Pizza, pasta, burrata, parmigiana, bruschetta, tiramisù, panna cotta, cannoli – there’s no food like Italian food. While some of us were privileged enough to gallivant across the air bridge to Italy itself this summer, others wouldn’t have been so lucky. Even after lockdown was lifted, coronavirus had done a more than decent job of plunging everything into uncertainty for the long haul. But although the entire population is deserving of a holiday, good – if not great – Italian food is still available in London.
Some mavericks might even declare that this is in fact the better way of doing things. Yes, the best Italian food is found in Italy, but when you’re in Italy you grow accustomed to eating so much of it that its glory becomes – almost underwhelmingly – homogenous. All of a sudden, you have no idea where the antipasti began and the secondi ended – you don’t even want to think about sfizi or dolci, though you could probably make room for a limoncello. But if what you’re consuming on a daily basis are variations on a theme of toast, cold tap water and digestive biscuits, Italian food is an oasis.
So what are the best Italian restaurants in London? From the South to the East and beyond, we’ve gathered just a few of our favourites here – and we’ll be updating it constantly. Buon appetito!
Opened in 2014, Artusi is a Peckham institution and just one of the culinary wonders in the neighbourhood. Describing itself as ‘Italian-inspired’, its stringent use of the best seasonal produce available ensures a menu that is simple but ever-changing – and it always features pasta made on the day. On that note, we’re desperate to try the spaghetti with figs and guanciale, but we can’t decide whether to have it as a starter or a main. Could you give us a few more minutes?
161 Bellenden Road, SE15 4DH
Dimly lit and comfortably cosy, Campania is quite possibly one of the most romantic restaurants we’ve ever had the pleasure of dining in. It’s the sort of place you’d pop into – laden with flowers from nearby Columbia Road – on the arm of someone (at least at that time) very special. Due to its popularity, however, we’d probably recommend booking instead. The menu changes a lot, but the seafood pasta contains just the right amount of shellfish to ensure your satisfaction without making the task of shelling too laborious. And when you’re done, you’ll see how divine the dishes themselves are – wouldn't it be nice to have some of these in your own home, you think, but the food will never be as good, you lament.
23 Ezra Street, E2 7RH
Rumour has it that DJ Peggy Gou is partial to Luca, but with food that delicious – and an atmosphere you feel smug to be a part of – who can blame her? Situated in the heart of Clerkenwell, Luca serves – as they say so themselves on their website – ‘food that observes the established traditions of Italian cooking, but breaks the rules a little’. This, of course, is right up our street – a street strewn with parmesan fries, vitello tonnato with red onion, agnolotti cacio e pepe and the rest. The halibut is from Cornwall; the lamb is Hebridean. The shrimps? Morecambe Bay. But wherever the British seasonal produce is from, what really matters is where it’s going – and that’s straight into our mouths.
88 St John Street, EC1M 4EH
While there’s no obligation to, you’ll get the best out of Popolo if you’re willing to share. Cooking small plates of Italian-inspired food with Middle Eastern and Moorish influences, Popolo complements the bustle of Shoreditch more than sufficiently. The pasta is freshly hand rolled and the seafood is as sustainable as the vegetables are seasonal, but – entirely natural and low intervention – the wine is also worth sampling. Although whether you're into wine or not, we’d do something very untoward for some of their crispy olives – served with labneh and dukkah – right now.
26 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DU