Italian food in the UK has passed from exotic to part of the furniture in the years since the first restaurants starting popping up in great numbers in the 70s and 80s. Our love affair with all thing Italiano has morphed into a grand passion, and it's one great love that has never died.

 Despite the ease with which anglicised versions of Italian cuisine have slipped into the weekly dinner rotations, there is always something that keeps drawing us back for more, more, more. For many of us, it’s the comfort that only carbs can bring, and Italian food sure has those in abundance. For some, it's those fresh, bountiful flavours of late summer – gloriously ripe tomatoes and peppery olive oil – simple flavours, but done exceptionally well. Wriggle is taking its magnifying glass to the Italian restaurants of Bristol, exploring the wide range of Italian cuisine on offer and zooming in on favourites which are worth every penne (sorrynotsorry). 

After pizza in particular? Check out Bristol's next-level pizzerias.

This pretty little family-run restaurant from the Griffins on Gloucester Road is kicking out big portions and even bigger flavours. Focussing on the sort of comfort you might expect if you were to suddenly adopt an Italian Nonna (a dreamy prospect, right?), the tables are groaning under bowls of pasta, seafood stews, fresh bread, cheese, pizzas and, of course, Italian doughnuts known as Bombolini. The restaurant is light and airy, the service is generous and warm, and you could be fooled into thinking you were being served in the Griffin's living room rather than the local, neighbourhood restaurant.

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This modern Cotham Hill favourite has flown up the ranks not only as the preferred pasta stop but as a much hallowed darling of the Bristol restaurant scene. The proof is always in the pudding, though, and thankfully this young upstart has got the goods to match its fearsome reputation. Fresh pasta daily, a set lunch menu at a steal and daring offerings that include fried chicken and pork belly with carbonara are served up with brazen abandon for the rules. You’ll be welcomed here as a friend and leave wanting to start a committed relationship. Be sure to check out the sister restaurant, Pasta Ripiena, for a city centre fix of heavenly tasting and hella skilful stuffed pasta.

Read more about Pasta Loco

If you want to spy on the Wriggle team, head to Renatos around 6pm on a Friday! Huddled next door to the infamous Old Vic, Renato’s is a bit of a National Treasure, but with less Nicholas Cage. The downstairs pub has historically been dedicated to watering Thespians far and wide whilst they’re on tour, and the walls are covered with posters from plays past and signed headshots of the stars that have passed through the pub’s doors over the years. Open til late, Renato’s will serve you up thin based pizzas to combat the munchies at a very reasonably price. All under £10, expect traditional favourites like Four Seasons, Ham and Mushroom, and Wriggle founder Rob's personal favourite, the Inferno – featuring thick cut salami with a good burn of chilli.

Read more about Renato's Taverna dell'Artista

Forget the roads and the aqueducts, this is what the Romans did for us: food. Gluten free pasta, exuberant service and reasonable prices. Al Bacio has long been a favourite of Italians and Bristolians alike. Pino, the owner, runs a friendly ship and he is always on hand for advice. The garlic pizza breads are enormous but very delicious to snack on whilst waiting to decide what mains to choose, they have a great selection of fish dishes and often specials like osso buco make an appearance. Plus you can pick up some Italian when you pop to the bathroom as language lessons are playing through the speakers, grazie mille!

Read more about Al Bacio

Offering beer absorbing carb munchies and flying the flag for all pizza lovers for quite a number of years, Pepenero offers up something a little different; namely vegan cheese. One of the first Italian joints in the city to cater to vegans, Pepenero have satisfied cheesy vegan cravings for years now. Pepenero’s pizzas are satisfyingly thin and crispy, with a clear focus on traditional toppings. Expect a good selection of cured meats if you are a carnivore and artichokes, olives and mushrooms if you’re veggie/vegan. Plus, they even offer a sharing 20 inch pizza that's perfect for tucking into during that long awaited catch up with friends.

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Looking for the cosy romantic type of Italian restaurant? Giuseppe’s is the oldest Italian restaurant in the city, serving old school Italian American vibes, just without bumping into Joe Pesci. Bask in the smart traditional setting and friendly family service and stay for the crisp pizzas with some modern twists. You’ll leave tortellini in love.(ok I’ll stop now)

Read more about Giuseppe's

Right at the top of Whiteladies you will find a tiny Italian deli. If you are not already familiar with Divino you should be – prepare to get to know! A little slice of Italy in Bristol, it’s a great place to grab some goodies to takeaway for a picnic on the downs, whether it be a feast of cured meats, olives and cheeses or a couple of their authentic Italian panini. There are also a few stools on which to perch for a nibble whilst browsing the shelves of Italian food store cupboard staples as well as luxury items. Don’t forget to try the espresso with a real Italian kick, this will lift any afternoon slump.

Read more about Divino Deli

Grab a pizza history at La Grotta. A family run Italian trattoria that has been feeding Bristol hearty Italian classics for over 30 years. Head down to the vaults where you will find a warm welcome and a big portion. Expect the standards, huge stone baked pizzas and hearty bowls of steaming spaghetti as well as pan fried meats and fish. You get a lot of bang for your buck at La Grotta, so don’t expect the food coma to be short.

Read more about La Grotta

To those in the know, Zanky's is THE place in Bristol to enjoy delicious mediterranean-inspired food. Their decadent pasta dishes with perfect, paper-thin homemade pasta and luxurious sauces crafted from indulgent ingredients such as duck, octopus and squid are the stuff of legend, whilst their traditional pizzas will transport you straight to the Sardinian sun in one mouthful.

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From Typical Roman dishes to fusion-type ravioli made with the finest local ingredients, the Spaghetti Incident's extensive menu gets away from your average Italian restaurant offering. Forget about the typical fungi pizza and say hello to delicious gnocchi, lavish Roman-style artichokes and tasty Cacio e Pepe pasta. Paired with an ice cold beer or a gorgeous bottle of wine, you are guaranteed a cosy and intimate night.

Read more about The Spaghetti Incident

Published -29th March 2018