While a bowl of pasta ribbons drenched in ragù or a slick of young olive oil is welcome any time of the year, spring is a time of lightness: of verdant green vegetables, delicate citrus notes, and light, fragrant sauces. And in a city which continues to put pasta right near the top of its restaurant lucrativity pecking order, many of the best sfogline are continuing to put out signal examples of the craft.Read More
Where to Eat Pasta in London
21 of the best: a mix of old-timers and many exciting newcomers
1. The River Café
Founded by Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray 30 years ago, The River Cafe remains a bastion of seasonal Italian cooking in London. The pastas on its primi menu follow the same principles of using simple ingredients when they’re at their very best. In spring, expect risi e bisi when Italy’s sweetest peas arrive; a simple nettle pasta; or the perennial favourite, spaghetti vongole.
2. Locanda Locatelli
A peerless classic, Giorgio Locatelli’s upmarket Italian earned its well-deserved place as a London favourite (and an essential London restaurants) through warm hospitality and, among other dishes, consistently excellent pastas. Find it served in dumpling form — cappallaci and ravioli — or ribbons of pappardelle with rich chicken liver, and ringed calamarata with red gurnard and chilli.
3. Theo Randall at the InterContinental
A River Cafe alumnus, Theo Randall struck out on his own in 2006 and opened up shop at the swish InterContinental hotel on Park Lane. More than a decade on, he’s still delighting diners with his refined Italian food, including renowned pasta dishes. Bright yellow dough is stuffed with roasted delica squash and ricotta for ravioli di zucca; hand-rolled sheets of pasta become tagliarini with brown shrimps, artichokes and butter.
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Meaning ‘someone who makes pasta by hand,’ Pastaio is heaven sent for those looking for a good meal in central London. The brightly decorated fresh pasta joint comes from restaurateur Stevie Parle and its short, sweet (and well-priced) menu is irresistible. Malloreddus in a slow-cooked sausage sauce sits side by side with buttery wild mushroom tagliatelle and silky carbonara. Pastaio’s sibling in Westfield serves an impressive pile of egg yolk, butter and parmesan tagliolini, only available at that outpost.
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5. Bocca di Lupo
Chef-owner Jacob Kenedy co-authored The Geometry of Pasta and is an all-round Italophile so one can be assured of a good plate of pasta here. Dishes pick out the best of traditional regional Italian dishes and make them modern. Try rigatoni con la pajata (calf’s intestines with tomato and pecorino) from Lazio or sea urchin spaghetti from Puglia. Top tip: afterwards, pop across the road to Bocca Di Lupo’s sister gelateria, Gelupo.
6. Lina Stores Soho Restaurant
Lina Stores’ restaurant is full of the same easy charm as its Soho stalwart deli around the corner. Homemade pasta plays a starring role and takes a trip around Italy: pici with Umbrian sausage and porcini mushrooms, lumache (literally “snails”) with ‘nduja, pappardelle with rich rabbit ragu. But don’t skip over everything else on the short but sweet menu. “Pane e olio” undersells the verdant, drinkable olive oil mopped up with bread and the aubergine polpette are plump, moreish morsels. Don’t leave without trying the crisp cannoli, stuffed with ricotta and pistachio.
The new darling of London’s pasta restaurants is this critically-adored and adorned counter dining bar in Covent Garden and Lower James Street. The outstanding dish is the “silk handkerchiefs” with walnut and hazelnut butter, brought to union by the ooze of an egg yolk: cacio e pepe here comes with spaghetti alla chitarra, its squarer cross-section and porous texture saturated by cheese and pepper.
8. Quality Wines
Chef Nick Bramham works wonders from his two induction hobs and small domestic oven at this increasingly excellent wine bar and kitchen in Farringdon. Pasta was never in the plans for Quality Wines, but good things are sometimes hard to resist. It’s central London’s gain that the weekly menu now features a pasta dish more often than not, with mezze maniche slicked in a green, light sausage ragù a current favourite.
Sure, everyone bangs on about about those parmesan fries but make sure to stay for the pasta. The second restaurant from Isaac McHale of The Clove Club fame with Robert Chambers (ex Locanda Locatelli, The Ledbury) at the helm, Luca has become known for spinning Italian dishes with British ingredients. The likes of Morecambe Bay shrimp and mace butter spaghettini graced the opening menu while spring sees dishes like agnolotti carbonara, with a clever addition of puffed quinoa for texture, or a very seasonal tortelli of ricotta, Jersey Royal potatoes, and Italian peas.
10. Officina 00
A new pasta “workshop” on Old Street in east London prepares fresh pasta before guests, from an open kitchen in a modern, industrial dining room owned and run by Elia Sebregondi and Enzo Mirto. Here, there are innovative and interesting takes on regional Italian pastas which dividend fine results. Begin with a perfect two-bite cacio e pepe-stuffed fried raviolo and move onto a plate of either the nutty and bitter cavatelli with Padron peppers, almond pesto, and crispy coppa; rich and cheesy corzetti with wild mushrooms, fennel sausage, and tarragon; or an indulgent but bright linguine with egg yolk, clams, and lemon.
