Food & Drink

The Best Italian Restaurants in London

Published On 06/25/2015 Published On 06/25/2015
Jason Allen/Thrillist

Sure, Italy gave us the Renaissance, Cicciolina’s career, and the performance art of Silvio Berlusconi, but the country’s greatest contribution to the world is arguably its incredible food. While pizza may be one of the best-loved Italian dishes to have made its way to London (and with good reason -- it’s amazing stuff, and London has some incredible pizza joints), Italian kitchens in London have long produced plenty of foods that whisk us off our feet, like fresh pasta, cured meats, and strong cheeses... not to mention that they pair these up with some of the best wines in the world. From fine dining to the stuff mamma used to make, here are a few of our city’s Italian spots that deserve some extra attention.

Enoteca Turi Restaurant

Enoteca Turi

Belgravia

Although the Turis quickly realized that simply being Italian didn’t mean they knew the first thing about owning an Italian restaurant, they’ve spent the last 25 years making this wine-centric spot a perfect haven for authentic eats. Having perfected the craft over at the much-esteemed Connaught Hotel, it comes as no surprise that this family-run spot has top notch service values right along with their delicious plates, filled with flavours like fried courgette flowers stuffed with mozzarella and a basil mint pesto, as well as pappardelle with lamb ragu.

Il Cudega

Il Cudega

London Fields

Tucked under a railway arch just off London Fields, this low-key cafe comes courtesy of two childhood friends and a brilliant crowd-funding campaign. This space is divided into a deli counter, where you can grab authentic, cured meats and cheeses, and a lounge area where you can while away the hours over glasses of wines and simple dishes like pumpkin risotto. A true community project, they give 10% of profits to local charities and do regular lessons with school kids about how to grow fruit and veggies in their greenhouse.

Padella

South Bank

Just a hop, skip, and a jump from Borough Market, this little sister to Trullo does one thing really, really freaking well: pasta. We’re talking about super-fresh, perfectly al dente, small plates of wonder that will leave you wondering why your linguine can’t always be this good. Most of this place is counter seating, which means if you go with a gaggle (better for ordering the whole menu), conversation will probably be kept to a minimum (the better to keep your mouth free for savouring, though).

Lardo

Lardo

Hackney

Named for one of the more guilt-inducing (and not unrelatedly, soul-fulfilling) dishes in the Italian roster, it’s no shocker that this joint specializes in all things charcuterie. Not wanting to limit themselves, they also knock out some pretty outstanding pizzas, veggie plates, and hearty fish options... plus a wine and cocktail menu that’ll keep you properly sauced all night long. Take a look at what they’ve got going on their roof space as well -- on warmer days, it’s a perfect suntrap.

Vinoteca Wine & Food

Vinoteca

King’s Cross (& other locations)

OK, so some of these flavours may have been inherited from their Spanish cousins, but the bulk of the menu leans towards the Italian side of the things... and their wine list is just off-the-charts good. Started in 2005 by three friends with a mission for better wines by the glass, they’re rocking around 25 options to sip while you snack on little dishes like grilled figs with buffalo mozzarella, honey, and pumpkin seeds, or roast aubergine, served with a warm chickpea salad, and mint & lime dressing.

Bocca Di Lupo

Bocca di Lupo

Soho

Bright and airy, this spot does fresh, regional dishes better than almost anyone, with ingredients flown over from Italy several times a week. Be sure to try their house classic, the super-refreshing radish salad, made with pecorino, truffle, and pomegranate seeds. Everything is made in-house so you can taste the extra love and care, and even watch the chefs work their magic from the long marble counter that wraps around the kitchen. Best seats in the house.

Polpo

Polpo

Soho (& other locations)

It’s amazing to think these small plates of Venetian food pretty much changed the way Londoners dine out. Russell Norman’s Italian empire -- with its exposed light bulbs, alternative soundtracks, and ridiculously attractive tattooed staff -- draws up queues at all hours for its simple and delicious dishes like mushroom piadina, pizzette bianco, and fritto misto. Now with six locations in London, they’ve got your hunger covered almost always.

Flickr/Ewan Munro

Trullo

Highbury

This bi-level Tuscan trattoria has created a hub of activity in picturesque Highbury, where people flock to try grilled meat and fish, gorgeous fresh pasta, and outstanding house-made desserts. The menu changes a bit every day, so there’s always something new to try.

Bellaria restaurant

Bellaria

Fitzrovia

Hiding in plain sight, this little bi-level Italian bistro has been quietly serving up surprisingly great dishes without much fanfare. This spot has big windows, plenty of people-watching opportunities on the ground level, exposed bricks and secluded nooks downstairs. It’s a great spot to fill your face with their house-made, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi, fresh seafood, and plenty of outstanding vegetarian options... this place is so good, eating here kind of feels like you’re in on some big secret.

Babbo Restaurant

Babbo

Mayfair

Taking you straight back to Tuscany, this family-run restaurant is something out of the films -- an entertaining maître d' (if you get him in the right mood, he sings), young and talented Chef Carlo Scotto (who earned his chops with Angela Hartnett at Murano and at Galvin La Chapelle), and family photos everywhere. The menu changes daily, giving a sense of creativity to the whole thing, keeping it a welcome oasis for the Mayfair set.

