The 14 Best Italian Restaurants In London Right Now
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Few cuisines conjure doe-eyed romanticism like Italian food does. Maybe it’s the luxurious elongated meals, maybe it’s the holiday to Puglia you went on last year, or maybe it’s Stanley Tucci. Either way, when you’re in the mood, nothing else hits like a slap-up Italian feast. Of course, Italian restaurants are 10 a penny in London but with this list—which includes everything from Tuscan trattorias, to handmade pasta spots, to £5 negronis, to top places for pizza—you can’t go wrong.
We've also got you covered if you're in the mood for five-foot pepper grinders, troughs of spaghetti, and chicken escalope sandwiches with our guide to London's excellent old-school Italian spots.
A decent chunk of north London go all misty-eyed at the mention of Trullo. Who knew that an elegant Tuscan trattoria on Highbury Corner with white tablecloths, a loose atmosphere, and rustic Italian food would be such a hit when it first opened in 2010? Actually, that reads quite compellingly. It’s worth knowing that Trullo is the older sibling to Padella. But there are no queues here. No counters either. This is a grown-up Italian restaurant with two floors of space for lunch and dinner play. Friends, family, your dog looking hopefully at the chargrilled quail with aioli—all are welcome at Trullo.
Manteca has a large dining room that feels constantly full. There are people crowding into booths for lunches that involve pappardelle with duck ragu. Early days relationships, hiding parts of themselves but sharing focaccia. And counter-cruisers ordering two plates of this, two glasses of that. The Shoreditch spot is stylish and assured, with accomplished, comforting dishes—deep-fried pig’s head with mostarda and brown crab cacio e pepe—that are just a little creative. Order pasta, yes, but don’t ignore the sea bass and house-cured Rizla-thin salumi either.
Ombra is that person in your friendship group who can pull off curtain bangs—really cool, but not trying too hard. It’s where we want to be every Friday night as bottles of wine are ferried to candlelit tables of four who are puncturing puffy gnocco fritto, and spritzes are delivered to couples dissecting a fried artichoke layer by layer. Expect your repressed hoarder tendencies to surface as you guard, sorry share, all the excellent food at this Hackney spot. Especially the tiramisu—which is one of the best in London.
Bermondsey’s Cafe Murano nails the fine balance of being fancy but not uptight, and classy but not too polished. The Italian restaurant covers pretty much every type of situation. Intimate date night? Grab one of the secluded booths and fork at tender gnocchi. Boisterous catch-up with friends? Head to the bright, white-tiled main dining room. A low-key lunch? Ask for a table in the small, low-lit space towards the back and share a huge pork chop bathing in salty anchovy butter sauce. Wherever you end up, the warm and attentive staff will look after you well.
Tucked away on one of those cobbled Shad Thames streets where you’re just as likely to stumble into a Sam Smith’s pub as you are a mind-blowingly scenic All Bar One, is Legare. It’s a cosy restaurant with simple, Ikea-ish furnishings, making delicious regional Italian food. Much of the dinky space is filled with dates sharing crudo and deciding whether to share a second brown crab taglioni. Do. The menu isn’t big but nor is it boring, and you’re best off trying a bit of everything.
Cicchetti Knightsbridge is part of the San Carlo restaurant group—a chain of Italian restaurants with locations all over London and the UK—but don’t let that put you off. Because this Knightsbridge spot is a dream group dinner location. The dining room gives fancy yacht crossed with a classic New York brasserie energy—all shiny deep brown wood and huge avant-garde art pieces. The food, from daydream-worthy truffle and pecorino ravioli and the melanzane parmigiana, is straight-up tasty.
Like Gaga on a campaign trail or us when we make a semblance of effort, Luca is glam. A sophisticated Clerkenwell spot with lots of polished surfaces and dark wooden booths, this place specialises in cooking Italian food using British produce, with elements of British cuisine thrown in. Are you keeping up? Good. To get peak enjoyment out of Luca, get a seat at the charming bar with your favourite person, order the outrageous parmesan fries and a bowl of the exceptional rigatoni with pork sausage ragu, and then ask the barman to make you a gold negroni. It's Italian counter dining done right and one of London’s sleekest date spots.
