Emilia's, London

The best Italian restaurants 2018

Clean-eating brigade look away now. Pasta and pizza are back, and better than ever before, now that a new wave of authentic, regional Italian restaurants have opened up across the UK. Let olive be your carb guide

Italian restaurants in the UK are enjoying a renaissance as chefs and restaurateurs go back to their roots. Using traditional recipes from regional Italy and the best imported ingredients, as well as, of course, great British produce, these Britalians are breaking the mould. Pasta is officially cool again.

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Rolling pasta, making fresh pizza dough and churning ice cream, here we have listed some of our best Italian restaurants so far this year in the UK. You’ll find seasonal dishes such as spaghettini with Morecambe Bay shrimp at Luca, pappardelle with beef shin at Padella and crispy pork belly at Pasta Loco, in Bristol.


Coppi, Belfast

Located in St Anne’s Square in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, Coppi takes its inspiration from all regions of Italy, but when it comes to ingredients the kitchen looks to producers in Northern Ireland. “We work closely with local suppliers including award-winning farmer Peter Hannan – two of our signature dishes are Peter’s Tuscan spiced pork and fennel sausage cichetti and a steak florentine of salt-aged beef,” says Coppi’s Tony O’Neill.

“The pasta we serve is freshly made daily in our production kitchen and the duck ragu, porcini mushroom ravioli and truffle has been on the menu from day one, along with our cichetti of feta fritters with truffled honey. I think there could be a riot if we tried to take them off the menu.”

coppi.co.uk

Coppi, Belfast

Cin Cin, Brighton

With just 20 covers at a counter looking into an open kitchen and bar in Brighton’s North Laine, Cin Cin (‘cheers!’ in Italian) is an intimate, casual dining experience and the food is truly authentic.

“I’m simply trying to give customers the food I was lucky enough to grow up with,” says owner David Toscano, who started the business as a pop-up serving food and drink from a converted 1970s Fiat campervan.

“My grandparents migrated from Calabria in southern Italy to Australia in the 1950s,” says David. “And the food we offer is an updated homage to the flavour combinations I enjoyed as a kid.” Sicilian-style dishes on offer include tagliatelle with sardines, saffron and pickled sultanas, and handkerchief-shaped fazzoletti pasta served with grey mullet, sprouting broccoli and stracciatella cheese.

cincin.co.uk

Cin Cin, Brighton

Sugo Pasta Kitchen, Altrincham

Specialising in southern Italian cuisine, Sugo opened in the summer of 2015 and co-owner Michael De Martiis says part of its success is the fact it’s about as far from a clichéd Italian restaurant as you can find.

“We were sick of Italian food being misrepresented in the UK and with our half-English, half-Italian upbringing and heritage, we were confident we could open a restaurant we would personally love to visit.”

From its short menu, standout dishes include orecchiette pasta with slow-cooked beef shin, pork shoulder and ’nduja ragu and the “only to be eaten with a spoon” sharing dish sugo scoglio comprising cavatelli pasta with king prawns, baby squid, mussels, cherry tomatoes, chilli and ginger.

Mike says: “We’re hugely proud of our southern Italian roots and we’re not remotely interested in appeasing the British palate. For us it’s far more about us cooking what we love and our customers trust our judgement.”

sugopastakitchen.co.uk

Sugo pasta kitchen

Pasta Loco, Bristol

It’s been open only a year but Pasta Loco has become so well loved with locals that there’s a two-month waiting list for weekend tables. The first venture for cousins Ben Harvey and Dominic Borel, this compact restaurant is Bristol’s first fresh pasta house and has quickly become the place to go for signature dishes like linguine carbonara, which is twist on the classic, if much maligned, recipe.

With three days of preparation involved and three styles of pork – crumbled salsiccia, crispy pork belly and a pancetta-wrapped poached egg – word soon got around about the dish via social media and it’s been on the menu ever since.

The pair have also become well known for their negroni – it’s so good that Dominic has to make a vat to keep up with demand.

pastaloco.co.uk

Pasta Loco, Bristol

Zucco, Leeds

Nonna’s polpette and spaghetti; rabbit, pancetta, white wine and potatoes; and almond and raspberry polenta cake – these are just three reasons why locals flock to Zucco, tucked away in one of the leafier suburbs of Leeds.

Run by brothers Rosario and Michael Leggiero, it’s a cool and contemporary place with black and white floor tiles, white subway wall tiles and a beaten tin ceiling.

And if that look sounds slightly familiar to fans of a certain well-known chain, then it won’t come as too much of a surprise that Michael was manager at Polpo’s short-lived restaurant at Leeds Harvey Nichols.

zucco.co.uk

Zucco, Leeds

Eusebi Deli, Glasgow

What started as an Italian grocer shop in Glasgow’s East End back in 1975 has grown and expanded with a restaurant/deli in the city’s West End showcasing regional, seasonal dishes, such as burrata, pea gazpacho and vignarola salad.

