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Favorite/Best Italian Restaurants in London


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Are you looking for fine dining or something more informal?

I have relatives in Jersey and Tennessee, and Italian American food is quite different from London foodie Italian, which is more northern/Tuscanish.

I would take my visiting relatives to the convivial La Famiglia or one of the Caldesi restaurants. They are also much less expensive than Locanda Locatelli or Zafferano.

River Cafe is wonderful if you can get in, but your young friend may not recognize it as "Italian" as it is not very pasta-oriented.

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Are you looking for fine dining or something more informal?

Personally, I want something more towards fine dining, as I only have 2 nights in London before I head down to Cornwall, and I want to make the most of it. Good point, though, about my young friend's perception of Italian being perhaps more pasta-oriented. I'm not a big pasta eater myself.....What a dilemma! :wacko:

I may be in Nashville but my heart's in Cornwall

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I was a bit disappointed by Theo Randell’s. It opened to rave reviews which focused on its simplicity and directness of ingredients and flavour. I don’t disagree but for me it was just a bit too Spartan on the plate and at the price. My wood-fired pigeon with baby girolles was lovely – and that’s exactly what I got: a plate of pigeon and mushrooms. For £26 or thereabouts. Which left me thinking “Well, that was nice pigeon and mushrooms.” But otherwise struggled to fire up my interest and excitement. Until the bill arrived.

In contrast, Locatelli keeps the simple simple (e.g. in the pasta dishes, such as tagiatelli with kid ragu) but also seems to be able to add a riff of refinement, variation or technique without betraying the essentials of the dish. It’s one of those restaurants that feels special without being stiff and, most importantly, it’s one of those restaurants where I just really look forward to opening the menu.

i must have been feeling flush because i did river cafe on a sunday lunchtime and theo randall on the monday night, not long after opening, both cost roughly the same ie a lot, but i'd go back to the river cafe in a flash and i doubt i'll ever darken the doorway of theo randall again.

Also had one of my all time favourite meals at locatelli again in the early days, been once since didn;t quite scale the heights but certainly i'd go again.

you don't win friends with salad

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I would back River Cafe, Locanda, Semplice, Latium, and Zafferano but would also add Scalini and Vino Rosso. Vino Rosso is slightly off the beaten track being in Chiswick, but the food is good and reasonably priced.

If a man makes a statement and a woman is not around to witness it, is he still wrong?

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I really rate Locatelli. It's a very relaxing place - last time I went on a Sunday and grabbed one of the Sunday Times from the bar and lazed the afternoon away. The pasta is the highlight, in my opinion. That makes it a much cheaper option anyway - pasta is around £12 and mains are near the £30 mark. Excellent ice cream too. Very tough reservation for dinner - stick to lunch.

Theo Randall was very disappointing to me. £30 veal chop left me underwhelmed. And the room is massive and rarely full.

I have never been, but I am surprised nobody has mentioned Assaggi. From what I hear, it is traditional, old school and excellent. I believe it still has a michelin star too.

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Very tough reservation for dinner - stick to lunch.

We've given up trying to get a reservation.

We've tried on several occasions, over the last couple of years, when we've been travelling to London on shortish notice without success. And, with them not taking reservations more than 30 days in advance, it's proved impossible to reschedule other committments. Lunch might be the answer.

John Hartley

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I have never been, but I am surprised nobody has mentioned Assaggi. From what I hear, it is traditional, old school and excellent. I believe it still has a michelin star too.

When I lived in London over five years ago I went a few times - very relaxed, large floor boarded room above the Chepstow Pub. The food on most occasions was excellent and old school as you say - menu in Italian only. The last time (as I moved after that) it was not great, two dodgy fish dishes (on a Monday night) and 5 years ago so.......I think it was about £40-£50 per head for food.

Personally, I am waiting for the River Cafe to reopen, as previously said, I think it is bang on for me every time.

You might give L'Anima a go.

Edited by bakerestates (log)
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Is riva nr barnes bridge still any kop? I seem to remember fay maschler used to claim it was here favourite restaurant back in the day...

To be brutally honest, however London simply doesn't have a great selection of Italian at either the high end or the upper mid. Or the mid to be honest!

Its our fault really, the British dining public don't have much of an appreciation of Italian beyond spag bol. The end result is it manifests itself in a) lack of numbers of places worth mentioning and b) lack of regional diversification - I can hardly name a single Italian restaurant which genuinely reflects a particular regional cuisine.

