Italian restaurants in London: guide to our 5 best
11th Jan 2012
Thewineremedy team separates the wheat from the chaff
During our travels around London's various eateries and nightspots, we can honestly say that we have never met anyone, who hates or even dislikes Italian food. From Linguine to Ossobuco, Pizza to Pappardelle, most sane people seem to love the stuff - Food snobs, students, families, couples, Presidents and city types on expense accounts (lucky bast*rds)
That would explain why London is literally bursting with restaurants, from expensive, glitzy haunts to rustic trattorias serving pasta and pizza staples. Which raises the question, which restaurants are worth bothering with? Sadly, we have more than once dropped ￡50-80 per head at some of London's so called 'top' Italians and wondered why we bothered. Thankful though, we have also often spent relatively little and been dazzled with the quality of the food and attentive, warm service.
So, in this little guide that we have prepared below, thewineremedy team have done all the hard work for you and found the best Italian restaurants to book a table at in London. Having eaten across a large spectrum of venues in London, we felt reasonably qualified to list the top 5-places to enjoy high-quality pasta and regional specialties in the capital. They vary in style and ethos but all offer fantastic, not overcomplicated but refined cooking, excellent service and interesting wine lists. With the sheer volume of restaurants in the capital - some good, some indifferent and some terrible, we wanted to narrow it down to the five best, at least in our view.
39 Chepstow Place, London, W2 4TS
0207 792 9033
The Italian restaurant that is not really a restaurant, Assaggi is an intimate, simple yet stylish dining room above a pub in Notting Hill. One upon a time this wonderful find was relatively unknown, today it has most definitely been discovered by the world so book weeks ahead. Everything about the place is likeable, from the friendly and charming staff to the brilliant food, executed with plenty of technical prowess. Try the Pappardelle with crab meat for a real treat. The spacious dining area is always packed with locals and the place has a distinctly non-touristy feel. A great wine list with plenty of cheaper options won us over, although after the food it wasn’t difficult. A Notting Hill institution.
Cantina Del Ponte
36c Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YE
0207 403 5403
Effortlessly welcoming, polished and relaxed at the same time, Cantina Del Ponte is the lesser known, but equally valid top Italian restaurant in this guide. A very intimate space to enjoy traditional, honest and brilliantly executed Italian fare that doesn't need bikini size portions and overwrought presentation to prove itself. Eating here is about feeling good, not being wowed by the science and visitors always leave with a lovely warm glow of being fed well. The restaurant is modeled on a typical Italian trattoria and offers the classic favourites such as pappardelle pasta with wild boar ragu, Veal Milanese and Tiramasu. The Delicious fare is complimented by an extensive Italian wine list and an excellent value set lunch and dinner menu.
In summary, it’s a fantastic space to enjoy wholesome Italian cooking while people watching and is great value and decidedly un-pretentious. We love it!
8 Seymour Street, London, W1H 7JZ
020 7935 9088
Situated just off Oxford Street, Locanda Locatelli has become firmly established as one of the capitals most glamorous Italian restaurants. The tables at Locanda are as desirable as the food itself, proprietor and Head Chef Giorgio Locatelli focuses on precise, delicate and imaginative Italian cooking, “like my mother used to make”, one devotee gushed. Every course impressed and Giorgio in particular crafts the most exquisite pasta we have sampled outside Italy.
As you might expect, everything about this restaurant screams money, from the stylish interior to the well-heeled, often city bound clientele who enjoy an occasional lunch break. Yes, it is expensive but Locanda offers a very special experience indeed, the staff are not condescending to mere mortals and the attentive, pampering service left us feeling quite special. Head Sommelier Virgilio Gennaro knows his stuff and will navigate diners around the extensive wine list.
Undoubtedly, one of London's finest Italians, although we would like to see a set lunch menu!
54 Curzon Street, London, W1J 8PG
0207 629 2742
The laid-back atmosphere and personal warm welcome from owner Henry Togna, a rarity these days, instantly clued us in at we were in for a treat when we first visited Tempo in December 2011. This restaurant is all about attention to detail, its bright, airy dining room is stylish decorated and guests are cared for by a group of extremely friendly, professional and knowledgeable staff. Head Chef Yoshi Yamada must be the only Japanese native in London, if not Europe, who can execute Italian cuisine with such flair and imagination. His menu is all about heart, flavour and colour and the delicious range of cicchietti (Italian tapas) have to be tasted to be believed. Every course was beautifully presented and the wine list delighted us by daring to step off the beaten track and offered lesser known Italian wines and regions. Not to mention, an absence of ridiculous mark―ups.
Tempo attracts everyone – first date couples, friends, business groups and local residents who return weekly for the Pappardelle. Considering the location and quality of the food, prices are more than reasonable and if it has a drawback, well, we can't see it.
15 Lowndes Street, London, SW1X 9EY
0207 235 5800
“Beg for a table” scream fans of this Belgravia landmark, an Italian restaurant that was certainly not easy to get in. Once we secured a table, however, we were dazzled by the professionalism and slickness of the operation, the impeccable food and vast wine selection. If you are on expenses, then you'll be in heaven as Zafferano is hard to enjoy on a budget. It's team of waiters have been charming moneyed regulars for many years, what continues to lure them is the freshest ingredients (often flown in the same day from Italy) divine pasta and filets of wild turbot, roasted venison loin and sea bass with herb crust. Beware, though, the high wine mark-ups and choose judiciously. Despite the expensive wine and extras, Zafferno still makes the list as the cooking and service are faultless.
And our four worst: San Lorenzo, Orso - well, you get the picture!