Italian Restaurants in St James's
1. Franco’s Italian restaurant in St James's 61 Jermyn St - SW1
“An old classic that always feels fresh” – this spry 75-year-old Italian in St James’s is “very consistent” and provides “a lovely, busy atmosphere” that’s “suited to eating with clients or friends”. That it’s “a bit pricey” is a theme running through most reports on it, though (“very pleasant, but I have a strong sense that many – most? – diners are on expenses… lucky them!”; “…lovely for the deep-pocketed, with traditional fare that’s well done, but at astronomical prices”). Top Tip – “they do a decent line in business breakfast”.
2. Chucs Dover Street Italian restaurant in Mayfair 31 Dover St - W1
“A throwback to old-school dining” – this wittingly old-fashioned chain (created in the last 10 years) channels an imagined La Dolce Vita lifestyle into its “enjoyable if slightly stuffy” mix of chic Italian cafés and restaurants (if you are of a certain age, think 1980s Tatler). They look “pretty” and are “attractive in their own way”: “not bad if a bit overpriced”. That’s the kind view anyway: harsher critics say they “could do better” and “don’t deserve a revisit”. But they must be doing something right, as in July 2021 they opened in St John’s Wood.
3. Obicà Mozzarella Bar, Pizza e Cucina Italian restaurant in Soho 19-20 Poland St - W1
This international chain has three London representatives – in Soho, the City and Canary Wharf – and focuses on light Italian dishes (pizza, pasta and salads) showcasing the eponymous cheese from Campania alongside other Italian produce; plus a range of cocktails and wines. A good spot “for post-work drinks and nibbles”.
4. Vasco & Piero’s Pavilion Italian restaurant in Soho 11 D'Arblay Street - W1F
“Welcome back!” Every cloud has a silver lining and “having been unceremoniously evicted from its longtime Poland Street location during Covid”, this “delightful” Soho veteran has “found a new, better site just round the corner” (it’s actually the second time the restaurant, founded in 1971, has had to move). “Traditional, Tuscan food as it is meant to taste, with a wine list to match” are served by the “superb” staff in a “most convivial” setting. “They are good at remembering their customers” and “it’s a great place to have a conversation, as they play no music”.
5. San Carlo Italian restaurant in St James 2 Regent Street Saint James's - SW1Y
This “sophisticated Italian restaurant” north of Pall Mall, from Sicilian-born Carlo Distefano’s national group, inspires relatively limited feedback despite (because of?) its heart-of-the-West-End location. It’s consistently well-rated, though – fans say it “can always be relied on for business and social meals”.
6. San Carlo Cicchetti Italian restaurant in Piccadilly 215 Piccadilly - W1
These “slick and professional” Italians (offshoots of the national San Carlo chain) are “buzzy and convenient sorts of places, where you can enjoy an upbeat bite without hanging around too long”. They serve “an extensive menu of small Venetian sharing plates”: “at best they’re excellent” and almost invariably a meal is “good fun”. The best known outlet is steps from Piccadilly Circus – “it might look like a tourist trap in its prime location but it’s a reliable and smartly decorated venue”.
7. Café Murano Italian restaurant in St James's 33 St James’s St - SW1
“A good choice for a light meal in the centre of own, with a broad menu of uncomplicated dishes to suit most people”, and offering “a delicious and authentic taste of Italy” – that’s how their large army of followers see Angela Hartnett’s “buzzy” and “unpretentious” cafés, proclaiming them “a decent effort all in all”. Major complaints are few, but ratings overall end up middling due to gripes of “tired” décor; or culinary results that are “OK but nothing special”. Top Menu Tip – “the arancini are always worth a go”.
8. Al Duca Italian restaurant in St James's 4-5 Duke of York St - SW1
This “conveniently placed old favourite”, on a St James’s corner, serves “above-average Italian” including “particularly good fish cooking”, backed up by an “intriguing wine list with some unusual choices”. Nobody would accuse it of much in the way of pizzazz, but even those who say it’s “middle of the road and time for a revamp” still rate it well all-round.
9. Il Vicolo Italian restaurant in St James's 3-4 Crown Passage - SW1
“A real ‘find’ amongst the big beasts”, tucked away in a St James’s alleyway, “this small family-run Italian is welcoming and good value” – “intimate when quiet, a nice buzz when fuller”. They are “clearly passionate about their ingredients”, and offer “absolutely delightful service”.
10. Cecconi’s Italian restaurant in Mayfair 5a Burlington Gdns - W1
“The original location is by far the best” – “almost Continental in feel, and opposite the back entrance of the Royal Academy in Burlington Arcade”: “a regular haunt” for Mayfair types where “a seat at the bar is the best possible place in the world”. “Always buzzy and with exceptional Bellinis, it’s best for breakfast or brunch”. On the downside, “the high prices of the food reflect the area and locale”. Its simpler spin-offs (most notably pizza joints in Soho and Shoreditch) capture a fragment of this “fun and upmarket” style.
