N1 2LH, visit trullorestaurant.com
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