My advice would be to expand your young victim's horizons rather than pandering to his predilections. London's particular strengths are ingredient-driven "modern british" cuisine (although I admit I struggle to distinguish it sometimes from "modern aussie" or "bistro moderne french"), ethnic restaurants (particularly Indian and Chinese dim sum, although not chinese evening food), and mid-upper haute French (by that I mean * and ** level).

The acid test for any tourist is to go for something that you can't get done better back home. I suspect Italian can be done better stateside.

J

Edited by Jon Tseng (log)
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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To be brutally honest, however London simply doesn't have a great selection of Italian at either the high end or the upper mid.  Or the mid to be honest!

Its our fault really, the British dining public don't have much of an appreciation of Italian beyond spag bol.  The end result is it manifests itself in a) lack of numbers of places worth mentioning and b) lack of regional diversification - I can hardly name a single Italian restaurant which genuinely reflects a particular regional cuisine.

My advice would be to expand your young victim's horizons rather than pandering to his predilections.  London's particular strengths are ingredient-driven "modern british" cuisine (although I admit I struggle to distinguish it sometimes from "modern aussie" or "bistro moderne french"), ethnic restaurants (particularly Indian and Chinese dim sum, although not chinese evening food), and mid-upper haute French (by that I mean * and ** level).

The acid test for any tourist is to go for something that you can't get done better back home.  I suspect Italian can be done better stateside.

J

Hmmmm....I suspect you may have hit the nail on the head and this is probably why I never choose Italian when dining in London. Perhaps I need to rethink my plan and just concentrate on taking my "young victim" out for a delicious meal. More food for thought. :hmmm:

I may be in Nashville but my heart's in Cornwall

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For a delicious meal you could go to the River Cafe. It satisfies both the "delicious" and the "Italian" criteria whilst also meeting "the ingredient driven" specification :wink: In addition you're quite likely to find yourself dining next to an A list celeb which may impress your young victim.

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"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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For a delicious meal you could go to the River Cafe. It satisfies both the "delicious" and the "Italian" criteria whilst also meeting "the ingredient driven" specification :wink:  In addition you're quite likely to find yourself dining next to an A list celeb which may impress your young victim.

I was all set to say "weak dollar be damned" and choose River Cafe when I checked their website and realized they don't reopen until the end of Sept, and this little dinner will be on the 19th. :sad:

Wish I knew how to edit the subject of my thread so I don't have to look at that embarrassing typo every time I check in.....

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I may be in Nashville but my heart's in Cornwall

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Just got back and went to just the place:

http://www.numbertwelverestaurant.co.uk/

Opened last October. Nominated as  "Best Italian ..2008". Read Nicholas Lander's review in the FT.

Good value lunch.

Emphasis on fresh ingredients. Modern italian.

Recommended.

Number Twelve may well be a good compromise as it is 'borderline' Italian cuisine, definitely not dominated by pasta dishes. I like what the chef (Santino Busciglio) is doing, with a light, airy style of cuisine that nevertheless leaves an impression. Ingredients are excellent, with great care also in the selection of olive oils (obviously crucial for Italian dishes).

I agree (unsurprisingly) with salutistagolosa above that Maurizio Morelli at Latium makes the most interesting and imaginative Italian cuisine in London (we go every week!), but for your taste it is maybe too pasta dominated, with ravioli even making it into dessert territory. The prices are astonishing for the quality, anyway.

To us Italians, Locatelli is a great interpreter of traditional Italian cuisine in all its richness, with very precise execution (in my experience - I have read differing opinions) and deep flavours that touch your soul. The problem is, it is almost too traditional, and after a lifetime of eating the stuff, we tend to look for something just a little more adventurous. But as an introduction to classical Italian, it may be the best, even if it a little overpriced.

I really do not understand what Theo Randall is about. I admit I went only once, but when I did it was so grotesque compared to his reputation I am not yet prepared to give it another try.

At Zafferano, there is some good cooking going on, mixed with even more hype. I find their pasta dishes below par, though their mains and desserts are top notch at least by London Italian standards. But then again, Marco Torri at Semplice is (in my opinion) definitely superior to Zafferano, and probably saving you a few quids too (incidentally, he makes risotto in the Gualtiero Marchesi tradition (the first Italian 3 star, now 2), so you have the bonus of trying a bit of Marchesi there...

I haven't found the heart to try Assaggi and River Cafe', though I know I should. I just find it difficult to go for ingredients alone when I could probably take a Ryanair flight to Italy and find even better ingredients better treated and at less cost, trip included...

