Humble Italian Restaurants
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For cooking filled with love, sometimes only a family-run Italian will do: the kind that hasn’t been Londonised, isn’t particularly Insta friendly and features posters of Italian movie stars, wipe down menus and generally questionable decor.
We're talking about the kind of place that could climb up the Tripadvisor rankings without too much culinary prowess, instead flying on the coattails of an unspoken charm that makes an older waiter slide you an extra limoncello; or a chef craft your pizza into an animal face. That's right, Trattoria Raffaele, we see you, and we like you.
Amidst the madness enveloping Notting Hill Gate, this Neapolitan gem dishes out pasta, pizza and banging tiramisu. Run by the super friendly (and Napoli mad) Ruocco family, it’s been operating in this small nook since 1980, which is frankly quite nuts given W11’s evolving nature.
La Cantina Sociale is really more of a deli than a restaurant, keeping things simple and tasty with satisfying pucces (Italian sandwiches) and pizzas that burst with comforting flavour. Make the most of their liquor licence and see aperitivo hour out in style. We tend to order a bottle of wine and the nibbles just keep on coming.
Indulge in Tony Soprano-style carbs whilst blunt, old-timer waiters grunt about the place, filling your glasses and plonking down plates laden with pasta. Going strong for 30 years now, you get the sense that this place hasn't changed much, which is mighty comforting. There's a terrace outside perfect for liquid lunches, no-end of old movie posters on the walls and a resident pianist - sometimes.
This Camberwell favourite is a cracking spot for group dinners - if you can look past the overly ornate wallpaper that is (nope, it ain't looking swish, sorry boys) and get stuck into those ravioli. The menu features bangers from all over Italy (with regions helpfully labelled on the menu) so you can learn a little something with your dinner - ideal.
On a stretch of Sydenham’s high street that is otherwise pretty well supplied with shitty takeaway shops, Trattoria Raffaele is a welcome outpost of warm Italian hospitality, serving up all your fave Italian hits from bruschetta to saltimbocca. Family-run, with attentive staff, traditional decor, homemade pasta, and yes they have been known to do animal-shaped pizza...
Cosy and unpretentious, Saponara sells all manner of deli goods - like balsamic vinegar from Modena, bitter-sweet Amaretti biscuits and artisan panettone - and knocks out killer truffle ravioli too. You can even buy fresh truffles to take home - but be warned, the pongy buggers don't come cheap.
Tucked away in Pimlico's backstreets, O' Sole Mio prides itself in authentic Italian grub - attracting punters from all across London. As for the decor, expect no frills - you ain't gonna find more than a laminated piece of paper acting as a menu - a few tables and a handful of chairs here and there, but one bite of their pizzas and you won't give a toss.
The only restaurant for what feels like miles around, Ida is a neighbourhood restaurant everyone wishes they had – family run, reasonably priced, and serving up quality food. Simonetta and Avi, the couple who run Ida, are extremely chuffed with their hand-rolled pasta and we can see why. Try the ‘menu povero’ (aka poor): pasta and a glass of wine for a tenner Monday to Thursday. Dreams.
A stalwart of the Tottenham community, San Marco has been on this corner for years, serving up very cheap, very tasty Italian goodness and keeping locals warm with the feeling that comes with having a hidden gem nearby. The dodgy decor and attentive service will have you feeling like you're on a side street in Naples ragazzi.
Part deli, part Italian cafe, Ristorante Trevi is the kind of spot where tradition reigns, recipes are handed down, and pasta is bang on. There'll of course be some more expensive grub on the menu, but anywhere that does two courses for under a tenner sure gets our vote. and if Moretti is on tap then... why are you still here?