For all the Sacla pesto jars emptied throughout your lifetime and all the troughs of Marmite pasta you’ve used to heal all those self-inflicted emotional and physical wounds, you just can’t say no to a big ball of burrata and a saucy bowl of something handmade, can you? We know this because we’re the same. Italian restaurants are ten-a-penny in London and settling for a bog-standard ragu can feel like a cop out, but with this list that will never happen. From Tuscan trattorias, to mamma-ruled kitchens—these are London’s best Italian restaurants.
A large chunk of north London go all misty-eyed at the mention of Trullo. Who know that an elegant Tuscan trattoria with white tablecloths, a loose atmosphere, and handmade tagliarini would be such a hit when it first opened in 2010? Well, head chef Tim Siadatan did. He also opened some pasta place called Padella, but Trullo is the one for us. Whether you come in for a plate of pappardelle or for a boisterous get together with a pork chop, polenta and all, Trullo can turn anything into a celebratory occasion.
Cacio e pepe, take the wheel. This simple but satisfying pasta dish is always on our table at this homely Italian in Chelsea that just so happens to be run by a troupe of deeply fabulous Italian chefs known as ‘the mammas’. Although some classics remain (cf. the best cacio e pepe in London), most of the menu here changes every few months as a new mamma takes the mic and they explore a different region of Italy. This makes a trip to La Mia Mamma a great way to experience proper Italian cuisine outside the parameters of caprese and gelato. A restaurant that truly has our hearts due to its joyous family-feel nature, it’s the perfect spot for everything from a knees-up birthday to an affordable weeknight meal when in desperate need of a heavy dose of carbs.
La Goccia is a restaurant by Petersham Nurseries with a charming courtyard in the heart of Covent Garden. It’s a place that will help you swap out your vitamin D deficiency for a melt in the mouth wood-roasted scallop in butter and lemon. Basically, it’s the restaurant to come to when you want some fresh rigatoni with slow cooked beef ragù, while pretending you didn’t just squish up to a stranger’s armpit on the Northern line to be here. Perfect for an impressive date or a lunch with friends, get a bit of everything. And don’t miss out on the coccoli.
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 Italian restaurant in London. The old school institution on Lamb’s Conduit Street is the dinnertime spot of every ten year-old’s dreams. 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”.
London has a beautiful co-dependent relationship with handmade pasta restaurants. We absolutely love ‘the fresh stuff’, but that doesn’t mean that all of this city’s handmade pasta is equal. Officina is one of the best. A super-useful restaurant with a cool, near-horizontal feel, everything from the comforting pappardelle numbers to the wooden chairs that look like the ones you inscribed your crush’s name into with a protractor at school, make this restaurant feel like home. They serve a short, changing menu that mixes great takes on the classics with bold, combinations like zesty cuttlefish tagliolini . Plus, there’s something deeply satisfying about watching someone roll your gnocchi at the pasta station like they’re crafting Venus Di Milo’s abs.
The River Cafe is a famous restaurant. Not because there’s always someone famous inside it, but because of a multitude of things. From its beautiful Thames-side views to its legendary chocolate nemesis cake, this extortionately priced Hammersmith restaurant was the first to make now commonplace regional Italian food in the city. Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray did that rare thing back in 1987: they opened a modern institution. Just know that despite the high prices, half portions are, unashamedly, available. And most importantly, the River Cafe more than holds up today.
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 basement Soho 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.
Like Gaga on a campaign trail or us when we make some semblance of effort, Luca is glam. A sophisticated Clerkenwell spot with lots of polished surfaces and dark wooden booths, this place specialises in doing Italian food using British produce with elements of British cuisine thrown in. Are you keeping up? Good. To get peak enjoyment out of Luca, we suggest you follow this game plan: get a seat at their warm, charming bar with your favourite person, order their highly addictive parmesan fries and a bowl of the exceptional rigatoni with pork sausage ragu, and then ask the barman to make you a gold negroni. Italian counter dining done right.
Bocca di Lupo is an Italian restaurant in Soho that still hits all the right notes, over a decade after first opening. The menu changes daily, but you’ll generally find amazing pastas, excellent grilled meat and seafood, and regional dishes from across Italy that even your Italian friends would be hard pressed to say they’d tried. There are tables, which are good for groups, but the bar is where you want to be sitting—it’s the best place to grab one of their very good wines and observe the upscale dining room. Call ahead if you can, as it gets ridiculously popular in the evenings. Oh, and make sure to never say no to a scoop of gelato to finish.
No matter how much ready-made tortellini you eat at home or bog standard mozzarella you buy from the shop across the road, there’s something perpetually seductive about an Italian restaurant done right. Brutto proves this. It’s a new Italian restaurant that feels comfortably worn in. The buzzy Florentine-inspired trattoria has bedded itself into Farringdon seamlessly, red gingham cloths, hearty ragus, impeccable steaks, enormous tiramisus, and all.
Made In Italy
King’s Road isn’t lacking food options, but for a place that has rustic interiors, dim lighting, and sourdough pizzas 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 those pizzas. They’re generous with the tomato sauce, they’ve got an excellent crust, and come topped with anything from spicy salami to mushrooms and black truffle. Put simply, there’s something here for everyone—even a hidden terrace with fairy lights. It’s ideal for a date, or an intimate birthday dinner that should always end in a slice of tiramisu.
Gloria is a restaurant that operates on a hedonistic recipe of naughty menu puns, XXL desserts, and plenty of limoncello. It might not be subtle, it’s definitely quite silly, and there’s a strong chance your waiter who keeps saying ‘MOLTO BENE BABY’ isn’t actually Italian, but trust us, the feel-good factor here is off the charts. This place is a real scene and their liberal approach to adding glorious amounts of truffle and quality pecorino to absolutely everything results in a dining experience that requires a two-hour nap and, if you’re doing it right, a big old hangover the next day.
Il Portico has been around since the 1960s, and it continues to serve topnotch Italian food. But what is it exactly that makes it so great? Is it the intimate booths at the back? Is it the no-nonsense menu? The hand-made pasta? Well actually, it’s all of the above, plus the friendly staff and a menu filled with comforting dishes like handmade nutmeg and walnut gnocchi, veal milanese, and wild mushroom risotto. Basically, you could easily spend a lot of time in this old-school restaurant, and you should.
The transportive power of restaurants should never be underestimated. Recently, we were in a fancy, foam and all that type restaurant that made us feel like we wanted to go home. Campania is nothing like that though. The candlelit spot off of Columbia Road is transportive in all the right ways. To romantic Umbrian hillside holidays you may not have even experienced, with a Call Me By Your Name-ish aesthetic, and slabs of polpettone that will have you gesturing your fingers in satisfaction.