What: The capital’s love for pasta shows no sign of abating as another independent and authentic Italian opening, Bancone, launches in Covent Garden this month.
Who: The restaurant is being launched hospitality veterans William Ellner and David Ramsey. The former has run popular Crystal Palace restaurant Joanna’s since 2003, while the latter is the chairman and founder of Soul Food Enterprises, the Bea Vo-led group that operates Stax Diner; Butterscotch; and Boondocks. Heading up the kitchen is Louis Korovilas, who cut his teeth in the kitchens of Michelin-starred Pied a Terre and Locanda Locatelli.
The vibe: Occupying a compact two-storey space between Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden, Bancone features an open kitchen with counter seating where guests can watch fresh pasta being made. Interiors are modern, with glass display cabinets and living walls of greenery adding some character to what might otherwise be a rather industrial space. Should you want to Instagram, you would do well to choose a table nearer the window as the back of the restaurant is slightly darker, and bereft of phone signal.
The food: Despite his Michelin-starred training, Korovilas’ classic, crowd-pleasing menu looks deceptive simple at a glance. Antipasti includes a bowl arancini, one each of n’duja, mushroom and dolcelatte cheese; burrata with fagiolini beans and hazelnuts; honeyed garlic focaccia with olive oil; and fried polenta with Portobello mushroom and lardo. Main dishes comprise a list of pastas including favourites such as cacio e pepe with spaghetti; 10 hour-cooked oxtail ragu with pappardelle; and potato gnocchi with sage butter. Less common dishes include cuttlefish tagliatelle with chilli and garlic; and braised Gressingham duck ravioli del plin with duck broth. A short dessert menu offers light dishes including an Amalfi lemon syllabub with lemon granita; and burnt apricot with yoghurt and honeycomb.
The drinks: Wines are exclusively Italian, with many available by the glass as well as by the bottle. A short cocktail list includes a bellini; an Aperol spritz; and a negroni, and of the three beers available just one (the Birra Moretti) is Italian, the other two having been sourced from London breweries.
And another thing: ‘Bancone’ means ‘counter’ in Italian, which is undoubtedly in reference to the restaurant’s layout and its long bar and counter dining space. As at Borough’s pasta restaurant Padella, half of the fun of the dish, when made authentically, is watching the chefs make it.