London SE1 1TQ, UK
At the Borough Market restaurant specialising in fresh handmade pasta, the much-Instagrammed pici cacio e pepe lives up to the hype. Padella, from the team behind Trullo in Highbury & Islington, has won multiple awards since it opened in 2016 and the queue to get in constantly snakes around the corner. It’s easy to see why. Simple dishes executed elegantly reign supreme: gnocchi with sage and nutmeg butter, tagliarini with slow-cooked tomato sauce, fettuccine with violet artichoke. Right up with the best and good value for money. Padella’s much-anticipated new Shoreditch site plays all the same hits in a slightly bigger space.
12. Jolene Bakery & Restaurant
There are usually three or four small plate pasta dishes on the changing menu at Jolene, the sultry sister restaurant to Westerns Laundry, Primeur and Big Jo. Build a meal by ordering one of each, with a side order of wine — they’re comforting in a subtle way, rather than rib-stickingly rich, so perfect for mixing and matching. Cavatelli might come with cavolo nero, chilli and salted ricotta or mushrooms and tarragon. Tagliatelle and sausage ragù arrives under a blanket of parmesan, and ricotta gnocchi is paired classically with lemon and sage.
13. Flour & Grape
The clue’s in the name, this place is big on wine and, yes, fresh pasta. Launched at the end of 2017 by the team behind now-closed Italian restaurant Antico, Flour & Grape offers a concise pasta menu which plays all the hits. Sip Chianti while eating a beef short rib ragu with pappardelle or try a glass of ciro alongside conchiglie with mussels, crème fraîche and chilli.
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14. Cafe Murano Bermondsey
Sitting at the other end of the Italian restaurant spectrum to red-sauce-and-checked-tablecloth joints, Cafe Murano has locations in Covent Garden, St James’s and Bermondsey. Go all out and order a primi portion of pasta followed by secondi and dolci, or make it all about the carbs and opt for a bigger main-sized serving. When there’s refined pumpkin tortelli, tuna puttanesca and simple but stunning spaghetti al pomodoro on offer, it’s okay to stick to the pasta. Top tip: at the Covent Garden restaurant’s next-door deli and pastificio, there’s always a weekly-changing, lunchtime pasta special for a fiver, to eat in or take away.
London EC2A 3PT, UK
Chris Leach (formerly Sager + Wilde) and Smokestak’s David Carter have moved in to Shoreditch after a long stint in Soho. To go with top antipasti, including a new pig skin ragu with pig skin double banker, there’s a carousel of pasta plates. There’s usually something stuffed, perhaps with pumpkin or mushroom, and ribbons of pappardelle tossed through ox cheek or duck ragù to go with delicate tortellini bobbing in brodo. But there’s almost always the outrageous brown crab cacio e pepe — order it or regret it.
16. Burro e Salvia, Shoreditch
This Shoreditch fresh pasta shop and restaurant is meets all one’s pastificio need. Watch the sfogline (pasta makers) at work and take away filled pasta to cook at home or settle in for lunch at one of Shoreditch’s true under-the-radar restaurants. Burro e Salvia’s signature dish is the agnolotti cavour al burro e salvia (beef, pork and spinach ravioli in a butter and sage sauce) but don’t miss the off-menu lasagne.
If the must-try agnolotti bobbing in decadently oil-spotted broth isn’t on the menu, there’s plenty to love at Columbia Road’s Brawn. The current highlight on the changing selection comprises a plate of casarecce, rabbit ragu, broad beans, and sage, or a delicate raviolo of borage and ricotta, served with marjoram and hazelnuts. Everything is, of course, best enjoyed with a bottle of something from Brawn’s extensive wine list.
18. Campania & Jones
This southern Italian restaurant a stone’s throw from east London’s Columbia Road oozes effortless rustic charm from the long wooden tables littered with candles to the familial service. But it’s the fresh, daily-made pasta which really transports diners to the Med. Dishes play to the tune of the seasons: hand-rolled cavatelli with nduja, beef shin ragu with green pappardelle and tagliatelle vongole.
Lasagna fritta, with its wavy layers of baked pasta and rich sauce deep-fried into crispy nuggets, is probably Bright’s most lauded pasta dish. But the East London neighbourhood restaurant’s best pasta dishes are more nuanced and less Instagrammed: currently sporting a borage, wild garlic, and fontina cannelloni; fregola with cuttlefish; and a duck agnolotti served in juices from the filling.
Ombra, Hackney’s bacaró-turned-lockdown-pastificio is back to doling out its fresh pasta and sauces to diners, rather than shoppers. They might be extruding and cutting big Hula Hoops of paccheri, folding coils of bigoli or sealing plump agnolotti filled with pumpkin, with a slate of ribsticking ragùs and more delicate sauces to match each shape’s inclinations.
There are only a few fresh pastas on the changing menu here but they’re guaranteed to be worth the visit. Marcella is the sister restaurant to Artusi in Peckham (which naturally also offers banging pasta dishes) and has garnered much praise in South East London. From its changing seasonal menu, expect a hazelnut and brown butter tagliatelle, or spaghetti enveloped in wild garlic pesto.
London EC1M 6BN, UK
Russell Norman’s Clerkenwell trattoria is not a full-on ode to Florence, but an Italian restaurant with a London soul. That means silver dishes full of grated Parmesan, ready to spoon over a simple meat sauce tagliatelle, some mortadella tortellini en brodo, or penne with tomato and vodka.