Think Italian restaurants are just pizza, pasta and chequered tablecloths? Think again. Italian restaurants in London can be extravagant, opulent and even sexy. With TV chefs, in-house DJs, and pop-ups featuring adjoining art installations, you’ll never have to settle for stale garlic bread again.
1. The River Café Book The River Café
When a restaurant’s owners have released six successful cookbooks and had their own Channel 4 series, you know this Michelin-starred eatery is likely to be something special. It’s no surprise then, that the likes of Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall trained here in their younger days and it’s become renowned as one of the best Italian restaurants in London.
River Café has a great terrace, but if the weather’s a little more London drizzle than Sicilian sunshine, the warehouse-style interior is the perfect place to indulge in the restaurant’s signature dessert: the chocolate nemesis, which is as obscenely rich as the name suggests.
2. Café Murano Book Café Murano
Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett serves up rustic north Italian fayre with a contemporary twist. The menu is mouth-wateringly flavoursome with the likes of black figs, homemade ricotta and mint tagliatelle, or Tuscan sausage and fennel ragu, reminding us why traditional Italian cooking is so appealing. When simple Italian food is done right, it’s really, really good. When it’s done this well, it’s mind-blowing.
3. L’Anima Book L’Anima
The grey towers of the City are a far cry from the rolling hills of Tuscany, but L’Anima brings the vibrant colours and bold flavours of Italy to the bustle of London’s financial district. The restaurant’s décor is minimalist and understated, but the food couldn’t be more different. As Marina O’Loughlin put it: “Flavours aren’t just big, they’re Godzillas, stomping over tastebuds with gnarly abandon.”
4. Villa Di Geggiano Book Villa Di Geggiano
Villa Di Geggiano is a splendid 15th-century palazzo in Chianti with a noble lineage and acres of vineyards. Its London outpost brings a slice of Tuscan decadence to Chiswick, with front garden full of olive trees, a menu packed with authentic produce, and wine directly from the Geggiano cellars.
5. Theo Randall at the InterContinental Book Theo Randall at the InterContinental
How does an award-winning Italian in Mayfair run by a TV chef sound? Thought so. One of many to have mastered his craft at The River Café where he was awarded a Michelin star, Theo Randall went solo with the InterContinental in 2007. When Jay Rayner describes the lemon tart as the best he’s ever eaten, you know you’re onto a winner.
6. Polpo Book Polpo
From acclaimed restaurateur Russell Norman, Polpo now have sites across London and further afield. Venetian small plates and signature spritzers are the order of the day here, all served in Italian-style laidback yet elegant settings.
7. Amaranto – Four Seasons Book Amaranto – Four Seasons
Who says you can’t mix extravagant British décor with fine Italian cuisine? At Amaranto – Four Seasons you can tuck into roasted suckling pig from the comfort of your plush red chair beneath an ornate chandelier. Italian restaurants in London don’t come much more delightfully indulgent than this one.
Awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand, and applauded by critics and bloggers alike, Padella is a rustic gem on the edge of Borough Market. A simple menu of hand-rolled pasta, is served in a small bistro seating with intimate counter seating.
9. Massimo Book Massimo
A London Italian restaurant is perhaps not somewhere you would expect to find opulent dangling light fittings and striped Corinthian columns. When you’ve stopped looking at the décor you’ll notice that the food is just as sublime. Fillet of venison with chocolate sauce is about as opulent as it gets, and it’s dishes like this which have earned Massimo its reputation as one of London’s best Italian restaurants.
If you’ve ever fancied eating Venetian sharing plates amongst tozi (Venetian dialect for friends), look no further. The small plate format provides a great excuse for tucking into as many of the delectable meat, cheese and pasta dishes as possible. If you still need a reason to go, Tozi stages regular wine and aperol masterclasses.