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best everyday italian in London

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I love Locanda Locatelli, but can't afford to eat there very often. would love recommendations for the best unsung family-style places in central london...I recall JC Novelli raving about a place near his old restaurant in clerkenwell where the matriarch used to make all the sauces, etc herself. Are there any places like that left?

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  1. Before visiting London in September, I read tons of chowhound reviews and then mapped restaurants in the city near my daughter's college [UCL] and "points of interest" that were in my price range. Only one Italian restaurant made it on to my google map, and we enjoyed our meal there very much. The food was fresh and light, the quality of the oil was fine, and the house wine was very reasonable.

    The atmosphere was casual and bright. Not a place to impress a client with dinner, but a simple restaurant that serves basic and well-prepared dishes. I felt that we received a good value for our pounds. As I said before, my daughter and I enjoyed our meal and when I return to London in the Spring, I suspect that I will eat at Pollo Cafe again.

    Pollo Cafe
    20 Old Compton St
    Westminster, London, UK

    1. well, it's not unsung, and there's no matriarch, but I reckon the Carluccio chain serves pretty good everyday Italian. They do an excellent all-day breakfast dish too. And much of their deli food is excellent, such as the black olive paste, tapenade style.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Jenny Sheridan

        I like the Carluccio chain as well. And am particularly pleased they've opened a branch near me in the frozen north (even it is at the mall). Had a recent post-shopping dinner of arancini, followed by penne alla luganica. Nice. Not spectacular - but very nice.

        1. re: Brit on a Trip

          Giusto, Blandford Street. Love it, but they have to do something about the ground floor because from the street, it just looks like an empty Italian Coffee Bar.

          Have the pork.

          1. re: Brit on a Trip

            Ditto on Carluccio's. I especially enjoy their pastas and cappuccinos.

        2. firstly, I LOVE your user name!!!

          I know that sounds sad, but Pizza Express, in my opinion, is a safe bet in UK. There's no Matriarch (it's a chain) but it's quite close to the real deal.

          Cafe Brera (Canary Wharf and I believe Soho too) is the closest thing to an italian cafe / espresso that I have encountered in the UK.

          no little osteria or taverna spring to mind though unfortunately.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kmh

            Luigi's off the Finchley Road (kinda behind Waitrose). Very cosy and great food.

          2. Spaccanapoli on Dean St (near Oxford). Whilst considering mostly a pizza place, the pasta and the meat dishes are excellent. Most of the patrons appear to be Italian. If you want something other than pizza, try the panuozzi, the pepper steak, the Naples egg pasta (long flat noodles, forget the name) with ragu and spiral pasta with corguettes.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Will125

              Would second Spacca Napoli - awesome pizzas. Also a big fan of L'Artista in Golders Green, Caldesi in Marylebone, Sardo in Fitzrovia & Sardo Canale in Primrose Hill (although both are now much more expensive than they used to be - touching Locanda price levels), Latium in Fitzrovia (try the fish raviolis) and Oliveto in Westminster.

            2. I think this is the restaurant you're referring to...never heard of it myself! (La Rocchetta on Clerkenwell Green)
              http://www.telegraph.co.uk/wine/main....

              This is neither family-style nor central-London, but I like Locanda Ottomezzo in Kensington.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kristainlondon

                ottoemezzo is my local - its about a 100 yards from my house! the original deli/coffee shop is a very nice place to read the paper and get a snack.

              2. Can't get better than the Lorelei in Bateman Street, Soho. Prices are very, very reasonable and the pizzas are thin with excellent toppings. It's got sandbags inside the door and the tables are small wooden affairs but don't let that put you off. Been like that ever since I can remember. It's a little Mom and Pop joint. Totally unpretentious.You can smell your pizza coming from the kitchen ..... Mmmmm mouth-watering. BYOB. No loud music either. Just the clink of glasses and conversation. Other places come and go but the Lorelei rolls on.

                1. Marine Ices in Chalk Farm is legendary. It's famed for its ice-cream but the rest of the food is good too, traditional, comforting Italian, inexpensive, and the atmosphere is fantastic - a proper family business. If you are anywhere near Tufnell Park then do try Trattoria Nuraghe, it is a tiny neighbourhood Sardinian place with the hugest portions of seafood and great pasta. lovely service too.

                  1. Another good spot is Caffe Caldesi (Marylebone Lane, London). Simple, unfussy, and utterly authentic. I was first introduced to it by an Italian, and everyone who works there appears to be Italian as well. Indeed, the same people run a well-known cooking school around the corner and also Caldesi, Tuscan Restaurant, also on Marylebone Lane.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bombaybeauty

                      Mmmm..can't wait to try these out! Am on (yet another) diet at the mo so will have to ration it out ..thanks everyone for your recommendations

                    2. I also enjoy Il Bacio in Highbury, they also have a new branch in Dalston under the Vortex Jazz Club. Great homemade Sardinian pasta dishes and excellent light and crispy pizzas, if you are into that whole pizza thing.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: loobcom

                        I used to work round the corner from Olivo's in Ecclestone Street (I think), which is where Locatelli started out in London. I always enjoyed it there, although I have no idea if it was during Giorgio's reign. There are a couple of spin-offs on nearby Elizabeth Street - one of them is called Olivetto's (upmarket pizza - I once saw Ralph Fiennes and Joan Collins there).

                        I haven't been for a few years, but I also enjoyed Sardo's on Grafton Way, just round the corner from Warren Street tube. It specialises in Sardinian dishes, such as spaghetti with bottarga and Sheet Music Bread.

                        I've never been, but my friend raved about a little family-run place in Kentish Town, Pane Vino.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          Olivetto's is pretty good. The pizza is good and the menu often has some Sardinian specialties, so you can find more than the typical Italian dishes there.

                          1. re: DavidT

                            I definitely disagree with Carluccio's (was once good, is now very average and overpriced), and Pizza Express? come on... Strada does a pretty decent pizza if that's what you're after. Il Bacio is my local, and I rate it as fairly average. I agree with the recommendation for Nuraghe - it's fresh pastas and the fish stew (cassola) are excellent and well-priced. Also recommended, but in a higher price bracket (still much cheaper than Locatelli!), are Sardo for excellent sardinian food and Spiga (the latter makes the best authentic Italian pizzas in London, probably). I grew up in Italy so I'm pretty fussy when it comes to Italian food, mind you.

                            1. re: londonfrenchie

                              Going to London next week and will stay at Hyatt, so LOCANDA LOCATELLI would be super convenient. What would you guys recommend us to have?

                              1. re: theskyflyer

                                If you havnt already made a reservation for Locatelli, I'd think about Plan B.

                                On & off, we've been trying to get a table there for a couple of years. Either they havnt got one when we can travel or we can't travel when they do have one.

                                1. re: Harters

                                  Harters, you are so right. We can only have a table at 9:45PM. Way too late... Scrambling for option B now..

                                  1. re: theskyflyer

                                    Try to pick up a copy of Delicious Magazine. This month's issue has some recipes from Locatelli. It's probably the closest some of us will ever get to trying his food. :-)

                                    1. re: theskyflyer

                                      Zafferano (Knightsbridge) - if you are looking for something in the Locatelli league