Certainly one of the greatest cuisines in the world, Italian food is fiercely regional, with recipes handed down from generation to generation and which are often baked in to the cities and regions they were born in.
But despite that, Italian food can also be bastardised in a way many others have not been, and cannot be. Maybe it’s the accessibility of cooking methods and the prevalence of Italian food among Western diets, but whether it’s pineapple on pizza or cream-packed prawn pastas, it can be harder to find good, authentic Italian food than ever.
But for every five terrible places, there just so happens to be one good one, and fortunately Italian restaurants in London are among the best in the world. Eating Italian food in London can be a joyous experience if you know where to go – from roaring, fun-festival more-is-more Gloria to classic, elegant pasta and grilled meats Trullo, and from family restaurants run by multi-generational Italian families to newer openings by non-Italians that use methods and ingredients from Italy as a jumping-off point to create brilliant expressions of regional Italian food.
We’ve done the hard yards for you – rounding up our pick of the best Italian restaurants in London so you can book with confidence and eat like a king.
The best Italian restaurants in London
Treehouse Hotel London, 4-5 Langham Place, W1B 3DG
Nancy Silverton is an icon when it comes to Italian-inspired food. Having launched something of a dynasty in LA with her range of restaurants in the city. In 2021 she brought that dynasty across the Atlantic to open Pizzeria Mozza in the Treehouse hotel in London. The pizzas are, unsurprisingly, the draw, but there are loads of other heavy hitters too – like Nancy’s chopped salad (as seen in her Five Dishes) and mozzarella di bufala with prosciutto di parma, a dish heavily discussed in her episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.
1 Vyner Street, E2 9DG
Consistently overlooked when it comes to the city’s best Italian restaurants, Ombra is something of an underdog. Perhaps it’s the slightly grungy Hackney canal-side locale, or it could be that the restaurant shrugs off any semblance of pandering to the merry go round of customers (see: the time they became something of a viral sensation for charging a customer for parmesan and in true Ombra style, threw a parmesan party in the wake of the drama). Whatever it is, it’s an enormous oversight as this is consistently one of the city’s best Italian spots. It's really come into their own over the pandemic as well, refining and curating what was an already impressive menu to serve up food, both à la carte and on a set menu that always delights.
49-51 Curtain Road, EC2A 3PT
What do you get when you combine the restaurant prowess of Smokestak’s David Carter and the dazzling career of Chris Leach (which includes stints at Kitty Fishers, Petersham Nurseries and Pitt Cue)? Why, only one of the most exciting permanent openings of 2021 of course. Manteca had garnered something of a following thanks to a series of successful pop-ups and one semi-permanent pre-pandemic stint in Soho, so it’s safe to say there were a few people sniffing around when news of it’s Shoreditch opening came out. But we’re not sure even Leach and Carter could have predicted what a riotous success it would become. Manteca, with it’s house-made charcuterie, incredible pasta and liberal use of the wood oven, has filled a gap in the restaurant scene that many didn’t even realise was there. This is Italian food with London in its DNA.
300-302 St Paul's Road, N1 2LH
There isn’t much to say about Trullo that hasn’t already been said. Having been around since 2010, the restaurant has firmly established itself as an icon on the London scene, and rightfully so. 12 years on it still serves some of the city’s most interesting Italian food, with a strong focus on nose-to-tail cooking thanks to Tim Siadatan’s stint at St. John, and a heavy selection of meat and fish cooked over coal. To still be so booked out over a decade after opening is a testament to Trullo’s power – and that isn’t an exaggeration, so be sure to plan well in advance if you want to nab a table.
54-56 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3QR
The Big Mamma group has a reputation almost as large as its slices of lemon meringue pie. For the uninitiated, that is: enormous. Come to think of it, most things at Gloria, the group’s first London outpost, are enormous – the wheel of Parmigianio-Reggiano that the carbonara is constructed in tableside, the capacious plates of charcuterie and the number of tongue-in-cheek jokes on the menus (Em Rata Burrata anyone?). For all its grandeur and shiny edges, Gloria does actually deliver on the food front, and has a riotously good time doing so. Don’t come here for anything less than a riotous meal full of good carbs and good libation.
Borough Market and Shoreditch
The younger sibling to the aforementioned Trullo, Padella was a long-serving dream of the restaurant’s owners Tim Siadatan and Jordan Frieda. The concept was simple: serve up reasonably priced, simple and good quality plates of pasta with a reliable selection of starters and great wines by the glass or carafe. Unsurprisingly, the concept took off and they very quickly had queues around the block for their initial location in Borough. A second spot in Shoreditch eased the pressure a little bit but hasn’t stopped ravenous Londoners flocking to their doors for one of the best-value meals in the city.
Lina stores pistachio coloured branding would act as catnip for the average diner, whether or not the food was any good at all. Luckily it’s not just a pretty face – the food is as much a heavy hitter as the genius colour scheme. Although, that should be no surprise considering they have over three quarters of a century’s worth of history behind it. First opening the Brewer Street deli in 1944, it expanded into restaurants in just 2018 with the opening of the Greek Street pasta bar. Now the group operates three restaurants alongside the deli, proving they know their stuff when it comes to high-quality, succinct Italian food.
Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer Street, W1D 7BB
Bocca di Lupo is one of London’s most low-key restaurants. It’s usually spoken about when discussing the best Italian restaurants in London, but it’s never shouted about with the same fervour as newly opened places with hotshot chefs garnering loads of noise. That’s largely because it doesn’t need it: Jacob Kenedy cut his teeth at Moro before opening Bocca di Lupo in 2008, and deservedly received all the new opening buzz back then. Nearly 15 years on, the restaurant remains reliably wonderful and has a cult following to boot. The menu travels the width and length of the country but is sure to note each dish by its region.
23 Ezra Street, E2 7RH
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Hidden just off Columbia Road in a former dairy (yes, one that was home to actual cows), you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported to the cobbled streets of rural Italy. But Campania is unique in its ramshackle setup. The restaurant is so proudly self-assured and there’s a certain sense of magic that comes from feeling like you’ve been squirrelled away from the chaos outside. Even on a Sunday, when the flower market is at its roaring peak, Campania feels like a refuge. It may not be perfect, there is no smoothing of edges here – a cat even lives in a wicker basket in the corner – but it serves incredible, authentic food.
86-90 Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1N 3LZ
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Ciao Bella seems to laugh in the face of all of London’s authentic, serious Italian restaurants. It somehow seems to encapsulate this beautifully 1990s concept of British-Italian food – a very necessary sector of the city’s Italian dining landscape. Coupled with the fact that a dinner here is very likely to end with more than one of your party dancing atop the table, and you have a semi-secret spot that has drawn diners en masse for decades. If Campania transports you to some unnamed Nonna’s kitchen then Ciao Bella whisks you away to Positano’s limoncello-soaked beachside parade.
88 St John Street, EC1M 4EH
While it may have only opened in 2016, Luca has the airs and graces of a restaurant with a far more storied history. It’s one of those places that London diners wax lyrical about, and it’s easy to see why. It welcomes you in like an old friend, even if you’ve never dined there before, and the food is so simply genius. Utilising impeccable ingredients in refreshing ways, the menu feels classic yet modern, familiar yet exciting. Whether you’re sitting on the terrace for a long lunch under the sun, or cosied up inside for a mid-winter meal, Luca is a restaurant that plays host to a rotating series of lives and stories at any given moment.
Prosecco slushies, neon wall art and fried sandwiches – you could say that Pastaio doesn’t take itself too seriously –and that would probably be true, but this concept does not extend to the food. There, Pastaio is very serious. It’s unsurprising considering this laid-back pasta restaurant comes from renowned chef Stevie Parle and aims to provide fresh pasta at its core, but also an impressive rotating selection of small plates to bolster the menu alongside it. The aforementioned fried sandwich is a riot of flavour and almost illegally delicious, combining the deceptively simple trio of mozzarella, 'nduja and honey swaddled by moreishly crunchy golden bread.
161 Bellenden Road, SE15 4DH
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While any good Italian restaurant is more than worth its weight, there has to be something said for a fabulous neighbourhood Italian restaurant. The kind of place where locals will flock any night of the week. Where lives will take place over a series of meals: relationships beginning, hearts being broken, families slowly growing and friendship finding itself over bowls of ribbony pappardelle. Artusi, for the lucky locals of Peckham, is such a place. It is constantly swished around when discussing the city’s best Italian joints, but has managed to remain free from being overrun by out-of-boroughers, allowing the community to keep it largely, locally theirs.
Originally opened as the more laid-back iteration of Angela Hartnett’s Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant in Mayfair, Café Murano has become a destination in its own right. First opening in St James in 2013, there are now three sites dotted around London, all of them serving up incredible Italian classics. Don’t let the word café fool you either – there are no flat whites or freelancers with MacBooks knocking about here. No, this is a café in the most European sense of the word – grand, marble-clad and very much serious about the food.
35-37 Greenhill Rents, EC1M 6BN
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Russell Norman helped define an era of Italian dining in London with the Polpo empire – and at Brutto, it seems he may do so in his own way once again. The restaurant is an homage to true, authentic Florentine food, and the menu features the criminally underrated peposo; the incredible, slow-cooked dish of beef braised with liberal amounts of pepper and red wine to create the kind of food that warms your soul. It seems to fit into its Clerkenwell surroundings in that it is a restaurant that largely trots out incredible plates of food that double as a hug. That’s what many of EC1’s best restaurants are known for – city-defining cooking without so much as a primary colour in sight. No wonder it’s seen as one of London’s best neighbourhoods for eating.
The River Café
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, W6 9HA
The River Café really shouldn’t need much of an introduction. The grand dame of London’s Italian restaurant scene, it’s an establishment that has helped define an era of dining out in both the capital and beyond that has forever shaped how Britain eats Italian food. In 2022 it is as relevant as ever and continues to churn out some of the most decorated alumni in London, and it's still presided over by founder Ruth Rogers. Sitting al fresco by the Thames on a sunny summer’s day, you could be forgiven for thinking there is no better place in the city to be.