11. Novikov (Italian restaurant) Italian restaurant in Mayfair 50a Berkeley St - W1
2022 Review: Navigate through the pan-Asian section of Russian restaurateur Arkady Novikov’s ultra-luxe Mayfair scene, and you find an elegant if slightly incongruous classic Italian dining room at the rear. Key themes that emerge in survey feedback: it’s notably “overpriced”; the food’s not bad; and for a business encounter, it’s worth considering.
12. Il Borro Italian restaurant in Mayfair 15 Berkeley Street - W1J
The jury is still out on this ultra-high-end Italian following its lockdown-delayed 2021 opening in the Mayfair premises formerly occupied by Nobu Berkeley (RIP). It’s a “lovely space” with a “great fit-out”, and “the fish is fantastic” – so “all the ingredients are there and it could become really good once it has shaken down”. On the debit side, it’s “ridiculously overpriced” (which it needs to be to cover the rent, a local record). Owned by the Ferragamo fashion family, it’s named after their Tuscan estate, whose produce and wine are on the menu.
13. Bocconcino Restaurant Italian restaurant in Mayfair 19 Berkeley St - W1
“The glitz, the glamour, the bling” – this Mayfair outpost of Mikhail Gokhner’s Moscow-based chain dishes up wood-fired pizza and Italian comfort food with mixed results: to critics it’s extravagant pricing is far too OTT, but there is also the odd fan who “wanted to dislike it but was charmed”.
14. Bancone Italian restaurant in Soho 10 Lower James Street - W1F
“A perfect pre-theatre choice that’s quick and classy” – these West End pasta-stops off Trafalgar Square and in Soho provide “excellent pasta, reasonable prices and a speedy turnaround”. “Buzzy rather than comfortable (many tables only have stools), really keen nearly all Italian staff provide the (fairly) limited menu” – “fab fresh pasta” with “modern Italian flavours” that’s “not complicated, but done with precision”, all “at an amazing price”.
15. Sartoria Italian restaurant in Mayfair 20 Savile Row - W1
This swish “old-fashioned Italian” with “very smooth and welcoming staff” has “real style” befitting its environs alongside the bespoke tailors of Savile Row (for which it is named). Owned by D&D London, the kitchen nowadays is run by distinguished Calabrian-born chef Francesco Mazzei. Prices have never been bargain basement here, but most reporters reckon the expense is “worth it for the excellent cooking using top-class ingredients” and the “divine selection of Italian wines”.
16. Mele e Pere Italian restaurant in Soho 46 Brewer Street - W1
“Simple Italian dishes”, with everything freshly made in the kitchen, are on the menu at this ten-year-old independent in Soho, whose standout culinary feature is the range of house-made vermouths in the bar. Praise is pretty muted, though – and “the room really lacks something despite good service”.
17. Bocca di Lupo Italian restaurant in Soho 12 Archer St - W1
“Wildly popular for its diverse offering of small plates of terrific and original Italian regional cuisine”: Jacob Kenedy’s “relentlessly busy” (“cramped and noisy”) West End venue is many reporters’ first choice for a favourite London Italian. Aided by a convenient situation, just a short stroll from Piccadilly Circus and “well-located for the theatres” – it’s become a regular feature in the list of Top-20 London restaurants in our annual diners’ poll. The selection of carefully researched and sourced Italian ‘tapas’ are “reliably original and sometimes surprising”; and matched with a “hugely varied” Italian wine list. The food rating slipped a tad this year, though, due to gripes of some dishes “lacking their customary perfection” or “leaning towards being overpriced”. “It’s a fairly small, intimate venue with counter seating at the front, where you can watch the chefs cook, as well as some more relaxed and comfortable tables at the back” (most regulars feeling it’s “best at the bar”). Top Tip – “superb negronis and stuffed olives and the risotto is always top notch”.
18. Polpo Italian restaurant in Soho 41 Beak St - W1
2021 Review: Now over ten years old, this Venetian/Mediterranean chain has suffered a drip-feed of branch closures, with only two now trading: Soho and Chelsea. And in August 2020 it parted ways with its co-founder Russell Norman. Fans do still applaud the duo’s “very convivial and fun” formula, but the groups woes have stemmed from Venetian small plates that are often “no better than fine”, and at worst “uncared for” or “very mediocre”. Perhaps it will now finally turn a corner?
19. Ristorante Frescobaldi Italian restaurant in Mayfair 15 New Burlington Place - W1
The “superb Italian food and great wine list” are everything you would expect from its ownership, the Florentine Frescobaldi dynasty, bankers to English monarchs as far back as Edward I, who have been producing wine on their Tuscan estates since 1308. Needless to say, the opulent venue is “very expensive”, but comes into its own in warm weather, with a “large outdoor terrace right in the heart of Mayfair that’s perfect for spring and summer”.
20. Dehesa Italian restaurant in Soho 25 Ganton Street - W1
“Delicious” Spanish and Italian tapas and “a great choice of wines by the glass” win plaudits for this “romantic candlelit restaurant”, “tucked away conveniently behind Liberty just off Carnaby Street”. However, since its fabulous debut 15 years ago, it is undeniably “less superb than it used to be”, but “that’s partly due to standing still while everyone else continues to press forwards”.
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