Finally, I agree with a previous poster that the Italian restaurant scene in London is disconcerting: there is such a gulf between the exciting ideas high level chefs are carrying out in Italy and what they are allowed by the public to do here, that it takes your breath away (I called Morelli the most imaginative in London, but if he were in Italy, he would probably be at the innovative end of the spectrum - he just can't do that here if he wants to have a business). A shame really, this great world city would deserve more.

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Hi,

I have had a couple of meals at Locanda Locatelli and Zafferano and one at l'Anima over the summer and these are my thoughts on these.

I found LL better for main courses, both fish and meat. The fish dishes were consistently disappointing at Zafferano. For pasta, Zafferano is the better: comparing the linguine lobster dishes at both restaurants for example, Zaff was noticeably better cooked. Though, that said, the pasta is good at both with the biggest difference in my opinion being that at LL the pasta is more 'pristine'/refined, whilst at Zaff it is more rustic/coarser as if cut by hand (hope this is clear! lol).

Anitpasti is good at both, but I have only tried one at Zaff, so cannot really compare. Desserts - the tiramisu at Zaff is amazing, but apparently it is the exact same recipe employed at LL. The bread at LL is also great and knocks the socks off Zaff's offering. I like the service and atmosphere at LL more also. Couple more minor niggles I have with Zaff are that the tables are TINY and there is a hidden £15 charge for canapes (salami, foccacia and parmesan cheese).

Price wise, I seem to spend the same at both. However, if you go to Zaff at lunch, the same menu is offered as at dinner with 4-courses for £40 instead of the evening £55.

l'Anima is quite different. The food here is more focused on southern Italian classics. It hasn't the same reputation as the other two, but it is very new. The restaurant itself is gorgeous and the food accomplished. The starters really stood out as did the ice cream.

Hope this helps.

Some of the reviews are illustrated here:

Food Snob

Food Snob

foodsnob@hotmail.co.uk

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Thank you all so much, these are great recommendations and observations. I head for London on the 11th and can't wait to try one of these spots---right now I'm thinking Number Twelve or LL--but that is totally subject to change. Also looking forward to at least one visit to Borough Market! :biggrin:

I may be in Nashville but my heart's in Cornwall

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As it happens, we had dinner last night at LL with another couple, and it confirmed my impression from my first meal there about a year ago. Maybe I'm jaded because my last Italian meal was at Dal Pescatore in Canneto sull'Oglio, but honestly I cannot see why people get so excited about this overpriced yet only passable restaurant. I had the fried veal foot salad, which was so overbreaded and overfried that I could not tell if there was any veal foot at all inside all that crust. My friend's bean salad came with an eye-popping heap of summer truffle shavings which smelled of absolutely nothing. My handmade garganelli with red mullet, tomatoes and olives was gummy, and the fish less than sparklingly fresh. The tomatoes were notable for their complete lack of flavor. The kid tagliatelle that I remembered enjoying the first time--and the main reason I agreed to go back-- was not to be found. The veal saltimbocca was overcooked.

It was so hot and stuffy in the dining room that even the Treasury banker removed his jacket, and I ordered the yogurt ice cream with berry conserves. I got a miniscule scoop of ice cream, maybe an inch in diameter, and no berries at all. This decidedly underwhelming meal came to £80 without wine. A flight to Italy is cheaper.

If you have only 2 nights in London, I suggest you go to a restaurant you love, not necessarily an Italian one. If you are going to spend that kind of money, you may as well go somewhere you enjoy.

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Are you looking for fine dining or something more informal?

I have relatives in Jersey and Tennessee, and Italian American food is quite different from London foodie Italian, which is more northern/Tuscanish.

I would take my visiting relatives to the convivial La Famiglia or one of the Caldesi restaurants. They are also much less expensive than Locanda Locatelli or Zafferano.

River Cafe is wonderful if you can get in, but your young friend may not recognize it as "Italian" as it is not very pasta-oriented.

would have to concur that La Famiglia is one of the most genuine Italians in London - given it is one of the first it is a bit of an institution which says a lot about the overall quality of the food and experience.

assaggi is another option.

-che

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just a quick post to say thanks to everyone who responded to my question. My young friend and I ended up going to Number Twelve, where we had a delicious meal accompanied by excellent service. My friend had the Devon Crab salad with avocado and lime dressing, followed by Osso buco, while I had pan-fried prawns with a salad of asparagus and pine nuts, followed by Scottish halibut on a bed of samphire grass with Devon crab potatoes. I love samphire grass, and it's something you just don't see much here in the States. We shared a nice bottle of red wine but for the life of me I can't remember what it was. We also shared some sort of delicious strawberry dessert. The entire meal was a particular treat for my friend (my neighbors' son) since he's in London as a student and on a very limited budget. If I have any negative comment, it would be that the bar kind of has the feel of a faceless hotel bar---but, I guess that's kind of what it is...All in all, though, it was a delightful evening and again I appreciate everyone's input.

