What: Soho’s veteran Italian deli, famous for the homemade pasta it has been selling for 75 years, has open a restaurant a few streets away
Who: Head chef Masha Rener was raised on an organic farm on the border of Tuscany and Umbria, where she took over the restaurant side of the operation from her mother, employing her respect for sourcing and produce. Rener ran the restaurant until last year, when she sold it to become part of the Lina Stores operation, having become friendly with its owners thanks to her visiting the deli on a regular basis. The chef has travelled back and forth between Umbria and London since discovering Lina Stores 20 years ago, sharing recipes and ingredients.
The vibe: The restaurant is a two-storey operation, painted in the same iconic mint green and white stripes as the original food shop and deli. Guests have the option of bar seating, an outside table for (at the most) three, and tables in the basement. The restaurant boasts an open kitchen, where guests can watch the fresh pasta being made- and given the site’s location in the heart of Soho, it should come as no surprise that there is a constant queue from lunch through to dinner.
The food: A list of antipasti includes fresh bread with Alma Mater olive oil from the sister deli, to be eaten with either prosciutto di Parma DOP, freshly sliced at the bar, or buffalo ricotta with Calabrian nduja. Aubergine polpette with San Marzano tomato is a classic vegetarian option, alongside a selection of salads, olives and cheese that highlight the importance of the quality of ingredients in Italy’s simple cuisine. Pasta is undoubtedly the star of the menu with dishes including pici with porcini mushrooms; ricotta and herb gnudi with sage and brown butter; gnocchi with new season peas and salted ricotta; and pappardelle with rabbit rage, rosemary and Taggiasca olives all showcase the Italian pairings of pasta shapes with varying sauce consistencies, and plates are small enough that several varieties can be shared between two. Italian desserts comprise Amarena cherry tart; ricotta and pistachio cannoli; and lemon sorbet and limoncello.
The drinks: A concise drinks list employs Italian spirits and liqueurs in creative cocktails including a blood orange bellini with Fernet Branca; and an Italiscus Sour made with Italiscus liqueur, nettle syrup and Maley gin.
And another thing: Pasta is not new to London, but it is certainly having its time in the spotlight, with a spate of new pasta-focused openings having appeared in the capital this year. Newbies Stevie Parle’s Pastao, Lina Stores, and Fat Tony’s take the traditional Italian approach, but upcoming Kyseri will provide a Turkish take on the dish, which will be less familiar to the UK’s dining out scene.