Italian food is among the most popular types of cuisine throughout many cities in the world and London is no different.
Who’s to say for sure why this is? Maybe it’s due to the range of fresh and tasty ingredients? For many, it is perhaps an accessible cuisine, thanks to well-known pasta dishes like carbonara and bolognese and of course the wonder carbohydrate that is pizza.
However, there is so much more to Italian food, from arancini to cacciatore and manicotti to osso bucco. And it isn’t just savoury meals that this European country provides us with, as Italian desserts are among the most delicious in the world.
Temptingly decadent choices include tiramisu, semifreddo and affogato, which combines ice cream and something else Italy is famous for – espresso!
There are those who argue that Italian coffee is at the top of the pile when it comes to this deliciously caffeinated beverage, if only for the biscotti, amaretti and cannoli that tend to accompany it!
In London, there’s a massive selection of Italian restaurants for you to choose from and if you don’t know where to start then you’re in luck, as we’ve picked out some of the best places where you can enjoy morning coffee, afternoon tea, lunch, dinner and drinks.
This is an award-winning shop on Brompton Road in South Kensington that prides itself on selling only Italian wines of the best quality.
Owned by Bruno Cernecca, who opened the shop in 2011, the idea is to sell Italian wine that to help educate prosecco and chianti fans on other grape varieties that might not be as well known, but are just as delicious.
This is the place to go if you’re a serious wine fan, as you’ll enjoy boutique-quality brands that are sourced from small producers who Bruno knows.
In all, there are at least 600 different wines here and the bar area aims to give you a taste of Italy in London with a warm and friendly atmosphere. Cheese and cold cuts accompany a glass or two of wine, which will make a refreshing change from your standard dinner.
If you’re going to take a bottle home with you, make sure you enjoy it quickly, as the shop specialises in new releases, so pop it open to enjoy with a suitable meal.
As you might have guessed from the name, Pulia specialises on the Puglia region of Italy, which is best known for its massive olives.
Located by Borough Market, the restaurant and deli is a foodie’s paradise and the vision of Georges Tohme and Michele Lastilla.
Although a relatively new player on the London restaurant scene, Pulia has been hugely popular with many, having received a flurry of positive professional and customer reviews.
Something that worked to the benefit of this restaurant is the fact that there are other branches, spanning Milan, Florence, Turin and New York.
Italians are notoriously fussy with their food, according to an interview with Georges and Michele in the Telegraph, but they say that it is Italians who are their best customers – coming to them for their high-quality products.
This is a stellar endorsement for the shop and its baked goods like friselle (a type of round bread) and taralli (little curled biscuits). Other popular choices include the shop’s focaccia and arancini, but the standout purchase and ingredient at Pulia is its range of extra virgin olive oils, which are full to bursting with flavour.
If you have any room, try the burrata cheese, which is a hybrid of cream and mozzarella, and is delicious all by itself.
Lavolio has many sites around London, including Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly, Partridges on Gloucester Road and Sloane Square, and Bayley and Sage in Wimbledon. You can also find this home of gourmet confectionery in Kendal, Cambridge, Conwy and Aberdeen.
What will you find at one of these? Truly artisanal Italian sweets that are less for children and more for adults.
Lavinia Davolio, creator of the brand, trained as a chef in Italy and began by making gourmet artisan marshmallows. From there, she set about making healthier adult sweets for the grown-up palette.
Alongside an Italian patissier, Lavinia creates candies that are true works of art and definitely the product of science. Among her most famous sweets are her sugared almonds, which take five days to make in revolving copper pans.
All of her products use completely natural ingredients, including whole nuts, caramelised fruit, spices and coffee. Some of her most popular sweets are pistachio wrapped in chill, and almond coated in chocolate, cinnamon and honey.
Head here for real confectionary that focuses on taste and high-quality ingredients, rather than on a standard sugar fix.
The River Cafe
There’s an outside chance you may have heard of this one, as it’s something of a London landmark, having been in Thames Wharf since 1987.
It’s also well-loved by A-list celebrities, off-duty head chefs and true foodies due to its amazing food, decor and excellent location.
Owned by American-born Ruth Rogers, the restaurant is particularly popular during the summer thanks to its beautiful terrace that overlooks the Thames. Obviously, this also means that it’s in high demand, so you really need to book well in advance before you head along for lunch or dinner.
The restaurant itself is stunning, thanks to the design by world-famous architect Richard Rogers, who happens to be Ruth’s husband. It’s a long, narrow and minimalist room with an open kitchen and a rather aesthetically pleasing wood-burning oven.
Standout dishes include chargrilled squid with fresh red chilli and Dover sole, which is wood-roasted with pangrattato (breadcrumbs), anchovy and lemon zest. Of course, the menu is seasonal, meaning it tends to fluctuate often, so make sure you either look online or phone to check what it available before you go.
Great and cheap eats
For somewhere that doesn’t require a big budget, there are still lots of places that you can get an excellent Italian lunch or dinner.
If you’re after some typical Venetian food, you have to get yourself along to Bocca di Lupo in Soho. A popular choice for many, you can sit by the bar and chat to the friendly staff or perch in the window to catch sight of the many actors running around between and after shows.
When it comes to food, the chefs are well known for their buttery brown shrimp that comes on polenta so soft it doesn’t seem possible. Seafood lovers should either choose the calamari or bypass it entirely for the soft-shell crab – delicioso!
Il Cudega is the spot for a light lunch, as it’s a deli-restaurant specialising in hefty cold meat plates – you won’t believe the flavours.
Opened by a pair of friends, Luca and Giovanni, the restaurant was able to open its doors due to being crowdfunded. It’s a place of simplicity with strong-tasting meats and cheeses that are complemented nicely by wines from their home in Lombardy in Northern Italy.
If you don’t have time to stay for lunch, then pop in for a quick espresso and a chat – the coffee is delicious and Luca and Giovanni are a delight.
Don’t forget that there is a huge range of budget hotels in London for you to choose from while you’re enjoying your taste of Italy in the city. The best London hotels for a variety of budgets are part of The Shaftesbury Collection – book your stay with us now to have a relaxing stay in a beautiful surrounding.