Top 5 budget Italian restaurants in London…according to an Italian

It is no secret that Italians lament the loss of the “mangiare di mamma”, the home-cooked dishes of our mothers which we left behind in exchange for a life in London. One can’t complain too much. On the hunt for some cheap eats London offered a multitude of spicy hot Indian, pan-Asian, Vietnamese or Thai restaurants.

Sooner or later  however, I find myself unable to combat my stomach’s national abstinence. I have had my fair share of London pizzerias dishing up pineapple topped Hawaiians, chicken pieces and other such head-in-the-hands’ endurances.

So, over the past few years I have built up a worthy address book of affordable and authentic Italian restaurants in London. And yes, I am going to share them with you. Any more to add? Please do so at the end…

1. Sfizio

An Italian-style cafe that lives up to it’s name, Sfizio (meaning, ‘fun’) is a great lunch spot where an Italian can feel right at home amongst the piadine al crudo e rucola, the pasta del giorno, doughy-based Italian pizzas and lasagne. Working at HostelBookers’ offices, just around the corner, I have sniffed out the best-value Italian restaurant in the London Holborn area and Sfizio is it. Aside from the main dishes they have a colourful display of “sfizioserie” and tasty-looking pastries from the bakery which rival some of the treats I used to sample in Italy – the Sicilian cannoli with ricotta are out of this world! Sfizio also has a great wind-down-after-work vibe. Between 5-7pm everyday you can sample a classic aperitif of Campari, a bottle of Peroni and snack on free “stuzzicchini” (finger food). Perfect to end a busy day of sightseeing or to begin a night out.
Where: 35-37 Theobalds Road, Holborn
Damage: Pizza and pasta £6-£10

2. Pappagone

Every time I visit this place, I feel like I am transported to my favourite pizzeria in bella Italia! You are greeted by a waiter who doesn’t even pretend to speak English but somehow, you understand his friendly and larger than life Italian. In the background, a looming oven wafts smells of good things soon to come and a couple of pizzas are casually tossed into the air like frisbees. The house speciality is everything a pizza should be; big, crispy and tricolore. Tempting as they may seem, go easy on the appetisers. Otherwise – as a Pappagone expert myself – I doubt you will make a dent in the pizza! I have, on occasion, added the finishing touches to my meal at Pappagone with some jelly and ice cream but I suggest you split dessert.
Where: 131 Stroud Green Road, Finsbury Park
Damage: Pizzas £6-£10

3. Franco Manca

Here, there is no room for compromise especially on quality. Franco Manca has set his heart on offering the best pizza in London and as the English say ‘by jove I think he’s done it!’ Your classic Neopolitan sourdough base is topped with ingredients which are refreshingly limited to seasonality. They can tell you exactly where your meat, cheese and tomatoes came from and will be more than happy to relate the happy upbringing of any of their produce. They fully back organic produce and once you sink your teeth into the “pummarola” mozzarella, you will understand why. Don’t be discouraged by the queue. Not only does it resemble a stamp of approval, the line moves quickly and shifts within 10-15 minutes. Definitely one of the best pizzerias in London.
Where: Unit 4, Market Row, Brixton or 144 Chiswick High Road, Chiswick
Damage: Pizza £5-£7

4. Casa Sibilla

Another Brixton market gem I stumbled upon – probably when I stumbled out of Franco Manca – is Casa Sibilla. It’s a high class grill and head chef Paola Sibilla graduated from ALMA, one of the most prestigious culinary schools in Italy. A meal here will take your taste buds to seventh heaven with bruschetta and buffalo-baked vegetables, wine braised beef with polenta and hazelnut and all rounded off nicely with a selection of fine cheeses and grape jam. Hungry?

Where: 67-68 Granville Arcade, Brixton Village
Damage: Main courses from £7.50

5. Santoré

An absolute favourite in my pizzeria selection is Santoré. This place is the sister restaurant of Spaccanapoli (101 Dean Street) and your crowded central option. To put an end to your precious pining for you motherland, try their house speciality a ‘pizza by the metre’. Although, it is probably best to take along a few other suffering friends and share the legendary ‘metro’ between you all. I was so keen to put some serious research in to this article I have returned to Santoré time and time again to come to the conclusion that: the pizza must be eaten fresh from the oven. Left to long and the texture becomes somewhat rubbery. There is also fish, meat and pasta on the menu and skipping on appetizers might make you feel slightly ashamed of yourself, so, enjoy!
Where: 59-61 Exmouth Market, Farringdon
Damage: Pizzas £8-£10 and main dishes £12-£14

Buon appetito!…Oops I mean, enjoy your meal!

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Thanks to silverfox09avlxyz,dewet and bnilsen for the images off Flickr! Please note, all images were suitable for use at the time of publication according to the Creative Commons License.

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