The man behind Polpo, Mishkin’s and Spuntino presents his alternative list of his favourite Italian restaurants the ones you won’t find in any guidebook
I am often asked for Italian restaurant recommendations and I am sometimes tempted to reel off my own places. Well, why wouldn’t I?
But if pressed, I’m happy to tell people how fantastic Jacob Kenedy’s cooking is at Bocca di Lupo, and how sublime Giorgio Locatelli’s ravioli are, or why they should head immediately to the River Café for brilliantly simple and authentic Italian flavours in a beautiful setting. Sometimes, though, that’s too easy. You could get the same information by looking in a decent guidebook or searching online.
So, with that in mind, I present my top three alternative favourite Italian restaurants. These are places that you might not find in a guidebook or that might not be the greatest exponents of Italian cooking in London but that have something else that marks them as special and, therefore, absolutely worthy of your patronage.
This tiny Soho trattoria is stuck in a bit of a time warp, probably circa 1977. There are still basket-weave Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling and I’m pretty sure there’s a giant pepper mill lurking in the shadows, but it does old-school Italian classics rather well and has buckets of charm and warmth. Still family run and appealingly shonky, it one of the last of a dying breed of what New Yorkers call ‘red sauce’ Italian restaurants.
51 Greek Street W1D 4EH
020 7437 3985
Vasco & Piero’s Pavilion
A bit of a Soho institution is the Pavilion, but not trendy, and resolutely unfashionable. It has a deservedly loyal customer base and the cooking is very good indeed. In fact, I’d say its pasta dishes are among the best anywhere in the West End. The restaurant describes itself as Umbrian and many of the mature waiters are also from the region. It has a very good wine list too.
15 Poland Street W1F 8QE
020 7437 8774
The real reason to visit Pellicci’s is evident the moment you catch sight of it on a grubby east London high street. It is beautiful. It transports you in an instant to the late 1930s and puts a stupid smile on your face for the remainder of your visit.
The food is good quality Italian/English greasy spoon fare but it’s not really that important. Still family run and still unfailingly friendly. If you’ve got time to listen to the owners’ tales of the Kray twins (regular customers in the 1960s) or how the caff was saved from a potentially catastrophic fire in 1999, then you won’t be sorry.
332 Bethnal Green Road E2 0AG
020 7739 4873