Now I've got to get back to work so I can afford to return next year! :raz:

I may be in Nashville but my heart's in Cornwall

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  • 4 weeks later...

An update to my earlier post. We finally managed to synchronise a trip to the capital with Locatelli having a table free, albeit early at 7.15. It hasnt exactly proved to be our best meal of the year.

We didn’t take much to the room. A classic example of the modern corporate hotel style. And they cram you in – it was necessary to pull our table completely out to allow access to sit down – and we had to perform a similar exercise later when a loo visit was needed.

Nor did we take much to the service which approaches the style of “we are doing you a favour allowing you to eat here”. Not quite as bad as that but along those lines. And made worse by the fact that the first we heard of there being “specials” was when they were recounted to the next table – of course, we were halfway through the meal by then. The exception is the sommelier who was excellent – friendly, efficient & helpful.

Some good grissini was served with the menus. Later a plentiful basket of bread came – some of it was good. Dipping olive oil was excellent and very fruity.

Tordelli di patate was good pasta surrounding an underseasoned filling of potato. It was considerably perked up by wild mushrooms. Strozzapreti came with very simple accompaniments – tomato and rocket. Good flavour of tomato; the rocket just wilting nicely.

Pork fillet with a fruit/mustard crust was a curate’s egg of a dish. The meat was tender and with a good flavour. It came wrapped in ham – still with the securing string (sloppy kitchen work going on there). The crust had a nice background fruity flavour but I couldn’t discern any mustard. Borlotti beans were a good accompaniment.

The other main was a plaice fillet with a basil crust. This was good. Very good. The basil providing a flavour “punch” to the delicate flavour of the fish. It could have overpowered it – but didn’t.

“Tart of the day” was lemon and was very good. I ordered the “tasting of Amedei chocolate” but was served the wrong dessert. It was another chocolate one so I didn’t really notice until I had all but finished it and commented to my partner that it wasn’t very good for a “tasting”. In fact, it just wasn’t very good at all.

Coffee was fine. Petit fours just OK.

The Good Food Guide gives it a 6 and it holds a Michelin star. I’m disappointed to say, both seem over-rated on our experience. There were more slips in the cooking and service than you would want

John Hartley

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Hi All,

I have posted something in the River Café topic already, but wanted to add something here.

Previously, when I have asked where one can eat the best Italian food in the Capital, I was always told Locanda Locatelli, River Café or Zafferano.

Finally, having tried each now, I can give a qualified opinion of my own.

I have had two meals at LL and Zaff and one at RC. Jjudging on these, Zafferano, unfortunately comes in last place. My first visit to Zafferano went well, dishes were generally good - bad fish course was more than compensated by delicious tiramisu - and service was pleasing. My second trip to Zafferano however, was depressing. The food and the service were pretty dire with an inedible monkfish main the lowlight.

My first dinner at Locanda Locatelli was splendid: food was excellent - sardines and panzanella = wow - and service very good. On my second dinner at Locanda Locatelli the food was not as well-executed, but this was more than made up for by great service,

My lunch at the River Café started off a little weak with antipasti and pasta decent, but when the dishes using the great big oven they have finally arrived, I was very impressed; amazing Dover Sole was the star. Desserts were also great. Here too, service was excellent and I had a very enjoyable meal.

Picking a favourite of the two is difficult: service cancels each other out, starters and pasta I preferred at LL, whilst the mains and sweets at RC.

LL is also cheaper, but RC is probably healthier, for what it's worth!

Hope this was helpful!!

Edited by Food Snob (log)

Food Snob

foodsnob@hotmail.co.uk

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Hi All,

I have posted something in the River Café topic already, but wanted to add something here.

Previously, when I have asked where one can eat the best Italian food in the Capital, I was always told Locanda Locatelli, River Café or Zafferano.

Finally, having tried each now, I can give a qualified opinion of my own.

I have had two meals at LL and Zaff and one at RC. Jjudging on these, Zafferano, unfortunately comes in last place. My first visit to Zafferano went well, dishes were generally good - bad fish course was more than compensated by delicious tiramisu - and service was pleasing. My second trip to Zafferano however, was depressing. The food and the service were pretty dire with an inedible monkfish main the lowlight.

