The ten best places to eat Italian

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Sardo, London W1

Sardo, London W1

The success of this restaurant has prompted others in London to adopt fregola, malloreddus and bottarga as staples, but owner Romolu Mudu remains a step ahead thanks to regular trips back to his Sardinian homeland sourcing new ingredients and wines. Although Sardo produces excellent versions of simple favourites such as chargrilled vegetables, and tuna with rocket and tomatoes, you're best choosing from the list of daily specials on the blackboard and the traditional Sardinian dishes.

Where:45 Grafton Way, London W1. Tel: 020 7387 2521. www.sardo-restaurant.com

Also Sardo Canale, 42 Gloucester Ave, London NW1. Tel: 020 7722 2800. www.sardocanale.com

Locanda Locatelli, London W1

Giorgio Locatelli can take a bit of steamed hake, some parsley and a dash of vinegar and make everyone else at your table deeply envious they didn't order it too. Not everything on the menu here is so simple (least of all the desserts) but standards ensure his reputation as the best Italian chef in Britain remains unchallenged. There are occasional lapses in service, including long waits between courses, but the glamorous setting makes people-watching a pleasant part of the experience.

Where: 8 Seymour Street, London W1. Tel: 020 7935 9088. www.locandalocatelli.com

Giardinetto, London W1

The humble kitsch of this basement restaurant may be disconcerting for those expecting all London's best Italian restaurants to feature interiors as slick as a Gucci ensemble, but the warm welcome and quickly proffered glass of bubbly will soon make everything rosy and cosy. Authentic Genoese dishes are the focus here, so expect the purest pesto and wonderful salsa di noci. Have fun cooking your own main course on the hot stones seasoned with olive oil and brought to the table with a selection of dipping sauces.

Where: 69 Charlotte Street, London W1. Tel: 020 7637 4907.

Olivo, London SW1

There are few clues to the Sardinian roots of this bright and bustling restaurant on its menu, but they are there, including a blissfully buttery spaghetti alla bottarga, and a richly vinous and juicy chicken casserole. Starters are deliciously light and vegetabley. The kitchen produces fantastic risottos too, including an intense artichoke version with vivid dark green sauce cloaking the grains. Olivo's wine list is delightfully short, though not restricted to Sardinia, and the service is usually good if unceremonious.

Where: 21 Eccleston Street, London SW1. Tel: 020 7730 2505.

Also Olivetto, 49 Elizabeth Street, SW1. Tel 020 7730 0074.

Palmiro, Manchester

Palmiro has been through some rough patches in recent years but is now back on form with a new chef. Owner Stefano Bagnoli handles front of house and his strong commitment to fine ingredients is demonstrated by his involvement with the local branch of Slow Food. Palmiro's minimalist interior (a "bank statement" as much as a design ethic) may seem austere, but the patrons and their parties are anything but - Saturday nights can be positively bacchanalian.

Where: 197 Upper Chorlton Road, Manchester. Tel: 0161 8607330.

Ramsons, Lancashire

Chris Johnson's single-minded pursuit of culinary perfection saw him awarded the UK's Best Delicatessen accolade for the Ramsbottom Victualler's. In time that delicious little store evolved into Ramsons bistro, an authentic slice of Spello in Lancashire. Expect high-calibre seasonal ingredients prepared in an uncompromisingly Italian manner, and some of the best darn espresso in Britain - Chris is as passionate about the intricacies of beans, grind and crema as he is about prosciutto and parmigiano.

Where: 18 Market Place, Ramsbottom. Tel: 01706 825 070.

Firenze, Leicestershire

Firenze's want-everything menu ranges from simple sweet pepper and tomato soup and calves' liver with sage butter through to roast rack of lamb with sweetbreads, peas and pancetta, and deep-fried vanilla cream with red berry compote. All is presented with a style and sophistication more typical of Florence than Kibworth Beauchamp - as it should be. Locals lacking a reliable source of fine Italian groceries such as Cipriani pasta and Vialone Nano rice can order from the restaurant too.

Where: 9 Station Street, Kibworth Beauchamp. Tel: 0116 279 6269. www.firenze.co.uk

Brio, Leeds

Classic pasta sauces such as carbonara and pomodoro e basilico sit alongside new creations including spring rolls of confit duck and bean sprouts at this lively, colourful bistro founded by Gianni Bernardi. Meat lovers should try the lamb cutlets with warm rosemary-flavoured aubergine caviar and lamb gravy. Children and vegetarians are made to feel welcome, and there's a good choice of wines under £20. March saw the opening of a Brio Pizza outlet in St Anne's Gardens, Leeds, which offers alfresco dining.

Where: 40 Great George Street, Leeds. Tel: 0113 246 5225. www.brios.co.uk

Also at 44 Commercial Street, Harrogate. Tel: 01423 529 933.

Nonna's, Sheffield

Even if your grandmother were Tuscan, she'd be unlikely to match the modern Italian dishes produced at Nonna's. There are basics, including pappa al pomodoro (tomato and bread soup) and penne with pork ragu, but the kitchen can't seem to resist having fun with flavours. Dishes such as seared scallops with slow-cooked pork, fennel purée and tarragon sauce, and bass fillet on a crab, chilli and lime risotto, drizzled with crab and vanilla oil, exemplify the style. For lighter meals, choose the antipasto or coffee bars.

Where: 537-541 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. Tel: 0114 268 6166. www.nonnas.co.uk

Santini, Edinburgh

With its delicatessens and ice cream parlours, Scotland had no trouble serving good Italian food in an informal setting - but what if you wanted your pasta a bit posh? Buona sera, then, to Santini and its sexy little sister Santini Bis. Owner Gino Santin has installed his genuinely Milanese concept in the heart of Edinburgh's financial district, where its elegance and sophistication are appreciated. When time is short, try the piatti unici, one-dish meals with a glass of house wine included.

Where: 8 Conference Square, Sheraton Hotel, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 221 7788.

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