From heaped plates of homemade pasta to the finest regional wines, we can’t think of a better cuisine to consume in the winter months. Not only is carb loading essential in icy weather, but as London’s selection of Italian restaurants grows stronger with every opening, ‘Carpe Diem’ really is the order of the day. That being said, for every authentic eno-gastronomia, there’s a poor cousin serving stale focaccia and rough red wine. To save your suffering, we’ve rounded up our current list of go to Italian restaurants.
Surely the local residents of London Fields breathed a sigh of relief when ‘Italian eno-gastronomia’, Il Cudega, recently opened its doors in the newly developed railway arches just off Westgate Street. Having ticked off all other possible foodie niches, nabbing a café-cum-restaurant-cum-deli dedicated only to dishes and produce of the country’s northernmost region, Lombardy, must have been the mascarpone on the cake. Go for sublime charcuterie, cheese & wines imported from slow food producers and the daily baked focaccia made from chick pea flour. Bellissimo.
Food fans that haven’t heard of this Spitalfields newcomer must be on strike from the critics, who have largely given Canto Corvino rave reviews. Before we get to the food (which is brilliant), it is worth noting that the interior is seriously sexy (something you’d expect from the design team behind Roka, Gymkhana and Bubbledogs). Everything we tried from the seven-section menu, from the pumpkin cannelloni to beef short rib Rossini, was seriously special. If you’re looking for an Italian with buzz, this is the one for you right now. Though ‘right now’ might have to be in three weeks, as all that praise has left the place packed morning, noon and night (FYI they do brunch too).
Like one’s wardrobe selection, it’s important to have an Italian for every occasion. Whilst Farringdon-based Enoteco Rabezzana has a menu which could cover more than one (a few of the hearty dishes such as the slow-braised beef cheek in red wine suggest ‘long dinner’), we’re putting it in the ‘light bite and a glass of wine’ category. The mix of high and low rustic wood tables, blue and white-tiles and bottles/candles on every surface have the feel of a chic wine bar you might stumble across on a European city break. Stick to the knock out Italian tapas dishes alongside a few glasses from the 150-strong menu of Italian beauties.
When compiling a list of Italian restaurants, it’s compulsory to include a cheesy one. Not that we’re knocking Kingston’s riverside, Al Forno. In fact, as is often the case with a timeless, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ local, it might well be our favourite. Think of every cliché (checked table cloths, waiters with big accents and even bigger moustaches, wood-clad rustic interior, sound track from every Italian film you’ve ever seen). Then add the very best home-cooked Italian food (the gnocchi with lamb ragu is rib-sticking genius), highly-reasonable pricing, house-made gelato, a beautiful fairy-lit outside area perfect in summer and an infectious charm. And you get a restaurant worth railing it out of central London.
Bocca di Lupo
Giving newbies like Canto Corvino a run for its money in the pasta popularity stakes has, and will always be, Soho’s Bocca Di Lupo. Jacob Kenedy and Victor Hugo’s hit Italian on Archer Street, endures because of its wildly enthusiastic staff, well-designed room (we love eating at the bar) and menu of small and large plates of sophisticated simplicity which romp with reckless abandon across Italy. A classic restaurant that never stops being relevant. With gelateria, Gelupo, over the road to sweeten the deal.
It might have started as a three-month pop-up, but there are strong rumours that Giorgio Locatelli’s casual Islington alternative to the Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli, will be made permanent (if not in the Old Post Office on Upper Street then somewhere in London.) We sincerely hope this is true, as his pizza pie’s are wheels of doughy beauty, particularly when topped with decadent fresh black truffle – and we’re also quite fond of their negronis too. If Pizza Locadeli taking route is a mere rumour, we suggest you go quickly before it disappears into a puff of melted-cheese smelling smoke…
Words by Lucy Self, our new girl about town and restaurant writer. She is an all round food obsessive and has been writing about food in London for several years, as well as having a steady day job in restaurant PR.