The buzzing food scene of Central London never rests, and even the well-established legion of Italian restaurants constantly presents new options, swinging between tradition and contemporary innovation.
Italian cuisine is not a new trend, but it’s certainly one which likes to reinvent itself. From street food to gourmet kitchens; innovative concepts to the celebration of tradition, the menus of Soho and Covent Garden offer a wide range of options for those in search of authentic food from the bel paese.
At Cafe Murano the Italian heritage comes together with Angela Hartnett’s modern and inventive touch. Growing up with an Italian grandmother, the Michelin-starred chef developed a passion for the northern Italian tradition, which she rejuvenates to create refined yet simple dishes. Smart and informal, the ambience reflects the menu, which features a great selection of seasonal produce from Italy and the rest of Europe. Surrounded by the theatres of Covent Garden, Cafe Murano offers a wide range of options, from pre-theatre menus to private dining experiences. The adjacent pasta factory, also part of Cafe Murano, is the place to go for a platter and a glass of wine.
36 Tavistock Street, London WC2E 7PB
Bocca Di Lupo
A compendium of local specialities, Bocca di Lupo is like a road trip across the Italian peninsula, reflecting chef Jacob Kenedy’s extensive knowledge of regional Italian cuisine. From Tuscan sausages to Sicilian octopus, passing by Roman pajata (intestines) and orecchiette pasta from Puglia, nearly every region is faithfully represented on the menu, which changes constantly according to the season. The award-winning wine list is also divided by region, and will keep the experts perusing awhile. Feasting menus for private events are also available.
12 Archer Street, London W1D 7BB
A refined winery, Dalla Terra also offers the welcoming atmosphere of a down-to-earth restaurant. About 500 bottles are featured in the top-class wine list, covering a wide range of prices, while over 30 options are served by the glass. In addition to a few evergreens of the Italian tradition, some smaller dishes on the food menu claim to be paired with an aperitif, be it a Bellini, an Aperol Spritz or one of the three varieties of Negroni available. The after dinner menu discloses an entirely new world, and those with a thing for grappa and Japanese whiskey won’t be disappointed.
25 Slingsby Place, London WC2E 9AB
Leggero is the new brand of a concept that was launched in 2013 and is still unique across the whole country. Formerly known as La Polentiera, this cosy spot is the only Italian, entirely gluten-free restaurant accredited by Coeliac UK, which brings to Soho simple dishes from northern Italy dressed up with cosmopolitan flair. Despite the new name, polenta is still one of the favourites, alongside homemade pasta and a number of dairy-free and vegan options. Far from being suitable for coeliacs only, Leggero seeks to please all palates through carefully-sourced ingredients and original recipes.
64 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4UQ
When opening in 2010, Sartori brought a taste of Naples to Central London. As such, the wood-fired pizza is the undisputed queen of the kitchen, coming also in a metre-long size ideal for large parties. It would nevertheless be a mistake to overlook the rest of the menu, as it presents a rich selection of starters, pasta, meat and fish, alongside little surprises like ‘panuozzi’; another way to enjoy the pizza dough typical of the region around Naples. The specials board is also worth a look, as well as the wine, cocktail and liqueur list. Affordable prices and a warm atmosphere make the experience even more enjoyable.
15-18 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JE
Pepe Italian Street Food
Pepe’s menu is simple, genuine and straightforward. Basically, how quality street food should always be. All toppings and sauces are prepared in-house with selected Italian ingredients, and recipes follow tradition with a little twist here and there. Pizza by the slice and vats of pasta are the trademark of this place, although the pastries are also likely to grab the attention, especially before sipping an espresso. Italian beers and wines complete the list.
27 Old Compton Street, London W1D 5JP
A truly family-run restaurant, Da Mario offers a homey experience, where everything from the atmosphere to the service reflects a down-to-earth idea of hospitality. As Maria and Corrado take tradition quite seriously, they wouldn’t serve anything that couldn’t be found across the Italian peninsula. Possible highlights on the menu are homemade tagliolini with black truffle, linguine with lobster, and calves’ liver Venetian style. The wine list features about 30 Italian reds and whites, with a few special options for those seeking superior quality.
63 Endell Street, London WC2H 9AJ