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A black dish of Catalan fideuà with prawns and allioli at Barrafina in London
Fideuà at Barrafina
Greg Funnell/Barrafina

Where to Eat the Pastas of the World in London

Pastitsio, fideuà, koshari, and more: a guide to the London pasta dishes that Italy can never claim

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Fideuà at Barrafina
| Greg Funnell/Barrafina

The spaghetti arrives in orange twirls to accompany a plate of Somali suqaar, while in a Catalan disguise, the short, deeply burnished strands of fideuà form a cradle for prawns. Baked macaroni comes bubbling out of the oven at Greek, Egyptian, and Trinidadian spots. It might be easy to assume that these are concessions to the Italo-American tastebuds of a globalised world, but these dishes have much more complex histories — of imperialism, migration, and trade across seas.

Even before getting into dumplings and noodles, the world of pasta has long extended so much further than the borders of Italy. Across the Greek islands, there are over a thousand names for different shapes and types of pasta, each more floral than the last — hilopites, kritharaki, trahana, aftoudia, flomaria signalling a long culinary history. Pasta in the Mediterranean likely dates back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, who made fresh pasta for use in soups with chickpeas.

9th century Arab scripts discuss a dried pasta equivalent to macaroni in shape, and there’s a firm trace of that history in the modern Arabic word for pasta too — makrouna. The arrival of spaghetti and lasagne in East Africa has a more recent and explicitly violent history, having been absorbed into the cuisines of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea in the wake of 19th and 20th century Italian invasions. There’s subversion in a lasagne made with berbere or spaghetti sauce with xawaash spices; the products of their own deep histories and uneven encounters. These dishes can no longer be claimed by Italy.

London’s restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars have reopened for outdoor service from 12 April, with the rule of six in place. Customers can check with individual venues to determine their availability and Covid-secure measures before deciding to visit.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Hilopites at Catalyst

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48 Grays Inn Rd, Chancery Ln, Holborn
London WC1X 8LT, UK

While the Muji minimalist aesthetic of Catalyst on Grays Inn Road makes it an appealing work spot,  the food menu really makes it worth the commute. Chef Vasilis Chamam’s chameleon cookery draws on both his Greek and Palestinian roots. Soft, rich sheep’s milk hilopites pasta is served twisted round stewed cull yaw from producer Matt Chatfield in Cornwall, or in pork broth with mussels and caviar. To go with the pasta, Chamam carries the lessons of Palestinian chicken mousakhan — where flatbread is used to soak up the aromatic juices — across dishes, whether the bread is nestled beneath chicken, lamb tongue tonnato, or octopus. There’s also a special talent for condiments at Catalyst that extends to all things jammy: from sumac confit onions to spiced, baked grapes, to emulsions made with staka, a sheep’s milk butter. The café is open on weekdays until 5 p.m. and until 10 p.m. on Fridays for bar snacks. It is closed on weekends.

2. Fideuà at Barrafina

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26-27 Dean St, West End
London W1D 3LL, UK

Under the current circumstances, Michelin-starred Barrafina on Dean Street has revoked its no bookings policy. For diners not keen to wait in the cold, now is the time to visit and try the fideuà. Short, thin noodles are slowly simmered in prawn bisque with cuttlefish until they are darkened and softened, before a swift singe in the oven. Like any Iberian dish worth its ample salt, this rich seafood pasta has a strong origin story: supposedly it was invented at sea by Valencian fishermen who had run out of rice for their paella. At Barrafina, the fideuà is served with proper Catalan-approved allioli — just oil and garlic whipped to an emulsion and made green with the addition of parsley and green chili. Not an egg in sight.

3. Koshari at Ahl Cairo

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13 Bell St, Marylebone
London NW1 5BY, UK
020 7723 6633

Ahl Cairo, just outside Edgware station, serves some of London’s better falafel. It’s the arguably superior pistachio-coloured Egyptian kind, taameya — made with fava beans and plenty of herbs, it is moister and more freshly flavoured than its chickpea counterpart. Taameya is often eaten in flatbread for breakfast and is just £3.25 for takeaway, but later in the day, Ahl Cairo’s pasta offerings come into their own. Try the popular carbloader, koshary, which is a mixture of lentils, vermicelli, rice, and craft bead macaroni, topped with tomato sauce and crispy onions. Another favorite Egyptian pasta, baked macaroni bechamel, is also on the menu. Open all day every day, for takeaway right now.

