61 Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London N16 0AR
Opened in the mid 1990s by Sardinian sweethearts Luigi and Michaela, Il Bacio is a firm fixture on Stoke Newington’s restaurant-packed Church Street. Upbeat and relaxed, with cheery modern art lining the walls, fresh flowers on the tables and a constant clatter of laughter and kitchen bustle, it’s the kind of noisy, family-friendly neighbourhood restaurant you find all over Italy – but rarely in the UK. The menu has lots of choice, with good, hearty Italian standards, including calves’ liver, fresh fish and veal, and all the classic pasta dishes done well. The Sardinian specialities are great – garlicky spaghetti vongole botarga, for example, with pink mullet, roe and clams, or the gnocchi with salami, tomato, chilli, rosemary and Pecorino cheese. But it’s the pizzas that really draw in the crowds – paper-thin and crackling-crisp, they’re cooked in a wood-burning oven and are deliciously fresh. From the simple Margherita, tangy with garlic, to the Luca, laden with buffalo mozzarella, chorizo, salami, jalapeño peppers and egg, they’re flavoursome, light and deliciously moreish. And they’re huge, too: parents might want to consider the three-course ‘menu bambino’ for their little ones, which offers smaller pizzas, plus a simple starter and dessert. Talking of desserts, you could do worse than plump for a boozy tiramisu before rounding everything off with a quick shot or two of limoncello – Il Bacio is the kind of joint that encourages you to settle back, relax and simply enjoy a night of convivial, Mediterranean-style fun.