Over the years Italian food has become an integral part of life in the UK with most people familiar with the taste of spaghetti bolognaise. However if you're looking for a wider range of Italian cuisine in the UK then head to an Italian restaurant.
Italian restaurants have existed in the UK for most of the 20th century serving giving Italians and non-Italians alike the tastes of the authentic Italian cuisine. One of the first Italian restaurants in the UK was Ristorante Italiano, which opened in London in 1936, and since then the number of Italian restaurants has grown significantly and the UK now boasts well over 4,000 Italian restaurants spread across the UK.
For more about eating out at an UK Italian restaurant check out the features below.
Italian Restaurants - Flavours to Savour
The hallmark of Italian food is the fresh ingredients and the top UK Italian restaurants will change their menus according to what's in season. Whatever the time of year however expect to see menus that feature pasta, pizza, vegetables, olive oil and Italian cheese.
One thing to bear in mind with Italian cuisine is that its diversity of flavours comes from the regional variations. The Italy we know today only formed in 1860 and before then the country was divided, which is why the food still retains a strong regional character. For example the Tuscany region is known for its bean dishes like fagioli fiasco and minestra di faglioli, dishes from the Vento region tend to be fish/seafood based like black spaghetti made with squid ink which is a local speciality, while the Lazio region has a strong tradition of peasant dishes using offal.
However in UK Italian restaurants most menus will feature dishes from across the country giving you the opportunity to get a flavour for the country as a whole.
Italian Restaurants - First Visit Food
If you've never been to an Italian restaurant then you should be in for a treat. Although Italian meals can have as many as seven courses, a three-course meal is more the norm and for your first visit you should try and experience a variety of Italian flavours.
The first course, known as antipasto, is usually a colourful dish, so why not try an Italian salad or Zuppa Toscana, an Italian Tuscan sausage soup to start with. Then, for your main course try one of the pasta dishes that should be bursting with fresh flavours. And finally, for dessert, you should try something typically Italian like Tiramisu, sometimes called the ‘Tuscan Trifle' which was said to be a favourite with Venetian courtiers.
Get a Feel For Italian Cuisine
Most Italian restaurants in the UK like to offer authentic cuisine in an environment that compliments the food, so expect to dine in a relaxed, rustic-style atmosphere that evokes a traditional Italian setting. Of course the further up the gourmet scale you go the less rustic charm you can expect to encounter with the high end Italian restaurants opting for just a few traditional touches in a mostly modern environment.
Find Italian Food in the UK
With over 4,000 Italian restaurants in the UK you should be able to find an Italian restaurant near you and you can use our restaurant search to find details. However if you're a little wary of trying a completely new restaurant then you could find you local branch of the Est Est Est restaurant chain which serves Italian food or you could try:
Sardo, London - This Italian restaurant should not disappoint whether you are new to Italian food or not. The menu features Sardinian cuisine with plenty of fish and seafood options.
Cecconi's, London - An Italian restaurant that offers the full package, style, quality and the kind of food that keeps you coming back.
Pizza House, Portsmouth - This award-winning Italian restaurant attracts locals and celebrities to enjoy Italian cuisine.
Stock in Manchester - Offering great Italian food and a top class wine list, this Manchester Italian restaurant is posh but not pretentious.
Things to look out for at Italian restaurants in the UK
When dining out in an Italian restaurant look for somewhere that can offer you the complete Italian experience which not only includes the food but the drink as well. If you enjoy drinking wine then you'll know that Italy produces several excellent wines, so why not make sure you choose a suitable Italian vintage to accompany your meal. Alternatively if you're willing to be a little more adventurous with your drinks you could opt for thirst quenching Acetello, a drink that dates back to Roman times, or a drop of the Brandy-like drink Grappa. After dinner you can indulge in an authentic Italian coffee, something that tastes more like coffee from Venice than from your local Starbucks.
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