4. Macaroni pie at Roti Joupa

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12 Clapham High St, Larkhall
London SW4 7UT, UK

Trinidadian takeaway shop Roti Joupa is a fixture of Clapham High Street. The roti are freshly made in house, folded into vast parcels of stewed chicken, sweet pumpkin, or curry goat. The hot doubles are smaller roti, filled with chickpea curry. The macaroni pie, though, is quietly one of the best things Roti Joupa has to offer. Crispy bubbles of sweet tamarind give way to silken, creamy pasta beneath, and at £1.50, there is little excuse not to order two. This food promises as much warmth as the Canada Goose jackets populating Clapham Common, but it’s much more cheering. Closed on Sundays.

5. Baasto at Zamzam

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250 Seven Sisters Rd, Finsbury Park
London N4 3GG, UK
020 7263 0571

There’s no strict menu at Zamzam Somali restaurant on Seven Sisters Road. Diners can expect to choose among lamb shank, briskly fried beef suqaar, and spiced chicken, digaag, all generously portioned. The main courses are served alongside rice, gently spiced with cardamom and bejeweled with plump raisins, or baasto spaghetti slicked in tomato sauce with crunchy onions, peppers, and parsley. Al dente isn’t a relevant concept here: these curls of pasta are soft and comforting, with the added warmth of cumin and cloves. Though Zamzam is ideal for takeaway, those eating in can expect the added perks of a small bowl of lentil soup while they wait, and an optional banana served with the meal.

6. Sorrentino at La Patagonia [TEMPORARILY CLOSED]

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31 Camden High St
London NW1 7JE, UK

Many of the best Argentinian restaurants in London focus almost exclusively on the parilla, pumping out eye-bulging piles of steaks, ribs, pork shoulder, morcilla and chorizo sausages from the ubiquitous charcoal grill. It’s not unusual if the closest thing to salad in sight is an empanada. While La Patagonia in Camden lives up to those expectations, it also highlights other elements of Argentinian culture. There’s the football fever — the façade is painted with the blue and white stripes of the national team’s kit — and then there’s the pasta, a reflection of the fact that around half of the present-day Argentine population has Italian roots. Sorrentinos are large filled domes of pasta, more regal than ravioli, which are thought to have originated in the coastal city of Mar del Plata south of Buenos Aires. At La Patagonia, they’re filled with mozzarella, ricotta, and bechamel; there’s also spinach and ricotta ravioli and beef canelones. All the pasta is made at the restaurant and served with a choice of sauces, both for takeaway and dining in in normal times.

7. Pasticcio at Paneri Taverna

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340 High Rd, Wood Green
London N22 8JW, UK
020 8888 3111

Paneri Taverna’s generous portions and complimentary mezze make the Green Lanes old-timer one of the road’s most celebrated restaurants. The pasticcio, or makaronia, is a heavy hitter: it’s a 15-tog duvet of creamy, nutmeg infused bechamel, minced beef sweet with onion and cinnamon, and soft, pillowy pasta. The popular chargrilled chicken and lamb souvla are served alongside kritharaki — also known as orzo — couscous, or rice. For those seeking youvetsi, beef and orzo stew, it’s best to head down the road to Asteria, where pasticcio is also on the menu. Open for takeaway.

8. Nokedli at The Rosemary

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178 New Cross Rd
London SE14 5AA, UK

The Rosemary could be mistaken for yet another outpost of the famous Nunhead Gardener: there are enough houseplants here to make a tenant with a no-pets clause simper. In fact, it’s an organic Hungarian restaurant on the busy junction where the A202 hits New Cross Road. There are pancakes, pickles, paprika ratatouille and a theatrical goulash served in a cauldron. Nokedli, also known as spaetzle, are short irregular egg pasta, served here alongside paprika stews of chicken, mushroom, or beef. The bottle racks boast one of the best selections of organic and biodynamic Hungarian wines in London. Closed on Mondays.

