The Italian community has a long history in Soho – the Italian Hotel and Restaurant Employees Benefit Society was set up there in 1886. These days, there are still plenty of Italian restaurants and cafés in the area. Whether you want a leisurely dinner or quick bite and an espresso, here’s our guide to some of the best Italian restaurants in Soho.
Lina Stores has been in Soho since the 1940s. The original deli opened in 1944 and is still selling handmade pasta, fresh sauces and other deli treats from its Brewer Street Store. But for a plate of its much-loved pasta, head over to its Greek Street restaurant. Step through the signature mint green door for pasta and anti-pasti. It’s a pasta bar, so it’s great for a quick bite or a bit of pre theatre dinner or solo dinner. If you’re happy to sit at the counter, then you’ll be well rewarded with dishes like linguine al granchio (crab linguine) Ravioli Primavera (pea and ricotta ravioli). Portions aren’t that big, but reasonably priced from £7-11 and the anti-pasti menu is decent too.
Describing itself as a ‘laid back Italian restaurant’, Vapiano is a small chain of casual dining restaurants with open kitchens. You can order fresh pasta, pizza or risotto and watch it being made while you wait. It’s one for a quick-dinner or an easy crowd pleaser with classic pasta dishes including Bolognese, Carbonara, and Al’Arrabiata (spicy tomato pasta) and pizzas including Diavolo and Margherita. Prices are comparable with other chains like Franco Manco, and you don’t need to book, so it’s a great option for a budget group dinner or a family meal.
An old Soho institution as well as a long-established Italian bar and café. It’s been going since 1949 and still has an old Gaggia espresso machine and formica tables. This is a place that thrives on atmosphere and people watching. Come for the camaraderie as much as the coffee or cannoli. As one of London’s late-night cafés Bar Italia is somewhere to end up after dinner or the pub rather than a place to go for dinner, but it’s always lively, especially when there’s Italian football on.
One of the newer kids on the block, Pastaio has a similar vibe, menu and no reservations policy to Borough Market favourite Padella and the hip, terrazzo-heavy interiors of Noci in Islington. Located on Ganton Street, Pastaio is a great place for a mid-week dinner, created by British chef Stevie Parle who is on a mission to serve up great value, seasonal pasta made with sustainably sourced ingredients.
Tables turn around pretty fast, but if you’re pushed for time or just want to grab a decent plate of pasta, then you’ll be well rewarded. Unlike most of the Italian restaurants in the area, Pastaio has a dedicated veggie and vegan menu and serves up gluten free options for most dishes. The pasta menu includes slow-cooked sausage ragu, clam linguine and vegan meatballs with slow-cooked san marzano tomatoes and dishes priced between £9-16. There is also a decent selection of Italian wines starting from £5 by the glass as well as Aperol Spritz, Negronis and Campari & soda.
Forty Dean Street
Another London restaurant helpfully named after its address — Forty Dean Street is a family-run restaurant that has been serving up Italian food to Soho punters for almost 20 years. If you’re craving comfort food and cosy (if a little outdated) surroundings, then this Greek street spot has hearty offerings. The Menu includes generous portions of pasta made fresh on the premises that morning with dishes ranging from about £17-23 including classes like penne arrabiata, beef ragu, and lobster spaghetti. It also serves up risotto, gnocchi, pizza plus meat and fish mains like chicken milanese. There are a few veggie options, but one downside is a lack of vegan options. However, if you’re an omnivore, there’s plenty to enjoy.
Bocco Di Lupo
Large, classic Italian restaurant Bocca Di Lupo is great for a leisurely meal in the main dining room or a quick bite at the bar. The main menu includes regional dishes such as prawn risotto from Liguria, ricotta, butter and sage ravioli from Emilia, and grilled mackerel from Calabria. It’s also got a sibling Gelato store, Gelupo, so pop in for a scoop or two on a sunny day.