When dining in London, it’s easy to get distracted by the countless bougie restaurants trying to lure you in with the promise that the fancier the better. But when it comes to Italian dining, that doesn’t always hold true.
It’s the authenticity of their practices and food that matter most. Some of the very best Italian dishes come from laid back, homey restaurants with budget-friendly prices.
That’s the perk of pasta.
Whether you’re crazy for carbonara or bonkers for burrata, let the food speak for itself at ten of the best Italian restaurants in London.
It has a giant fake Mona Lisa graffitied with an A and an M, lamps playfully stuck to the ceiling upside down, and Maina tiramisu boxes strung up like ornaments on an overhead pole; Café Amisha screams Italia!
All of their products are sourced locally in London and their food is freshly prepared and cooked to order. Try their homemade black squid ink pasta with prawns, asparagus, fresh tomato, and chilly or one of their out-of-this-world pizzas like the vegetarian Ortolana.
With long tables and plenty of seating, Café Amisha is the perfect place to take a small group of your favourite pals for a casual Italian meal.
“Bancone” means counter or bar in Italian, hence the three dining bars where you can sit and watch the chefs cook passionately in front of you.
This Covent Garden gem makes their pasta fresh every day, just like mama used to make. One of their most “Instagram-ed” dishes is their handkerchief pasta with walnut butter and a confit yolk in the centre.
While their pasta’s good enough to send you home happy, Bancone’s unique desserts are what truly sets them apart. Don’t leave without trying their red wine poached pear served with yoghurt foam and honeycomb.
Luca prides themselves on preparing in-season British ingredients through an Italian lens. In exchange for a fine dining atmosphere, they’re one of the slightly more expensive options on the list.
Splurge on one of their more pricey dishes by opting for the first season’s white truffle on their taglierini. This is also a good place to go if you’re a fan of limoncello as Luca has developed their own “Lucacello” individualized with the taste and aroma of sage.
For a restaurant named after the fat of a pig, Lardo is one of the more environmentally sustainable options on the list. The trendy Hackney restaurant recently started to include more vegetables on their menu while phasing out meat to be more veggie-friendly. Though they still serve meat eaters, 75% of their menu is now vegetarian.
The menu is seasonal with daily changing specials to reflect what is best at that time. On their new winter menu are some must-try pizzas—all of which can be made gluten-free—like their wood-fired pizza made with tomato, seafood, and a paprika salsa rossa. The icing on the cake is the disco wood-fired oven from which all pizzas are freshly baked to perfection.
Lina Stores Restaurant is the second shop opened up by Lina Stores after their delicatessen. The Soho restaurant looks like an old fashioned diner with its white countertop, teal stools, classic tableware, and pale green-and-white striped awning. But don’t worry, this isn’t cheap diner food.
The restaurant hand makes their pasta fresh every day just like the Delicatessen they originate from, which has been doing so since its opening in 1944. A must-try off their menu is the 30-egg tagliolini with vacche bruna, butter, and black truffle on top.
Following what they call a “dying art”, even in Italy, Ida makes their pasta fresh every day entirely by hand. They say this technique is superior to anything made with machines which mess up the texture of the pasta and prevents sauces from sticking to it.
Ida is run by a married couple and is influenced by their Italian backgrounds in Tuscany and Le Marche. Their gnocchi pasticciati con ragu e panna is a traditional dish from the Le Marche region made of home-made potato gnocchi with beef and pork ragout and a splash of cream.
For an authentic, homey taste of Italy with traditional hand-rolled pasta, make sure you go to Ida.
Gloria is a trattoria inspired by Capri in the ‘70s and when you enter the restaurant it feels like you’ve flown straight there. Green floral arrangements extend up onto the ceiling, patterned cloth booths surround marble mosaic tables, and downstairs from your suede seat you can watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen.
The restaurant is run by 85 passionate people from Bel Paese and the coast of Naples, so everything from the food to the waiters’ charming accents is authentic.
Gloria sources their food directly from 180 small producers in Italy and their menu changes every month depending on what’s in season. During Autumn, try their vegetarian candy shaped pasta filled with pumpkin served with fruit mustard and amaretti, burro e salvia, and smoked ricotta.
Palatino is an Italian restaurant with its heart-based in Rome. The food draws on the Roman city’s traditional cuisines with fried delicacies based on their Jewish heritage and “fifth quarter” inspired heavy meat-based dishes.
Lining both street-facing walls of the industrial style restaurant are large windows allowing light to flood in during the day, and passersby to peer in at night. The kitchen is right out in the open so you can see the food being prepared, or better yet smell it.
According to their Instagram, one of their new autumn pasta dishes—the tonnarelli neri, mussels, and cuttlefish ragu—has been selling out every day. But sometimes the road less travelled is equally rewarding, so don’t dismiss their other options like their new ravioli stuffed with delica squash, topped with brown butter and fried sage.
Emilia’s Crafted Pasta
Emilia’s is named after the birthplace of fresh pasta, Emilia Romagna in Italy. They follow after their namesake by making their pasta fresh every morning. When you enter the restaurant the kitchen is situated where a bar would traditionally go, complete with bar seating for you to watch the theatrics of the chefs up close.
For a more calming view, the restaurant’s prime location at St. Katharine Docks allows you to dine while overlooking the water. While the pasta is obviously important to Emilia’s, their menu places emphasis on choosing your dinner based on the sauce. When you’re there, try their 4-hour slow-cooked bechamel bolognese which is paired with the pappardelle pasta.
Flour and Grape
It’s almost impossible to just walk past Flour and Grape; a few steps before the door they have a large glass window displaying rows of fresh pasta and a view of the kitchen at work. Inside, their roasted pork shoulder with sage butter tortellini is sure to catch your nose’s attention and their brightly coloured red linguine with roasted beetroot and ricotta salad on top is sure to catch your eye.
Flour and Grape offers a short and simple menu, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Good luck walking past this eye-catching restaurant on bustling Bermondsey Street without stopping for dinner.
Padella is infamous for its outrageously long queues, but it’s for a good reason. Besides their ridiculously cheap prices, their food comes highly praised. All of the pasta is hand-rolled and made fresh every day, prepared on somewhat of a stage; three large windows facing the street overlook the kitchen work station so passersby can watch the chefs form the pasta by hand all throughout the day.
The menu is always rotating so there’s the potential of a totally new dining experience every time you brave the queue. Padella is the kind of place where ordering the entire menu is strongly encouraged—every pasta lovers dream.
These restaurants don’t need high prices or over the top fancy décor to lure you in. With food that speaks for itself and tradition and authenticity at the heart of what they do, they provide a dining experience and meal worth trying.
So cancel all your future boring and posh dinner reservations and instead test out one (or all) of the best Italian restaurants London has to offer.
Written by Megan Forsythe