9. Jolly Spaghetti at Jollibee London

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180 Earls Ct Rd, Earl's Court
London SW5 9QG, UK

Filipino restaurant chain Jollibee first introduced its spaghetti special in 1979. Five years later, the chain’s red bee representative was joined by stringy-haired and pink skirted Hetty, the mascot of said spaghetti. Now a global mega-corporation, with thousands of outlets worldwide, Londoners can get their hands on all the signatures, too, including Chickenjoy fried chicken, Yumburgers, Jolly hotdogs, and Jolly pasta. The spaghetti is a babyish concoction: Hetty’s pigtails are doused in a lurid, cheek-blushingly sweet sauce with mince and chopped hot dogs, and then topped with grated cheese ... Or cuttings from the floor of Hetty’s hairdressers. The dish is usually served with the fried chicken.

1. Hilopites at Catalyst

48 Grays Inn Rd, Chancery Ln, Holborn, London WC1X 8LT, UK

While the Muji minimalist aesthetic of Catalyst on Grays Inn Road makes it an appealing work spot,  the food menu really makes it worth the commute. Chef Vasilis Chamam’s chameleon cookery draws on both his Greek and Palestinian roots. Soft, rich sheep’s milk hilopites pasta is served twisted round stewed cull yaw from producer Matt Chatfield in Cornwall, or in pork broth with mussels and caviar. To go with the pasta, Chamam carries the lessons of Palestinian chicken mousakhan — where flatbread is used to soak up the aromatic juices — across dishes, whether the bread is nestled beneath chicken, lamb tongue tonnato, or octopus. There’s also a special talent for condiments at Catalyst that extends to all things jammy: from sumac confit onions to spiced, baked grapes, to emulsions made with staka, a sheep’s milk butter. The café is open on weekdays until 5 p.m. and until 10 p.m. on Fridays for bar snacks. It is closed on weekends.

48 Grays Inn Rd, Chancery Ln, Holborn
London WC1X 8LT, UK

2. Fideuà at Barrafina

26-27 Dean St, West End, London W1D 3LL, UK

Under the current circumstances, Michelin-starred Barrafina on Dean Street has revoked its no bookings policy. For diners not keen to wait in the cold, now is the time to visit and try the fideuà. Short, thin noodles are slowly simmered in prawn bisque with cuttlefish until they are darkened and softened, before a swift singe in the oven. Like any Iberian dish worth its ample salt, this rich seafood pasta has a strong origin story: supposedly it was invented at sea by Valencian fishermen who had run out of rice for their paella. At Barrafina, the fideuà is served with proper Catalan-approved allioli — just oil and garlic whipped to an emulsion and made green with the addition of parsley and green chili. Not an egg in sight.

26-27 Dean St, West End
London W1D 3LL, UK

3. Koshari at Ahl Cairo

13 Bell St, Marylebone, London NW1 5BY, UK

Ahl Cairo, just outside Edgware station, serves some of London’s better falafel. It’s the arguably superior pistachio-coloured Egyptian kind, taameya — made with fava beans and plenty of herbs, it is moister and more freshly flavoured than its chickpea counterpart. Taameya is often eaten in flatbread for breakfast and is just £3.25 for takeaway, but later in the day, Ahl Cairo’s pasta offerings come into their own. Try the popular carbloader, koshary, which is a mixture of lentils, vermicelli, rice, and craft bead macaroni, topped with tomato sauce and crispy onions. Another favorite Egyptian pasta, baked macaroni bechamel, is also on the menu. Open all day every day, for takeaway right now.

13 Bell St, Marylebone
London NW1 5BY, UK

4. Macaroni pie at Roti Joupa

12 Clapham High St, Larkhall, London SW4 7UT, UK

Trinidadian takeaway shop Roti Joupa is a fixture of Clapham High Street. The roti are freshly made in house, folded into vast parcels of stewed chicken, sweet pumpkin, or curry goat. The hot doubles are smaller roti, filled with chickpea curry. The macaroni pie, though, is quietly one of the best things Roti Joupa has to offer. Crispy bubbles of sweet tamarind give way to silken, creamy pasta beneath, and at £1.50, there is little excuse not to order two. This food promises as much warmth as the Canada Goose jackets populating Clapham Common, but it’s much more cheering. Closed on Sundays.