My first dinner at Locanda Locatelli was splendid: food was excellent - sardines and panzanella = wow - and service very good. On my second dinner at Locanda Locatelli the food was not as well-executed, but this was more than made up for by great service,

My lunch at the River Café started off a little weak with antipasti and pasta decent, but when the dishes using the great big oven they have finally arrived, I was very impressed; amazing Dover Sole was the star. Desserts were also great. Here too, service was excellent and I had a very enjoyable meal.

Picking a favourite of the two is difficult: service cancels each other out, starters and pasta I preferred at LL, whilst the mains and sweets at RC.

LL is also cheaper, but RC is probably healthier, for what it's worth!

Hope this was helpful!!

I haven't been to RC, but I'd agree that Locatelli is clearly superior to Zafferano. This said, for the life of me I just do not get what people find at Locatelli that they do not find at Latium or Semplice, except higher prices. For all its charms and correctness, to us Italians Locatelli's cuisine feels distinctly conservative. If you want to get an idea of what contemporary high end Italian cuisine is about, there is no alternative to going to Italy, as in London it's impossible to even get close. (given the RC prices, it may even turn out cheaper...).

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  • 8 months later...
I have never been, but I am surprised nobody has mentioned Assaggi. From what I hear, it is traditional, old school and excellent. I believe it still has a michelin star too.

When I lived in London over five years ago I went a few times - very relaxed, large floor boarded room above the Chepstow Pub. The food on most occasions was excellent and old school as you say - menu in Italian only. The last time (as I moved after that) it was not great, two dodgy fish dishes (on a Monday night) and 5 years ago so.......I think it was about £40-£50 per head for food.

Just had dinner at Assaggi. no problem booking a table yesterday for this evening, although it was quite busy by the time we left.

Not sure if I am being fair as I have a bad cold so my palate isn't responding as normal, but I thought the food was pleasant but quite ordinary, and horrifically overpriced. Four of us had four starters, four mains, two cheeses and one pudding, two bottles of wine below £30 each, three stickies and two (indifferent) coffees; bill was £270 without service.

I had stuffed courgette flowers - crisp batter, very sweet little courgettes, each flower stuffed with an egg yolk which was a neat trick, but just two flowers at £13.50 felt mean.

Followed with fritto misto at £22.50 - decent but not startlingly fresh as you wouild hope at that price.

Vegetables charged at £3.50 each and were good - peas, spinich, green beans.

Tried my neighbour's wild boar proscuttio - a nice plate, but £15 worth? Don't think so...

Also nicked some of his grilled veal chop - very tender, decent flavour for veal but not a touch on the Fiorentina I had in Tuscany last week. £26.50 - again, far too much.

Puddings were £8 each - I had flourless chocolate cake with white chocolate ice cream - again, mean portion, especially for the price.

My wife's cheese selection at £8.50 was probably the best value thing on the menu - odd that they price it at only 50p more than just one cheese.

Overall I thought the food was acceptable, if nothing more, but overpriced by about 35% - 40%.

Wine list decent value, though, short but very focused. Highlights were Specona Pinot Grigio Ramato at about £29 and Felluga Tocai Fruliano at about the same price. We didn't have the Villa Tonino Nero d'Avola at £26 or so, but can recommend it from other places.

Poor coffee in a place like this is unforgiveable.

Michelin star? Surely not.

I wouldn't hurry back.

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  • 5 years later...

I love Italian food - would be interested to get everyone's opinion on what they consider to be the best Italian places to eat in London?

 

My top are:

 

1. Edera, Holland Park

2. Ostuni, Queens Park

 

I'm sure there are many more out there!

website: www.cookscook.co.uk

email: sophie@cookscook.co.uk

twitter: cookscookuk instagram: cookscookuk

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  • 3 weeks later...
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      1 C Northern Beans soaked over-night in
      4-6C Water or Chxn Stock
      1/2 t Cayenne Pepper
      1//2 t Granulated garlic
      1 twig Dried oregano-- dried from last yr
      2 Bay
      pinch of salt ( yes ) and few pepper corns
      in the Morning; All into the Slow Cooker for 5 hrs. ( Crock Pot )
      I removed half the liquor and added chicken stock here back in . to this I added diced cooked Italian sausage about 1 whole .. simmer in a pot.. I transferred to... then add 1/2 head of shopped chicory ( curly endive ) finish cooking 15 mins
      cheers
      Most measurements again are from feel
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