Looking for the best pasta in London? Pasta is having a moment. From Padella in Borough Market to Emilia’s Crafted Pasta in St Katherine Docks and Burro e Salvia in Shoreditch, the last five years has seen a crop of new openings that specialise in freshly made plates of the stuff – carb loading has never been so cool. Here’s our pick of the best pasta restaurants in London…
Manteca is a suitably dark and moody restaurant in London’s beating Soho, where fresh, hand-cut pasta and nose-to-tail sauces are the order of the day.
Tender orange-scented olives of every colour and size are fine fodder for browsing the short menu, while warm and bouncy, rosemary-flecked focaccia, damp with oil and salt crystals, staves off hunger before the main event. There’s house-made mortadella, which we’ll be returning for, but are tempted in the direction of the fresh pasta.
Rich and silky brown crab cacio e pepe clings onto tonnarelli – spaghetti’s squarer, rougher cousin – while fat, slippery ribbons of pappardelle hold the softest, well-seasoned ox cheek ragu and fresh, grassy parsley. The must-order, though, should you be lucky enough to still catch the season, is mushroom ravioli in a buttery sauce with crisp sage and shavings of marbled black truffle – they’re creamy, earthy, forest-floor-fantastic.
Officina 00, Old Street
Officina 00 is a cool pasta spot bringing a warm taste of the Med to Old Street roundabout, in East London. Italian classics from each region are given a modern twist, be it crumbled tarallo (a southern Italian savoury breadstick) atop burrata or cacio e pepe-filled deep-fried ravioli. All dishes are designed for sharing, and between two it’s best to order a couple of snacks, a small plate and two bowls of pasta (leaving room for tiramisu). Start with gooey aubergine croquettes, spiked with ‘nduja and topped with a sheet of ricotta salata, a final drizzle of honey giving a floral sweetness.
Pasta comes al dente (although some might find it a little on the thick side), so if you like things lighter order gnocchi. Gooey dollops of melted gorgonzola cling onto pillows of soft pumpkin, all soaking up a nutty sage brown butter. It’s a comforting cuddle in a bowl. Corzetti (a thinly rolled, round pasta shape, stamped with a decorative design) traditional of north-west Italy is topped with an umami kick of bouncy wild mushrooms and crumbled fennel sausage.
Padella, Borough Market
Tim Siadatan and Jordan Frieda, the duo behind Trullo in Highbury, opened their second restaurant, Padella, in Borough Market in March 2016. Padella’s menu is made up of eight pasta dishes taken from Trullo’s ‘greatest hits’, using fresh pasta rolled in the window of the restaurant just before service.
A small, no-bookings restaurant where queues are a given, Padella was born of a desire to make fresh handmade pasta accessible to everybody, with prices ranging from £5.50 to £11.50. The open kitchen combines traditional Italian techniques and quality British produce to make dishes like pappardelle and eight-hour beef shin ragu, tagliarini with brown shrimps, green and yellow courgette, and its now famous pici cacio e pepe (find the recipe at olivemagazine.com).
Jordan says: “We wanted to create a restaurant that was true to the principles we admired in the great British restaurants – rigorous seasonality with a focus on using British producers wherever possible. We make everything in-house – rolling pasta, baking our bread, churning our ice cream – every day, and do it at a price that isn’t exclusive.”
Bancone, Covent Garden
The tagline for Covent Garden’s Italian restaurant, just minutes from Trafalgar Square, might be “pasta, prosecco, espresso” – but it’s those first little mouthfuls of arancini from the antipasti that you’ll be raving about, come home time.
Fresh pasta, which is made and rolled upstairs, is flash-boiled before being tossed with any of the 10 sauces on offer. Chitarra – guitar-string like spaghetti – is slicked with cacio e pepe and topped with a crisp, peppered cheese wafer.
Oxtail ragu (best ever ragu recipes here), slow cooked for 10 hours until sticky and sweet, clings to bouncy folds of pappardelle. Simple, quality ingredients – the bedrock of good Italian cookery – are shown proper respect.
Lina Stores, Soho
Lina Stores is a much-anticipated pasta, antipasti and aperitivi bar from Soho institution Lina Stores, an Italian deli that’s been the go-to for authentic produce since opening in 1944.
The white and mint striped awning makes the new restaurant easily identifiable to regulars at Lina Stores’ original green-tiled corner shop a few streets away.
Head chef Masha Rener has kept the menu simple and seemingly authentic, with every ingredient hailing directly from Italy – from bright and buttery Cerignola olives right down to the sugar used in exemplary Italian desserts and cakes.