12 Clapham High St, Larkhall
London SW4 7UT, UK

5. Baasto at Zamzam

250 Seven Sisters Rd, Finsbury Park, London N4 3GG, UK

There’s no strict menu at Zamzam Somali restaurant on Seven Sisters Road. Diners can expect to choose among lamb shank, briskly fried beef suqaar, and spiced chicken, digaag, all generously portioned. The main courses are served alongside rice, gently spiced with cardamom and bejeweled with plump raisins, or baasto spaghetti slicked in tomato sauce with crunchy onions, peppers, and parsley. Al dente isn’t a relevant concept here: these curls of pasta are soft and comforting, with the added warmth of cumin and cloves. Though Zamzam is ideal for takeaway, those eating in can expect the added perks of a small bowl of lentil soup while they wait, and an optional banana served with the meal.

250 Seven Sisters Rd, Finsbury Park
London N4 3GG, UK

6. Sorrentino at La Patagonia [TEMPORARILY CLOSED]

31 Camden High St, London NW1 7JE, UK

Many of the best Argentinian restaurants in London focus almost exclusively on the parilla, pumping out eye-bulging piles of steaks, ribs, pork shoulder, morcilla and chorizo sausages from the ubiquitous charcoal grill. It’s not unusual if the closest thing to salad in sight is an empanada. While La Patagonia in Camden lives up to those expectations, it also highlights other elements of Argentinian culture. There’s the football fever — the façade is painted with the blue and white stripes of the national team’s kit — and then there’s the pasta, a reflection of the fact that around half of the present-day Argentine population has Italian roots. Sorrentinos are large filled domes of pasta, more regal than ravioli, which are thought to have originated in the coastal city of Mar del Plata south of Buenos Aires. At La Patagonia, they’re filled with mozzarella, ricotta, and bechamel; there’s also spinach and ricotta ravioli and beef canelones. All the pasta is made at the restaurant and served with a choice of sauces, both for takeaway and dining in in normal times.

31 Camden High St
London NW1 7JE, UK

7. Pasticcio at Paneri Taverna

340 High Rd, Wood Green, London N22 8JW, UK

Paneri Taverna’s generous portions and complimentary mezze make the Green Lanes old-timer one of the road’s most celebrated restaurants. The pasticcio, or makaronia, is a heavy hitter: it’s a 15-tog duvet of creamy, nutmeg infused bechamel, minced beef sweet with onion and cinnamon, and soft, pillowy pasta. The popular chargrilled chicken and lamb souvla are served alongside kritharaki — also known as orzo — couscous, or rice. For those seeking youvetsi, beef and orzo stew, it’s best to head down the road to Asteria, where pasticcio is also on the menu. Open for takeaway.

340 High Rd, Wood Green
London N22 8JW, UK

8. Nokedli at The Rosemary

178 New Cross Rd, London SE14 5AA, UK

The Rosemary could be mistaken for yet another outpost of the famous Nunhead Gardener: there are enough houseplants here to make a tenant with a no-pets clause simper. In fact, it’s an organic Hungarian restaurant on the busy junction where the A202 hits New Cross Road. There are pancakes, pickles, paprika ratatouille and a theatrical goulash served in a cauldron. Nokedli, also known as spaetzle, are short irregular egg pasta, served here alongside paprika stews of chicken, mushroom, or beef. The bottle racks boast one of the best selections of organic and biodynamic Hungarian wines in London. Closed on Mondays.

178 New Cross Rd
London SE14 5AA, UK

9. Jolly Spaghetti at Jollibee London

180 Earls Ct Rd, Earl's Court, London SW5 9QG, UK

Filipino restaurant chain Jollibee first introduced its spaghetti special in 1979. Five years later, the chain’s red bee representative was joined by stringy-haired and pink skirted Hetty, the mascot of said spaghetti. Now a global mega-corporation, with thousands of outlets worldwide, Londoners can get their hands on all the signatures, too, including Chickenjoy fried chicken, Yumburgers, Jolly hotdogs, and Jolly pasta. The spaghetti is a babyish concoction: Hetty’s pigtails are doused in a lurid, cheek-blushingly sweet sauce with mince and chopped hot dogs, and then topped with grated cheese ... Or cuttings from the floor of Hetty’s hairdressers. The dish is usually served with the fried chicken.

180 Earls Ct Rd, Earl's Court
London SW5 9QG, UK

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