Eusebi goes to great lengths to source the very best ingredients – tomatoes and herbs from Calabria, flour from Rome, cured meats from Umbria. The pasta is made from scratch daily in the restaurant’s ‘pasta laboratory’ using different flours, including chickpea, chestnut and grano arso (burnt grain).

“We wanted to take the customer out of their comfort zone,” says Giovanna Eusebi. “Italy is more than carbonara and spag bol. Our food is inspired by our Italian grandparents who farmed from land to table.

Our concept was to slow things down and return to our heritage. Food made in factories and sold under the guise of ‘artisan’ just won’t wash anymore. People don’t want watered-down versions of authentic, they want the real deal.”

Click here for Eusebi Deli’s – burrata, pea gazpacho and vignarola salad recipe

eusebideli.com

Eusebio Deli, Glasgow

Cal’s Own, Newcastle

Self-taught chef Calvin Kitchin started out as a joiner working for his dad’s building firm, but he is now officially recognised as one of the world’s leading makers of Neapolitan pizzas. Calvin runs Cal’s Own pizzeria in Newcastle’s Jesmond district. He is the first British chef to get accreditation from the Naples-based Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN), a designation given only

He is the first British chef to get accreditation from the Naples-based Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN), a designation given only to pizzerias using certain Italian ingredients, approved equipment and traditional pizza-making methods.

Cal’s pizzas feature fiordilatte (fresh cow’s milk mozzarella) and San Marzano DOP tomatoes grown in the foothills of Mount Vesuvius. He says: “I started making pizzas because I couldn’t get a good pizza locally. ”

I’d been to Sorrento as a kid and I remember having a Neapolitan pizza and it was completely different. I researched it on YouTube and discovered a film about Totonno’s, a pizzeria in New York, and that was it. We now have American and Italian customers who say our pizza is better than anything they have in Brooklyn or Naples.”

calsown.co.uk

Cal's own

Pi Shop, Bristol

As an award-winning chef running three restaurants, Peter Sanchez-Iglesias is used to hard graft, but even he admits that opening a pizzeria has been his biggest challenge, albeit a successful one. Sandwiched between his Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant Casamia, and the newly opened
Paco Tapas tapas bar named after his Spanish dad, Pi Shop is a family-friendly pizzeria on Bristol’s harbourside.

As you might expect from a team with such a stellar background, the sourdough pizzas are made with the same care and attention, whether it’s the Hawaiian with pineapple and Iberico ham or the pizza topped with Wye Valley asparagus, taleggio, ewe’s curd and rocket.

“People think it’s easy to open a pizzeria but it isn’t and there have been times I wondered why I did this,” says Peter. “But then I look out of the kitchen and see families with kids having fun, watching pizzas being made and I realise that’s exactly the reason we opened Pi Shop in the first place.”

Check out our full review of the Pi Shop, here

thepishop.co.uk


Rudy’s, Manchester

Known as Little Italy, the Ancoats area of Manchester has a long food tradition stretching back to the Victorian era when thousands of Italian immigrants settled there, many of them starting their own ice-cream businesses.

Relocating to Ancoats from London, Jim Morgan and girlfriend Kate Wilson opened Rudy’s in 2015, with the simple idea of bringing high-quality Neapolitan pizza to Manchester in a relaxed, casual space that was affordable and accessible to all.

Named after the couple’s dog, Rudy’s now serves a dozen pizzas, from a sub-£5 marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano, basil and extra-virgin olive oil) to the romagnola (a margherita dressed with rocket, prosciutto crudo and parmesan). Says Jim: “What makes our pizzas stand out are two of the things that really stand out when you eat pizza in Naples – size and cost. Ours are big (14in), just like in Naples, but most UK pizzerias seem to reduce what is the traditional size found in Naples, possibly as a cost- cutting exercise.

We’re also much cheaper in comparison to most pizzerias, even though we use the best ingredients we can lay our hands on.”

rudyspizza.co.uk

Rudy's, Manchester

Here are the best Italian restaurants in London

Padella, Borough Market

Tim Siadatan and Jordan Frieda, the duo behind Trullo in Highbury, opened their second restaurant, Padella, in Borough Market in March 2016. Padella’s menu is made up of eight pasta dishes taken from Trullo’s ‘greatest hits’, using fresh pasta rolled in the window of the restaurant just before service.

