Who doesn’t love a good Spag Bol? Absolutely highlights seven excellent Italians nowhere near central
Words Patrick Hamilton Courtney
When it comes to Italian, we’re spoilt for choice. We Brits dine out on pizza and pasta more frequently than any other cuisine, and Londoners are no different. From the Prezzos and Zizzis on every high street to temples of Italian gastronomy like Murano and River Café, our capital’s dining scene is awash with tomato and basil sauce.
These seven restaurants serve some of the most authentic, delicious Italian we have eaten. Think unctuous Osso Buco, comforting aubergine parmigiana, buttery Milanese risotto, and more freshly made pasta than you can shake a breadstick at. We love their charming neighbourhood atmospheres and the clued up local clientele that keep them busy all week. Buon Appetito!
Lardo is the name for the cured back fat of a pig. You can buy chunks of it in packets from the supermarket, usually labelled as Lardons. As a meat it’s inexpensive and tasty, much like the Hackney based restaurant now named after it.
Lardo specialises in Salumi (cured pork) and pizza. Salumi comes as a selection of three, picked from a menu of several varieties. The tempting pizza toppings include a spicy seafood marinara with mozzarella, and pumpkin with walnuts and goats curd. The menu also features an interesting selection of antipasti and a few pasta dishes. We appreciated the minimal décor and ambient lighting, but best of all was that nothing was more than £14. Delicious and kind to the wallet – no wonder it’s always packed.
197-201 Richmond Road, London. E8 3NJ.
Daphne’s, South Kensington
Beloved Daphne’s has been a favourite haunt of south west London’s chichi lunch crowd for decades. Loyal patrons come for more than posing and people watching though – it’s the food that draws them in. The menu is a reading list of classic Italian delights. The menu moves from octopus carpaccio with softshell crab through to pot roast rabbit with gnocci and peas. Their pasta dishes include a wild boar ragu pappardelle which is out of this world. Book the conservatory (pictured above) if you can. On summer days there’s probably no where nicer to lunch in South Ken.
112 Draycott Avenue, Chelsea, London. SW3 3AE
La Famiglia, Chelsea
World’s End stalwart La Famiglia is one of the best rated Italians in London. Founded by Alvaro Maccioni, it’s been churning out its signature Tuscan cuisine since 1966. Fans include Jay Rayner and the late Michael Winner, who praised the food’s unbeatable authenticity. The menu is enormous, and will please everyone from those with the most basic of palettes to others up for a culinary adventure. Without doubt, one of Chelsea’s finest restaurants.
7 Langton Street, The World’s End, Chelsea, London. SW10 0JL.
Al Santo, Fulham
This little restaurant near Fulham Broadway is a totally classic Italian Trattoria. The décor is a bit confused: A large Buddha head suggests anything but Italian food, and a bicycle suspended from the ceiling is just a bit unnerving. But these things just add to Al Santo’s charm. The staff are friendly and charming, and the unassuming restaurant is always completely packed. The reason why? The food. All of the pasta is made fresh on site in the traditional method, and you can really taste it. Spaghetti, tagliatelle, and raviolis come in well-rendered sauces that transport your taste buds straight to Tuscany. They also do a calamari starter that’s a contender for the best in London.
Top tip: ask your waiter to add Al Santo’s excellent burrata to your spaghetti dishes. It takes them to an almost sinful level of indulgence.
23 Vanston Place, Fulham, London. SW6 1AZ
The chalked up menu at Artusi perfectly represents contemporary Italian cooking. Fuss-free dishes including wild garlic linguine, veal meatballs with potato, and an ice cream flavoured with lemon and bay are gutsy and confident in flavour. The décor is chic, minimal, and very much typical of Peckham’s trendier eateries. Think of Artusi as a little like the 10 Greek Street of SE15.
161 Bellenden Road, Peckham, London. SE15 4DH
San Lorenzo, Knightsbridge
Famously a favourite lunch spot of Diana, Princess of Wales during the restaurant’s 80s heyday, San Lorenzo has been discreetly entertaining its well-heeled clientele since its founding in 1963. Today the restaurant has branches in Wimbledon and Mumbai, but the Knightsbridge classic on Beauchamp Place is still the best. The extensive menu offers a wide range of antipasti, fresh pasta, meat and fish. We particularly enjoyed the polenta with gorgonzola and risotto primavera. There are few places better for lunch after a morning’s shopping at Harvey Nichols.
22 Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge. London. SW3 1NH
Trullo, Highbury & Islington
Since it’s opening in 2010, Trullo has been held up as a prime example of what modern Italian cooking should be. It’s authentic, laid back, fashionable menu is ideally suited to the Islington supper crowd. Most of the time it’s overwhelmingly busy, so do be sure to book a table. Though I hear midweek lunches are a bit quieter. The signature dish Pappardelle with beef shin ragu is a revelation. We also rated the lamb sweetbread starter and a delectable blood orange granite with crème fraiche.
300-302 St Paul’s Road, Highbury East, London. N1 2HL