Mission highly possible: to make the best pasta dishes in townPastaficionado – what else do you call someone who loves pasta? And who doesn’t? It’s no surprise that Italian food is officially the most popular cuisine in the world, and this love is led by pasta, eaten in its myriad shapes and sizes.
While low carb diets have (al…) dented the appeal of pasta to some, London has recently seen a number of new places devoted to this wonderful food take off. And not far from the City’s glassy canyons, a few minutes from Old Street tube station, Pasta Nostra has arrived with a mission to make the best pasta in town.
The restaurant is the brainchild of two 20-something chefs, Wilfred Mafham and Luca Cianti, who having trained in some star eateries, felt the time was right to start their own casual dining but special Italian.
If you’re not convinced by the long menus found in some restaurants, you’ll be pleased with the Pasta Nostra’s keep it short and simple approach of small plates and pasta dishes. It’s a confident approach which says even though the menu is short, we know there’s enough variety for you to find something to like. And they’re right – there’s plenty of choice and nothing I wouldn’t have ordered.
Small plates include Arancini Alla Romana – three types of crisp, deep-fried rice ball, flavoured with Amatriciana, Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara (£6) and in a similar vein Cime di Rapa Croquette (£5).
Other plates include Battuta (steak tartare) (£8), sourdough bruschetta Pane Burro e Alici with Sicilian anchovies (£4), Burrata with pressed sorrel and cucumber salad (£7), Parmigiana (£6) with burrata and a selection of Italian Salumi (cold meats generally, not just salami) (£6). The guys make their own light and fluffy focaccia every morning and you can have it on its own or as an accompaniment.
The eight pasta dishes though are the real stars of the show and are absolutely excellent. The closest thing to spag bol on the menu is the Pappardelle Oxtail Ragu (£12) and is delicious. Eight hours of slow cooking oxtail and tomato creates a really savoury, deep beefiness, enhanced by a sprinkling of 24-month aged Parmesan.
The minimalist dessert list has seriously chocolatey tiramisu (£5), thoughtfully served with two spoons, as it really deserves to be shared. And there’s a Sicilian Cannolo (£4), sweetened sheep’s ricotta in a crisp sweet pastry tube – as a Sopranos fan, if you’ve always wondered what cannoli were, now you know!
With its relaxed atmosphere, bold, brightly coloured décor, Pasta Nostra has a more the feel of a café than a restaurant, and in true Italian-style, you can pick up an espresso (100% Arabica and roasted in Italy) any time from early in the day. As well as inside, where you can watch the chefs work their pasta magic or sit upstairs looking out over the street, there’s outdoor seating too. Pasta Nostra only uses the best ingredients in their pasta, but you can also enjoy it at home. They offer a short ‘’grab and go home ‘’ menu of pasta, sauce and tiramisu for a tenner a head (£15 for two). And if you fancy having a go yourself, they also run masterclasses in making fresh pasta and sauces.
In Britain, we’ve come a long way from the dark days of pasta meaning spaghetti only in tins, squidgy hoops in a sweet tomato sauce, or bought in long packets, exotically labelled in your actual Italian. Such was our culinary sophistication, the BBC could get away with the great Spaghetti Harvest Hoax of 1957. Not now though – we have happily moved on a lot and are very lucky to have places like Pasta Nostra to offer us the best of the world’s favourite food.
I only wish I lived closer!
122 Old Street
Looking for other Italian restaurants in the City? We love Enoteca Rabezzana, Farringdon and La Tagliata near Spitalfields (though we are not sure if they still have their low-calorie menu!). A little further afield, Bella Cosa in Docklands offers a great fusion of Italian and Japanese food while Terra Rossa in Islington offers great regional Italian dining with dishes from Puglia