Flickr/Herry Lawford

The River Café

Hammersmith

Opened back in 1987 by two ground-breaking women, this old-school canteen turned Michelin-starred restaurant is still turning out expertly crafted food after all these years. Housed in a warehouse space right on the river in an area not exactly known for fabulous dining options, this legendary spot is elegant while remaining slightly quirky, and totally worth the fairly hefty price tag for some of the best seafood and fresh pastas around. Plus, if you ask nicely, they’ll even let you have a peek in their epic cheese room.  

Rotorino

Hagerstown

An instant darling of the East London food scene, this super-trendy spot takes on classic dishes from the boot-shaped country... but makes them with the best produce from our home turf. Chef Stevie Parle takes top British ingredients to turn out bites like their gorgeous Porcini Tortellini with garlic, girolles, and thyme; and a watermelon salad made with tomato, chili, and British ricotta that tastes both authentic and phenomenally fresh.

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Haley Forest is a food & drinks writer who believes the key to happiness is a Negroni and a plate full of fresh beef carpaccio with truffle. Follow her on all things social at @HCForest.  

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1. Enoteca Turi 87 Pimlico Rd, London, SW1W 8PH (Belgravia)

This family-run Italian restaurant in Belgravia serves modern and regional dishes, like Tuscan papparadelle with lamb ragout and Sicilian ravioli with aubergine and buffalo mozzarella. The menu is split between first-course pasta dishes and larger, meat and seafood ones, and there are vegan and gluten-free options available, too. The dining room is simple and elegant with white tablecloths, and the wine list is sophisticated and extensive.

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2. Il Cudega Westgate Street, London, E8 3RL

Tucked under a railway arch just off London Fields, this low-key cafe comes courtesy of two childhood friends and a brilliant crowd-funding campaign. This space is divided into a deli counter, where you can grab authentic, cured meats and cheeses, and a lounge area where you can wile away the hours over glasses of wines and simple dishes like pumpkin risotto. A true community project, they give 10% of profits to local charities and do regular lessons with school kids about how to grow fruit and veggies in their greenhouse.

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3. Padella 6 Southwark St, London, SE1 1TQ (Borough)

From the team behind Trullo, this chic pasta bar rolls, stretches, and cuts house-made dough daily for its exceptional Parmesan-sprinkled noodle dishes. The owners aren't the only things Padella has in common with Trullo -- the menu here features the same signature eight-hour beef shin ragu over pappardelle that fans have come to adore. Don't stop at the ragu though: taste the fettucine with chicken liver and wild mushrooms, and tagliarini (a skinnier tagliatelle) with Dorset crab, too. For dessert? A rich and crumbly chocolate tart.

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4. Lardo 197-201 RICHMOND RD, London, E11 4DA

The taste of their cured meats will drive you to eat an entire pizza pie. Seriously.

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5. Vinoteca 3 King's Boulevard, London, N1C 4BU

The wine-focused Vinoteca serves a rotating selection of 25 wines by the glass at each of its locations across London. The selections vary, and the wine list is always being updated, but you can expect a mix of complex and fruity white wines, and more deep and textured reds. A fine selection of small plates complements the wine menu, like grilled figs with buffalo mozzarella, honey, and pumpkin seeds, or roast aubergine served with a warm chickpea salad and mint & lime dressing.

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6. Bocca Di Lupo 12 Archer St, London, W1D 7BB (Soho)

Its name translates to "the wolf's mouth", which could be somewhat frightening considering what you'd normally find in a wolf's mouth (teeth, rodents, etc.). But fortunately, you'll only find a limited number of tables, an amazing wine list and superior regional Italian food fit for man, not beast.

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7. Polpo 126-128 Notting Hill Gate, London, W11 3QG (Notting Hill)

One of the restos in Russell Norman's empire, this Notting Hill spot dishes out small Venetian plates with all the Aperol Spritzes and Italian wine you can handle.

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8. Trullo 300-302 Saint Paul's Rd, London, N1 2LH

At this Tuscan trattoria, the menu changes slightly ever day, so there's always something new to try -- which may contribute to the flocks of people that are always trying to snag a table at this Highbury spot. Be sure to try the Pork Romanesco with lentils, you won't be disappointed.

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9. Bellaria 71 Great Titchfield St, London, W1W 6RB (Fitzrovia)

You've likely walked by this place tons of times and not even realized you were passing by some of the best fresh pasta, seafood and wonderfully original vegetarian dishes. The top floor of this unassuming spot is all windows, with a few outside tables for those occasional sunny moments, while the downstairs is all brick, perfect for an intimate dinner for two.

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10. Babbo 39 Albemarle St, London, W1S 4JQ (Mayfair)

A family run, fine dining restaurant, Babbo takes you straight back to Tuscany. Chef Carlo Scotto is endlessly creative, so it is unsurprising that the menu changes daily.

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11. The River Cafe Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, London, W6 9HA (Hammersmith)

Back when Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray opened a staff canteen down in Hammersmith, Italian food “was spaghetti bolognese and tiramisu” cooked by men in kitchens locked far from diners' prying eyes. In one fell swoop, they changed all that with an airy warehouse and super-fresh seasonal, regional Italian dishes cooked by two woman in a very visible open kitchen.

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12. Rotorino 434 Kingsland Rd, London, E8 4AA

Rotorino is Italian -- but with all British ingredients that may have you skeptical until the moment you take your first, eye-opening bite. Try their broccoli campanile with anchovy, chilli and almond breadcrumbs and you'll understand.

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