On a recent trip, we set out to discover good Italian food in London.
We had enjoyed dining at the River Café and Bocca di Lupo in the past and wanted to try other options.
We wound up eating a couple of times in what turned out to be English versions of Olive Garden, chain restaurants that like Olive Garden satisfy one’s hunger but with food that is generally bland and unmemorable.
Happily, we ate very well indeed in three restaurants, which we are delighted to recommend.
Orsini Ristoranti, at 8A Thurloe Place, near the Victoria and Albert Museum, is a small, family-run establishment that provided us a delicious butternut squash tart, a classic lasagna with house-made noodles and a rich ragu, a beautifully-done seafood risotto, and a delicious tuna with a sauce of roasted peppers and green beans on the side.
Cosmoba, at 9 Cosmo Place, near Russell Square, started us off with a Sicilian frittata that combined spaghetti, egg, onion, and parmesan cheese and a delicious serving of beautiful sardines cooked in white wine, onions, and balsamic vinegar. We moved on to rigatoni with a sauce of tomato, eggplant, garlic, and basil and sea bream fillets cooked in white wine, herbs, and pine nuts.
Both these places served us well, but the real treat of the trip was Luce e Limone, at 91-93 Gray’s Inn Road, a restaurant featuring Sicilian cuisine and an extensive wine list, including many wines from Sicily with which we were not familiar.
We started off with a richly baked mackerel antipasti, with capers, ricotta, and sautéed seaweed, together with a delightfully spicy Sicilian broad bean and squid soup. We moved on to a dish of pumpkin gnocchi with pistachio sauce and spring onion and a serving of bucatini with sardines, sun dried tomato, capers, and raisins. Finally, we shared a baked loin of swordfish with a sauce of herbs and pecorino cheese.
We rounded out the evening with a serving of pistachio custard with Sicilian melon jelly.
Our meal was accompanied by wines with which we were unfamiliar but turned out to be perfect companions to our food – an initial glass of a zibibbo and then a bottle of Rami Bianco Insolia-Grecanico, a white wine with a deep and rich flavor that set off our pasta and fish nicely.
To top things off, the service was splendid, the wine steward knowledgeable.
In fact, she said she recommended the Rami Bianco so confidently that if we didn’t like it she would pay for it herself and finish the bottle after work. Needless to say, after one sip we told her we were sorry but she would have to buy her own bottle.
We would recommend any of these three for dining in London, but Luce e Limone was a revelation, and our first culinary destination the next time we are in London.