Fresh pasta, handmade an hour before service, is given pride of place at Lina Stores, served as the main event rather than traditional pre-main primi. Bright yellow strands of pappardelle soak up light, gamey rabbit ragu, perfectly formed gnocchi is brightened up with popping peas, and a vibrant mint and courgette mixture is stuffed into little tortellini parcels. Pici alla norcina is the highlight, though – springy worms of pasta in a creamy, nutty sauce of porcini mushroom and Norcia sausage (often celebrated as the best in Italy).
Older sister to Borough Market’s Padella, Trullo serves perfect pasta, antipasti and larger charcoal grill dishes in a romantic yet relaxed environment. Upstairs, wooden tables – simply laid with white paper tablecloths and flickering tea lights – are huddled together, while downstairs, dark booths are perfect for a longer, laid-back dinner.
The menu changes twice daily, depending on seasonal produce, but if there’s two of you we’d recommend a couple of antipasti, a couple of plates of pasta and one larger oven dish. Baskets of bread are served alongside a pot of olive oil, and you can keep asking for more but it’s better to save yourself for the pasta. Rich beef shin ragu coats slippery ribbons of pappardelle, while sweet squash ravioli gets a richness from the olive oil. If it’s on the menu, order Padella’s iconic pici cacio e pepe for a cheesy hit. Meat and fish are simply cooked over coals, served with the likes of soft polenta and salsa verde or baby beetroot.
Sager + Wilde, Bethnal Green
Whether you’re lounging round one of the picnic benches on the terrace outside or perching on a dark wooden chair in the converted railway arch, the vibe at Sager + Wilde Paradise Row is laid back and friendly. Dark wood paneling has soaked up the smoky scent of the evening’s meat-heavy menu to create an inviting dining room that’s made more homely with little figurines and candlesticks.
Stop by at lunchtime or before 7pm own the evening for the bargain pasta deal. £10 gets ou a glass of house wine or dinky negroni along with a bowl of freshly made pasta – frilly reginette with punchy beef ‘nduja and mascarpone, or twisted strozzapreti with creamy blue cheese, pumpkin and pine nuts. Carbonara is indulgent and creamy without being too rich to start the day. Order a thin, buttery potato rosti on the side.
Emilia’s, St Katherines Dock
“Many people have said the view from our restaurant resembles the coast of southern Italy,” says Andrew Macleod, owner of Emilia’s in St Katharine Docks. After developing the concept, Andrew joined forces with pasta chef Simone Stagnitto to create the menus for this rustic pasta bar.
Chef Stevie Parle’s casual venture brings handmade pasta and affordable wines to Soho.
From the pasta section, malloreddus (tiny, ridged Sardinian gnocchi) come dressed with a slow-cooked sausage sauce that’s elegantly light and flavourful, while agnoli stuffed with grouse, pork and rabbit in a seriously moreish sage-butter sauce is a deceptively simple dish that makes good use of prime autumn produce.
Burro e Salvia, Shoreditch
Pop in to Burro e Salvia to watch staff hand rolling pasta of all shapes and sizes and buy to take away or continue through to the back to sit in the bright, contemporary café. The short menu includes pappardelle with slow-cooked duck ragu, orecchiette (little ears) with broccoli and anchovies, and hand rolled pics with pumpkin, sausage and pecorino.
If you’ve enjoyed a meal at Burro e Salvia, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in learning how to make your own pasta from scratch the next time you visit by signing up for one of the company’s three types of fresh pasta workshops.
From lasagna sheets to tagliatelle, or tagliolini made from fresh egg and flour pasta, go for one of the basic pasta-making classes. For a more advanced session, try a filled pasta workshop and learn to work with different shapes and fillings for tortelli and cardinali. Or opt for the semolina pasta workshop and work with water-based dough and pasta shapes including ‘ear-shaped’ orecchiette.
Bocca di Lupo, Soho
Bocca di Lupo showcases regional Italian cooking in tapas-sized portions. Jacob and Victor travelled extensively around Italy to research the restaurant’s menu and wine lists. There’s a dedicated pasta section featuring the likes of pappardelle with wild boar ragu, spaghetti with squid cooked in it’s ink to turn black, and “pinched” little parcels of agnolotti del plin filled with veal and pork.
Want to create homemade pasta from London’s best pasta restaurants? Try these recipes…
Three of the most comforting words you’ll read: pasta, butter, cheese. This classic Tuscan recipe for pici cacio e pepe comes from Borough Market’s Padella.
Check out chef Louis Korovilas’s melt-in-the-mouth pappardelle with indulgent lamb ragu. This easy yet impressive recipe comes from Italian restaurant Bancone in Covent Garden.
This recipe for cauliflower and fontina cannelloni comes from the chefs at Cantino Corvino, London. It’s a delicious, comforting pasta dish.