Italian Restaurants in Covent Garden
1. Fumo Italian restaurant in Covent Garden 37 St Martin's Lane - WC2
This “fabulous, fun and buzzy” four-year-old next door to the Coliseum, from the national San Carlo group, has won a good following. It specialises in “tasty” cicchetti or Venetian small plates, and provides an “unexpectedly friendly and attractive welcome in the West End”: “ideal for a light lunch” and “good for pre-theatre”.
2. Ave Mario Italian restaurant in Covent Garden 15 Henrietta Street - WC2E
Brace yourselves Covent Garden! Big Mamma (the group behind hits Gloria and Circolo Popolare) open this huge – 7,000 square feet and 295 covers – newcomer in July 2021. Set over two floors, with two outside terraces, it’s aiming for a ‘cheeky interpretation of the Church’. Apparently that means a bar decorated with 3,500 bottles, and a mirrored basement for events. The cooking – how did we nearly forget?! Expect more Italian dishes (lots of pasta and pizza) featuring loads of cream, with the must-Instagram dishes in this case being a mega stracciatella and chocolate ice cream cake.
3. Opera Tavern Spanish restaurant in Covent Garden 23 Catherine Street - WC2
“Not really a pub any more, though it certainly used to be” – this well-known tapas bar near Covent Garden operates on two atmospheric, if noisy, floors, and is a “go-to for pre-theatre dining, with superb small plates at a relatively reasonable cost for the location”. “The little morsels of Spanish and Italian deliciousness haven’t faltered since the Salt Yard chain was taken over” (in late-2018). In late summer 2019 it emerged from a major revamp.
4. Margot Italian restaurant in Covent Garden 45 Great Queen Street - WC2
“Old-school elegance is mixed with excellent, friendly service” at Paulo de Tarso & Nicolas Jaouën’s “stylish” and “very comfortable” Italian near the Freemasons’ Hall – “one of the better post-Covent Garden options”, and also a useful business venue in WC2 (“an area that isn’t too rich in restaurants of this calibre”). But, while fans still praise its “classic, simple, well-executed dishes”, ratings slid this year amidst some concerns that it “has suffered from its popularity”, producing food that seems “less enthralling” than it once did: “nice, but nothing special for the price”.
5. Da Mario Italian restaurant in Covent Garden 63 Endell St - WC2
An “old-fashioned, warm and lovely Italian”, whose “comforting” ‘throwback’ style is at odds with its very central Covent Garden location. The family who ran ran it for so many years retired in August 2018, however, and – though the staff remain – some old-timers are concerned: “since the change of ownership the standard of cooking in this much-loved restaurant seems to have slipped, while the prices have increased. However its proximity to theatres means it is still busy”.
6. La Goccia Italian restaurant in Covent Garden Floral Court, off Floral Street - WC2E
“Outside in the courtyard on a summer’s day is a very pleasant experience” at this good-looking, all-day Italian (complete with wood-fired oven) in Covent Garden’s recently constructed Floral Court development. No gripes about the food, but it’s not especially cheap, and service is “charming” but can be “wayward”.
7. The Petersham Italian restaurant in Covent Garden Floral Court, off Floral St - WC2E
“Like being in the country, but without leaving London”: this year-old ‘lifestyle destination’ in a new Covent Garden development – spun out from the Richmond garden centre’s famous shabby-chic restaurant – comprises a shop, florist, deli, cicchetti (Italian small plates) bar and a main restaurant. It’s a lavish investment from the Boglione family, with a “beautiful atmosphere”, but the food is “only just about good enough for the prices”, while the “disorganised and chaotic service requires some serious work”. Still, for a romantic lunch on a summer’s day in the centre of town, its flower-filled courtyard is hard to beat.
8. Café Murano Pastificio Italian restaurant in Covent Garden 34 Tavistock Street - WC2E
“Perhaps hopes were too high?” – Angela Hartnett’s spin-off Italians in Covent Garden and St James’s inspire a lot of feedback, but much of it is mixed. Fans do applaud her for “succeeding where most others fail in establishing a couple of cheaper ventures that follow her style, but do not feel part of a factory-made chain; and which provide some excellent, simple Italian cooking and carefully chosen wines”. But for many sceptics, the gloss is taken off the experience either by “food that’s fine but not exceptional; not-wholly-interested service; or a lack of ambience” (WC2 can be “very noisy”). She must be doing something right however, as in June 2019 she submitted plans to take over the Bermondsey site some will recall as Zucca (RIP) to become her next outlet. Top Tip – “a useful stop pre-theatre but the set menu never seems to meet expectations, so it’s better to stick with the à la carte”.
9. Bancone Italian restaurant in Covent Garden 39 William IV Street - WC2N
“Superbly-flavourful” pasta dishes at “extremely good-value” prices – especially for the West End – make Louis Korovilas’s “handy” two-year-old “one of the better options in the tourist centre” of town, just off Trafalgar Square. Some reporters feel it’s “let down by the long, narrow shape of the restaurant”, but more commonly it’s judged an “elegant, buzzing, if packed space”.
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