A small, no-bookings restaurant where queues are a given, Padella was born of a desire to make fresh handmade pasta accessible to everybody, with prices ranging from £5.50 to £11.50. The open kitchen combines traditional Italian techniques and quality British produce to make dishes like pappardelle and eight-hour beef shin ragu, tagliarini with brown shrimps, green and yellow courgette, and its now famous pici cacio e pepe (find the recipe at olivemagazine.com).

Jordan says: “We wanted to create a restaurant that was true to the principles we admired in the great British restaurants – rigorous seasonality with a focus on using British producers wherever possible. We make everything in-house – rolling pasta, baking our bread, churning our ice cream – every day, and do it at a price that isn’t exclusive.”

Check out our full review of Padella, here

padella.co

Padella, London

Wolf, Stoke Newington

Opening a contemporary Italian restaurant was a natural step for Wolf owner Antony Difrancesco, who was born in London to Sicilian parents.

Seasonal dishes include fazzoletti with sheep ricotta, broad beans, peas, lemon and mint, and breaded veal chop with brown butter capers, anchovy and lemon. Antony says: “The great thing about the renaissance of Italian food is that chefs are applying new techniques and other influences to make them their own.”

wolf-restaurant.co.uk

Wolf, London

Emilia’s, St Katherines Dock

“Many people have said the view from our restaurant resembles the coast of southern Italy,” says Andrew Macleod, owner of Emilia’s in St Katharine Docks. After developing the concept, Andrew joined forces with pasta chef Simone Stagnitto to create the menus for this rustic pasta bar.

The pasta is made daily on site and the concise menu features just seven pasta dishes. Recipes include a northern Italian-style carbonara and four-hour slow-cooked béchamel bolognese.

Check out our full review of Emilia’s, here

emiliaspasta.com

Emilias Pasta

Radici, Islington

Hot new Islington restaurant Radici is the latest venture from Italian chef Francesco Mazzei, who also oversees Sartoria in Mayfair. More of a neighbourhood trattoria than its Savile Row sibling, Radici’s menu incorporates dishes such as seafood fettuccine and calf’s liver involtino with pancetta, garlic and rosemary served with smoked potato mash.

“I would call Radici a ‘refreshed old-school Italian’,” says Francesco. “We’re true to who we are.”

Click here for Radici’s – calf’s liver involtino with pancetta and rosemary recipe

radici.uk

Radici

Luca, Clerkenwell

“Someone said to me, you mean ‘Britalian, like the River Café’ – I liked that,” smiles chef Isaac McHale when asked to describe the high-end food at Luca, which features such dishes as montgomery cheddar fonduta and spaghettini with Morecambe Bay shrimp and mace butter.

“We are just happy doing our thing, making it tasty and cooking with an Italian mindfulness of simplicity,” says Isaac. Don’t leave without ordering the light-as-air churro-like parmesan fries.

“We are just happy doing our thing, making it tasty and cooking with an Italian mindfulness of simplicity,” says Isaac. Don’t leave without ordering the light-as-air churro-like parmesan fries.

Check out our full review of Luca, here

luca.restaurant

Luca, Clerkenwell

Via Emilia (Hoxton Square)

In a nutshell: An intimate 40-cover restaurant just off Hoxton Square focusing on food and wine from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

What’s the vibe: Dark and intimate, wood-panelled walls are warmed up by low-hanging lights and marble surfaces, and a mirrored wall on one side of the restaurant gives the appearance of more space.

What’s the food like? Lightly fried, pillowy gnocco fritto are best torn apart and spread generously with squacquerone – a mild, creamy soft cheese from the Cesena region which we polished off swiftly. Wafer-thin slithers of peppery salame felino, prosciutto crudo and silky coppa made for a moreish salty snack.

Delicate al dente parcels of ravioli were filled with creamy ricotta, earthy spinach and soaked in a rich sage butter sauce (that we’d have happily welcomed more of) before being topped generously with parmesan.

Dessert is an easy decision to make, either order the tiramisu or don’t. It’s a light way to finish the meal as the serving is small, with the classic creamy, coffee soaked texture and cocoa flavour you’d expect.

And the drink? As with the food, the wine list focuses on those made in the region, with a large section dedicated to red and white sparkling. Our waiter suggested a red sparkling lambrusco from the coastal city of Reggio which was fruity yet crisp. A refreshing fizz to wash down a plate of hearty bolognese with.

olive says: Although the menu is split into starters and mains, all of the dishes work best shared as a table.

Click here to read our full review of Via Emilia

Pasta Selection at Via Emilia, Hoxton Square, London

Osteria Romana (Knightsbridge)

In a nutshell: Authentic Roman cooking in an intimate setting in Knightsbridge.

