FOOD & DRINK
There’s only one thing that can ease a return from Italy, and that’s eating pasta. We’ve been doing exactly that for all of August and have unearthed some of London’s very best spots for it – not chi-chi, but proper neighbourhood restaurants that bring a bit of the holiday back on a plate.
Run by Italians, La Delizia has been a Chelsea institution since 1986. Tables are packed tightly together in a jolly way inside; if it’s sunny you can eat outside the pavement where they also have heaters. The menu is classic Italian with excellent pizzas. Perhaps surprisingly for this part of town it’s also great value – spaghetti with half a lobster and a generous amount of prawns plus a glass of wine comes in at under £25.
Named after the Tuscan region of the same name. Supplies are very carefully sourced – there are wines that have never been represented before in the UK as well as salumi and olive oil that is straight from the Maremma. This results in a short menu that is utterly delicious – we recommend the squid ink tagliatelle with clams and tomatoes, and the hazelnut gelato with caramel. With its crumbling terracotta plaster wall the feel here is infinitely welcoming with an open kitchen, beautiful flowers (grown around the corner by our co-founder Daisy Garnett) and friendly staff.
Part of the reason we can’t recreate the taste of things we’ve eaten on holiday are the ingredients: supermarket tomatoes just aren’t the same. The delicacies at Italo will bring you a lot closer. Start with a Campari spritz and an olive at the striped chairs outside to get you in the mood. Then go into the deli and buy everything you need to whip up a feast at home – prosciutto crudo and burrata for antipasti and pasta, seasonal veggies and jars of Seggiano pesto (the best!) to follow.
Artusi has struck a winning formula with its 3-courses for £25 on Sundays. The set menu includes 2 options – we chose the grilled nectarines with ricotta and rocket to start, followed by Italian sausage and broccoli Casarecce and a jewel-coloured grape sorbet to finish. The modern surroundings are more Peckham than Palermo, but the food and warm buzz are transportive. Pasta portions are generous.
Some friends of ours love this restaurant so much they named their baby after it – a story Italians would surely appreciate. The house speciality is pasta and gnocchi of which there’s plenty of choice from regions all over the country. Escape to Sardinia with the Sardinian “gnocchetti” Malloreddus pasta with Italian sausage, saffron, basil, tomato and Pecorino Sardo or head to the Marche region with tagliatelle with slow-cooked beef, pork and chicken ragoût. As well as the food, the fact that it is family run and occupies a corner position with bright windows and white linen curtains make it an irresistible neighbourhood haunt.