Padella & Trullo
The London Legends
You can’t talk about pasta in London without mentioning the iconic neighbourhood Italian Trullo and its trendy younger sibling Padella. Since its opening last year in Borough Market, it has sent waves of influence across London with its simple but religious approach to traditional pasta making. Quickly becoming a London go to and growing famous for its affordable plates of handmade pasta and its equally famous long queues. I have spent many visits sat at its marble counters watching the chefs at work rolling pasta, all while devouring dishes like pappardelle with rich 8-hour Dexter beef shin, spicy nduja & mascarpone tagliarini, fresh dorset crab with chilli, lemon and more of that delicately light tagliarini and of course the wonderful hand rolled pici cacio e pepe (a simple sauce of mountains of parmesan and cracked black pepper). A few dishes of pasta, a jug of wine and a ball of burrata to share will do perfectly at this speedy pasta bar.
If the idea of queuing is too much millennial nonsense and sends a shiver down your spine, then head to Trullo for a more grown up affair with a cosy neighbourhood vibe that’s nestled up in Highbury & Islington with a reservation line. Think dim candlight, white tablecloths and charming staff. Along with some of the same great handmade pasta dishes you find at Padella, there is the added bonus of an extended menu to leisurely work your way through. Start with a selection of small dishes of delights like salty smoked eel carpaccio with horseradish creme fraiche & crispy pancetta or burrata with sticky black figs. Indulge further with large platters of meat like pork chop with baked borlotti beans and salsa verde or delicate fish dishes like brill with squid ink polenta, mussels and wild oregano. This is a very special place, not only my favourite Italian in London, but one of my favourite restaurants around. With long seasons of dark and shivery evenings ahead, there is no better place to spend one than hidden away in the basement of Trullo with a table of friends, fabulous food and wine.
When you want to be fancy (i.e £££)
Luca, from the people behind the spectacular Clove Club in Shoreditch is one fabulous restaurant that I fell well and truly in love with on my first sparkly visit to this modern Italian with a focus on British ingredients. I ate like a king on an array of wonderful pasta dishes and small plates, discovering their INCREDIBLE puffed, cloud like Parmesan fries, which are worth a visit for alone. Unfortunately the fabulous restaurant has a fabulous bill to match.
Compared to the other restaurants on this list, Luca scores low on my value for money bar. Its not the most expensive place to go out for dinner in London by any means, but when you go, you must make sure to book the stunning restaurant area. On my last visit we sat in the bar and it’s a limited menu still with the full price tag, however missing all the swoon of the main room. This is a delicious place for spoiling yourself, when your rent is not due for a while and you want to spend an evening in a beautiful restaurant with dishes like silky linguini with clams, garlic, white wine & chilli or the most delicate tasting pumpkin & chestnut ravioli with sage, parmesan and ginger.
For Venetian twists
Full disclosure, it’s regretful to say I haven’t been back to Oldroyd in some time, which seems silly as I absolutely loved this spot on my last few visits. Located in an adorable and tiny space in Angel, that evokes the tiny hidden restaurants of the back alleys of Venice, this appropriately Venetian style Italian serves an array of interesting small plates. Of these small plates there is normally one or two fantastic pastas such as crab tagliarini provencal with a brown crab roulie, earning its rightful place on this list. Other knockouts on my last visit where the croquetas, a wonderful prawn, cuttlefish & rosemary risotto and the always spectacular rose veal tonnato with smoked anchovies and oregano. See you soon Oldroyd, it’s been too long.
For Roman classics
Padela introduced me to the wonderful dish cacio e pepe, served with their fantastic hand made pici. However at Palatino nothing compares to their silky bowls of that cheesy peppery emulsified heaven, this time pared with a more delicate Tonarelli pasta. Another roman dish was the Bucatini all’amatriciana, guanciale & tomato. Unless eaten at the simply wonderful 4leoni in Florence (see my Florence post for more) I find simple tomato-based pasta dishes a little lacklustre compared to some more indulgent offerings. This however is nothing of the sort, with the added salty meaty guanciale I could dine on this forever. The antipasti is also not to be missed here, on my visit we had crisp fried courgette flowers with a delicious honey vinegar to dip, as well as a fresh plate of thinly sliced octopus with tomato & marjoram. This restaurant really celebrates the simplicity of roman dishes and has inspired me to return to that wonderful city for more. In the meantime I will be making more visits to the spot from the great Stevie Parle who also has other Italian hits in his portfolio; Rotorino in Dalston has a focus on cosy southern Italian cooking and the hotly anticipated Pastaio, a hand made pasta bar opening this Autumn sounds like it may give Padela some competition. Knives and Forks at the ready.
Sager & Wilde Restaurant
For an irresistible deal
Head to the Sager & Wilde Restaurant in Bethnal Green’s paradise row for the best deal in town. Between 5-7 every night of the week you can get one of there superb handmade pasta dishes such as more of that wonderful tagliarini with nduja, creme fraiche & parmesan or a rich dish of beef shin rage with pappardelle and berkswell, along with a glass of their delicious house wine for a respectable £10. Its becoming something of a regular early bird pitstop on my way home from work, but I encourage you to linger longer over some of their fantastic small plates; Pork jowl with peach ketchup and burrata with strawberry sofrito and breadcrumbs have been some recent fruity winners.
To pretend you’re on an Italian mini break
The final place on my list is a very late addition. I have wandered past Campania, a beautiful ram shackle looking old restaurant just off the plant buying hell of picturesque Columbia Road, many times in the 9 years I have lived in London. However never have I had the transporting experience of eating in this charming place. I had heard rummers in the past such as it being ‘style over substance’ or ‘just ok’ but looking back I fear people may have been lying to keep this enchanting gem to themselves. We spent a wonderful night in this glowing restaurant last week, feasting on platters of antipasti, plates of cheeses like stracciatella and bufala with chilli and fresh tomatoes, as well as some wonderful dishes of spaghetti scoglio and cactelli ricotta with melanzane speck. This is a special restaurant with a wonderful atmosphere and a style of Italian home cooking that will transport you to the trattorias of Florence and the kitchens of Italian grandmothers.