After a (dreadful) carb-hating, clean-eating few years in the food world, 2016 saw a shift. Pasta was back, and better than ever. With a new wave of Italian restaurants specializing in real, regional Italian food, authentic pasta bars, and proper pizza joints – Italian food got interesting again.
And it was with this in mind that the team behind Emilia’s Crafted Pasta opened in St Katharine Docks, in East London, at the tail end of last year. A small space, seating only 35 covers, it specializes in hand-made pasta. Dough is kneaded by hand daily on its pretty marble counter tops, above floor tiles sourced from rural Italy, for morning commuters to watch. It’s then shaped through bronze dies to create those rough edges that make it easier for delicious sauces to cling to.
Genoese head chef Simone Stagnitto has created a short, simple menu that you’ll want to work your way through. Antipasti of mixed marinated olives, bresaola and burrata are all great quality – the latter so delicate that a cough across the table could make it collapse into its deliciously creamy mess, willing itself to be spread on the toasted ciabatta it’s served with.
There are seven pasta dishes to choose from – each a fine example of its kind. Four-hour, slow-cooked bolognese, enriched with béchamel, and dusted with a cloud of nutty and sharp grated parmesan is inspired by the region of Imola, on the Santerno River, west of Bologna. Big folds of silky pappardelle are generously coated in the rich, meaty sauce.
Casarecce – short, twisted little open tubes (a clever nook to catch sauce) – is served with either traditional basil pesto or a creamy walnut and chestnut mushroom sauce. We chose the nutty number, originally from Liguria, a simple but grown-up combination, well seasoned and textured.
Fish comes in the form of a Sicilian-inspired flaked yellowfin tuna fillet with tomato sauce, parsley and chilli but the ravioli filled with organic lamb, parsley and parmesan in the most simple of all the sauces – butter, a slick of cooking water, more cheese and meaty sage – was seriously good. Buttery parcels, still just al dente, delicate and well balanced. That’s what great Italian pasta is all about.
The wine list is equally succinct with only a couple of choices for red and white, a rose and a prosecco. It all makes for a laidback dinner, especially thanks to the jolly, Italian serving staff. There’s Italian craft beer on offer, too, alongside a couple of cocktails and artisan Italian soft drinks.
Desserts aren’t the main event here – so make like us and have two rounds of pasta. There’ll still be space for lemon cake with flaked almonds, ice cream and honey or fior di latte ice cream topped with crushed amaretti and cantuccini biscuits, we promise. The coffee (there’s affogato on offer, too) is even Italian-style – with beans sourced from an Italian coffee roasted in Victoria.
With pasta masterclasses coming soon, this is a great little neighbourhood pasta bar that should become a regular for anyone in the area.
Unit C3, Ivory House,
St Katharine Docks,
London E1W 1AT
Words by Laura Rowe
Written March 2017