Mele E Pere is a very sexy place to be. It could be the vermouth bar, it could be the flirtatious tagliatelle fork-twirling, or it could be its moody Soho basement location. Whatever it is, Mele E Pere manages to feel like a restaurant that’s been here forever but still suits any and all of your modern dining needs. Last-minute catch-ups over huge 48-hour fermented dough pizzas? Check. A charming, affordable date night featuring gluten-free pasta for your beloved? Sorted. A desperate urge to eat huge slabs of Italian desserts on a Tuesday night? Nonna Mantovani’s tiramisu has got you covered.
The King’s Road isn’t lacking food options, but for a place that has rustic interiors, dim lighting, and a sourdough so good you’ll refuse to share, Made In Italy is your best bet. This three-floor restaurant in Chelsea serves all the classics: think bruschetta and aubergine parmigiana that feels like a hug, as well as some really great pizzas. They're generous with the tomato sauce, have an excellent crust, and are covered with anything from spicy salami to mushrooms and black truffle. That, plus the hidden terrace and fairy lights, make it ideal for a date or an intimate birthday dinner that should always end in a slice of the tiramisu.
Bocca Di Lupo opened in 2008, but for a London restaurant to become a classic in that amount of time isn't ordinary. And that’s what’s special about this Soho go-to: it makes you feel like it’s always been there and always will be. Although the dining room looks a little formal, it’s all very relaxed. In fact, Bocca feels a bit like a family wedding: a lovely ‘proper-ish’ environment with kids dropping wild boar ragu all over the tablecloth and some elderly suits in the corner moving on to their secondi bottle. If settling in isn’t on the cards, it’s also got one of the best counters in London for some fritti and gelato pre or post theatre.
There’s something timeless about the River Cafe. When are people not going to want to eat veal taglierini and a bit of lip-smacking lemon tart? Or crispy taleggio and potato pizzetta, followed by chargrilled lamb with borlotti beans? Especially with the Thames on their left, and someone Bafta-nominated to their right. From its beautiful riverside views to its legendary chocolate nemesis cake, this richly flavoured (and priced) Hammersmith restaurant was the first to make regional Italian food in the city—and it’s still one of the best.
Maybe the £5 house negronis will make you think, “yes these people get it”. Or the heaped bowl of grated parmesan that arrives wordlessly with your tagliatelle al ragu. Perhaps it will be the gargantuan hunk of lusciously sweet and bitter tiramisu that comes later. The point is, there are any number of things that can make you feel completely comfortable at Trattoria Brutto. Whether you’re sitting at the gorgeous bar for an in-and-out lunch, or hunkering down in a room that is very hard to leave, so much about this Farringdon-via-Florence restaurant is easy to fall totally in love with.
An Italian restaurant off of Columbia Road, complete with cobblestones, flickering flames, and the overwhelming sense that the table of cheekbones opposite may or may not have walked in Paris last week—Campania ticks all of the aesthetic boxes. The rustic, maze-like space is one of Hackney’s most beloved romantic dinner spots, but its beauty isn’t surface level. It runs deep and rich, just like their ragu di cervo that’s served with thick belts of pappardelle.
We try not to make a habit of infuriating caveats but this one is unavoidable. Ciao Bella doesn’t make fantastic Italian food but it’s probably the best-feeling Italian restaurant in London. The old-school institution on Lamb’s Conduit Street is loud and proud, sloppy and full of spaghetti. To quote ourselves, which is another unfortunate habit, “if you leave Ciao Bella analysing your spaghetti con polpette, then something has gone very wrong. This restaurant is so much more valuable than a bowl of perfect handmade pasta. It will feed you well and make you happy”.