From Michelin-starred spaghetti dishes to piles of steaming rustic ravioli, London’s pasta scene is buzzing right now. Whether you’re looking for a quick solo pitstop at a bar, or you’re in the mood for some seriously indulgent Italian lunching, London has the perfect bowl of pasta for you to channel your inner Sophia Loren.
Handmade by highly skilled pasta chefs and dressed with beautifully paired sauces, our pick of the best pasta restaurants in town will have you carb loading all day every day, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
We’re calling it: Padella had the opening of the 2016, for all restaurants let alone pasta and we don’t even mind that it’s no reservations. Queuing up outside Borough Market for a plate of their insanely amazing Cacio e Pepe (literally translated as ‘cheese and pepper’ – it’s the new carbonara) seems almost too easy, and if you go in no more than twos or threes you shouldn’t be waiting too long.
The menu is short and frequently changes to reflect the seasons and whatever the centre-stage chefs fancy cooking, although star dishes like Pappardelle with Beef Shin Ragu tend to stay on. It’s the brainchild of the team behind Trullo (more on that later), so no wonder it’s good. Casual, quick – and cheap – dining at its best. Read our full review here.
Padella, 6 Southwark Street, SE1 1TQ
Bermondsey Street is quite a little hub of great restaurants and Antico is up there with the best, thanks to its perfect plates of pasta. Gratifyingly you can have small or large portions of the stuff and we’re not ashamed to say that we’ve regularly double-pasta’d by having one as a starter and one as a main.
The slow cooked pork shoulder tortelloni with sage butter makes an appearance frequently on the oft-changing menu, and should be ordered immediately. That said, we’ve never had a duff plate here. Also, they have some delicious aperitivo options (SE1 spritz of Prosecco, aperol, yuzu, gin, elderflower and pineapple shrub sounds divine) and a full-on gin bar underground.
Antico, 214 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ
Caffe Caldesi serves homestyle Italian food 'like Mama used to make', in the heart of Marylebone. Indeed, the menu is inspired by owner Giancarlo’s memories of his own Mama’s cooking back in Tuscany, so hearty dishes like traditional lasagne, or rigatoni with Tuscan beef ragu are not a surprise to see.
Choose between the more formal (and more expensive) restaurant or the ground floor café and enjoy incredible platters of antipasti followed by a primi of pasta. Their budget set lunch in the café is also excellent value. There’s a cookery school attached, should you wish to learn the tricks of the trade.
Caffe Caldesi, 118 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2QF
Capturing the true spirit of a proper Italian trattoria, Trullo on Highbury Corner is well worth a visit. The big Daddy behind Padella, the team here are thoroughly schooled in the authentic ways of Italian cooking, and their handmade pasta is just the start.
The menu changes daily and includes dishes like tagliarini with clams and nduja, or pappardelle with chicken livers, sage and marsala – there is often crossover with the Padella menu. Do leave space for some of their other gems, which are always sparkling fresh and seasonal: we ate a phenomenal dish of aggretti and Amalfi lemon, plus a beautiful burrata and blood orange dish on our latest visit. It’s packed daily, so book.
Trullo, 300-302 St Paul’s Road, N1 2LH
Bocca di Lupo
Soho favourite Bocca di Lupo is a must-try for pasta lovers across town. They pride themselves on the super-regionality of their dishes and ingredients, with a fabulous wine list to match. Menus change twice daily, but there’s always a good selection of pasta and risotto, like Venetian style linguini with brown spider crab and tomato, or the intriguing rigatoni con la pajata (milk fed lamb's intestines braised with tomato) from Lazio.
Large plates of pasta verge might hurt the wallet, but order a couple to share, along with some small plates of fritto misto, and dinner here won’t break the bank.
Bocca di Lupo, 12 Archer Street, W1D 7BB
Burro e Salvia
This diminutive Italian-owned pair of shop-cum-restaurants in Shoreditch and East Dulwich boast some of the more unusual and lesser-known pasta shapes, thanks to the sheer skill and creativity of their in-house pasta makers.
Watch the ‘sfoglina’ (aka pasta maker) at work rolling batches of Piedmontese tajarin – a traditional, super fine version of tagliatelle – before gobbling it up at your table with its designated courgette, bottarga and mint dressing. There’s also the option to take away freshly-made gnocchi, tortellini and more, to cook up as you like at home. We must add that we've had a much more reliable experience at the Shoreditch branch.
Burro e Salvia, 52 Redchurch Street, E2 7DP
Giorgio Locatelli’s eponymously named restaurant just north of Oxford Street remains one of the most celebrated Italian restaurants in London. Strictly for special occasions, the Michelin-starred pasta at this be-tableclothed classic doesn’t come cheap.
Dishes such as fagottini (parcels) with borage, ricotta and walnut sauce, and gnocchi with goats cheese and black truffle will set you back around £20, and should you wish to make any pasta your main rather than primi then you’ll have to pay extra for the privilege. Let it be known, though, that the risotto with Sicilian red prawns and courgette flower is worth every penny, and the tiramisu is life-changing.
Locanda Locatelli, 8 Seymour Street, W1H 7JZ
This duo of semi-casual Italian themed restaurants is the more affordable version of Angela Hartnett’s Mayfair spot, Murano (complete with Michelin star). The pasta here is just as it should be, with a variety of interesting shapes and sizes, and hearty or delicate dishes. Ingredients are rigorously sourced and we’re dribbling over the current spaghetti with anchovies and pangrattato as well as the lamb pappardelle with Pugliese olives and the classic bucatini Amatriciana. The three-course set lunch at £23 is a must-try.
Cafe Murano, 33 St James’ Street, SW1A 1HD and 36 Tavistock Street, WC2E 7PB
Ok, so it’s not really a restaurant, but the pasta at Lina Stores is definitely restaurant-worthy. It’s no surprise considering its heritage: family-run Lina Stores has been serving Soho since the 1940s, when the area was a hub of Italian activity. Today it’s an incredible delicatessen of imported goodies like bottarga and nduja but we’re here to tell you about the fresh pasta made daily on site, ready for you to take away.
You can choose to buy and cook crab and squid ink ravioli at home, and we definitely urge you to grab something from their hot daily menu (they tweet it) like the penne and meatballs.
Lina Stores, 18 Brewer Street, W1F 0SH