What’s the vibe: A small, softly lit space, the décor keeps it simple with plain wooden flooring and furniture, earth-hued walls and little copper lamps that shine inviting pools of light over each table. Pots of vivid green basil adorn each table and a wall-to-wall wine rack provides a focal point at one end of the room. The effect is intimate, unpretentious but still tastefully sleek – it is Knightsbridge, after all.

What’s the food like? Four fat, handmade gnocchi were the stars of our antipasti. Pleasingly fluffy, they came drizzled with a decadent, moreish black truffle and pecorino sauce. Well-made rice croquettes, with a crisp exterior and meaty ragu filling, were complemented by a tangy tomato velouté.

Spaghetti carbonara, that iconic Roman dish, was note perfect, with a silky properly emulsified sauce. Tonnarelli with artichokes and red prawns combined juicy crustacean with dried shards of artichokes and a bisque-like sauce.

Lamb chops – served with ultra-smooth mashed potatoes and crispy leeks – were pink, tender and deeply flavoured.

And the drink? The concise wine list keeps it almost entirely Italian, of course. We tried a subtly smoky sangiovese and montepulciano blend, and a fruity ripasso.

olive says: Service is very good: friendly and knowledgeable general manager Diego made us feel like we were being really looked after.

Click here to read our full review of Osteria Romana

A metal bowl of spaghetti

Pastaio (Soho)

In a nutshell: Chef Stevie Parle’s latest venture brings handmade pasta and affordable wines to Soho.

What’s the vibe: A cavernous Tom Dixon-designed space on Ganton Street that’s all high ceilings and exposed fittings, with a huge, colourful mural (by Rob Lowe of Supermundane) that saves the room from feeling coldly industrial.

What’s the food like? From the pasta section, malloreddus (tiny, ridged Sardinian gnocchi) came dressed with a slow-cooked sausage sauce that was elegantly light and flavourful, while agnoli stuffed with grouse, pork and rabbit was a deceptively simple dish that made good use of prime autumn produce.

From the pasta section, malloreddus (tiny, ridged Sardinian gnocchi) came dressed with a slow-cooked sausage sauce that was elegantly light and flavourful, while agnoli stuffed with grouse, pork and rabbit was a deceptively simple dish that made good use of prime autumn produce.

And the drink? The drinks offering at Pastaio is short and affordable, ranging from prosecco and Aperol slushies to wines from lesser-known Italian growers, many priced by the glass. We tried a velvety, smoky refosco – a spot-on recommendation from our friendly, knowledgeable waiter.

olive says: Be sure to order the agnoli – a triumph of pared-back cooking; perfectly cooked and crafted pasta, a generous game filling and a seriously moreish sage-butter sauce.

Click here to read our full review of Pastaio

A marble table with lots of places of pasta on top

Fiume (Battersea)

In a nutshell: Calabrian chef Francesco Mazzei launches his third restaurant in partnership with D&D London in Circus West Village, the first phase of the new Battersea Power Station development in south London.

What’s the vibe: The restaurant’s décor reflects the menu – it’s smart but relaxed. There’s counter dining and high chairs by the bar for quick plates of cicchetti (fried calamari to crostini draped with mozzarella, anchovies and roasted peppers) and homemade breads from the wood-fired pizza oven. The rest of the room, framed around the open-plan kitchen, is well spaced and comfortable – an elegant palette of brass and copper accenting blue (baby and teal) leather, hugging marble and dark wooden tables.

What’s the food like? Pasta is handmade, so choosing from the primi menu is difficult – you’ll want a taste of everything. Thin, yolk-yellow strands of tagliolini are punctuated by sweet and sea-fresh flakes of white crabmeat, pepped up with flecks of Amalfi lemon zest, fresh red chilli, flat-leaf parsley and fronds of dill.

A bowl of Welsh lamb ragu fettuccine is slippery, buttery and oh so comforting – rubbles of the flavourful meat and their rich juices marrying into a moreish sauce. This is Italian pasta as it was originally intended.

Aubergine parmigiana is a fine example of its kind – meltingly soft slices of the melanzane layered with an intensely rich tomato sauce, stringy (in the best kind of way) and milky mozzarella, and, of course, bags of salty, sharp parmesan – served at just the right temperature, warm and not roof-of-your-mouth-scorchingly hot.

And the drink? A mix of classic and contemporary, the cocktail list is like a boozy love letter to Italian spirits. A white Negroni Del Mazzei with Tanqueray gin, rosolio (rose liqueur), Cocchi Americano vermouth, and a stick of three plump Nocellara olivesslicked with booze, hit the spot for us. The wine list is also all Italian, with each region of origin clearly highlighted.

olive says: If the tiramisu sells out, order another bowl of pasta for your final course.

Click here to read our full review of Fiume

Fiume restaurant, Battersea, London

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Looking for inspirational Italian recipes? Check out our 27 best ever Italian recipes here