Where To Eat Pasta In London

Where To Eat Pasta In London
The brown crab cacio e pepe at Manteca, Shoreditch. Image by Lydia Manch.

Things change fast in the time of coronavirus. Check on venue websites and social media ahead of visiting for the most up-to-date details.

Okay, this one was hard. London's got good pasta game these days.

Used to be word about a halfway decent cacio e pepe would spread like a sexy rumour through the city, be something you'd travel across London for. Now we've got artisan tagliarini being hand-rolled all over the city; amazing sauces being swooped up by amazing foccacia in every neighbourhood, and new contenders opening all the time. The bar is high, and if we hadn't been strict with ourselves, this list would've been forty-strong.

Manteca, Shoreditch

Would love to have a fresh new take on Manteca, but ours is the same as, basically, everybody else's. It's just great. Not only great at pasta — we'd find it hard not to repeat order the beef battuta every visit (tartare-esque raw meat, laced with dandelion, comes with paper-thin crispbread), the fire-cooked cuts of meat, or the miso-roasted cabbage, studded with pancetta. Okay, and the chocolate and salt caramel torte.

But the pasta: next level. Regularly changing menu, but the brown crab cacio e pepe is ridiculously, silkily rich, crabby, and beautiful; the rigatoni with kale and garlic, which we order mostly just to be completist and to show we're not actually frightened of vegetables, is a surprising, instant favourite, and the duck ragù fazzoletti — little scattering of duck fat pangrattato — is one we're still thinking about weeks later. Besides that, the wine list's gorgeous in a nonchalant, unformulaic way — small-batch pet nats jostling with Italian greatest hits — service is very friendly and utterly unceremonious, and the buzz is the exact right level to feel like you're at the relaxed epicentre of a very good party.

Been twice now, the first time involving booking six weeks in advance for late night on a Wednesday, and it was still, somehow, worth the effort and the wait. The second time we managed to book short notice, and be scraping up every last fragment of duck fazzoletti two hours later: the moral is that whenever you want to be eating something glorious and you don't have a plan, you should probably just always try to be at Manteca and sometimes it'll work out for you.

Manteca, Shoreditch

Officina '00, Old Street

Officina '00, Old Street. Image by Lydia Manch.

Will never understand why a sharing plates restaurant reckons you can advise 5-6 dishes between two, and then serve them 'as they're ready' on a table that fits, along with your glasses and wine and bread, at a maximum two plates. It's a problem a lot of places have, but it's a bigger problem at Officina because the pasta is all good-to-great and you will want it in amounts that demand impossible feats of plate-Tetris. The pasta menu changes regularly, but if the agnolotti with burrata, bottarga and lemon's on there, or the pappardelle with short rib ragù, order them in wild abundance, modest table-size be damned. And also: don't miss the fried cacio e pepe raviolo — little coin-sized hits of crunchy, rich heat.

Officina '00, Old Street

Flour & Grape, Bermondsey

Home-rolled pappardelle, hand-crimped gigli, a long list of Italian wines by the decent-priced carafe — and it's somewhere you can actually make reservations. Good wine bar downstairs, if you're waiting for a table. Plus the nice touch of every pasta dish coming in small or large. Sounds initially pointless (large, obviously), till you realise how elegantly easy this makes it to double pasta for dinner — pasta for starter, pasta for main. And we're not going to judge you if you go pasta for dessert. Read more here.

Flour & Grape, Bermondsey

Popolo, Shoreditch

The agnolotti at Popolo, Shoreditch. Image by Lydia Manch.

Somehow hadn't been to this tucked-away Rivington Street trattoria till recently, despite all the hype around it when it opened back in 2017. A mistake, because it's lovely. And still, years later, packed to capacity with a hot-newcomer vibe.

Industrial-trattoria looks, a menu that bounces around western Europe but with Italy carrying the weight of it. Kind of chaotic service, outstanding way with 'nduja and lentils, and a small handful of very very good pasta dishes making up about half of the quite short menu. It wasn't exactly smooth sailing when we visited — stood in a corner waiting half an hour for a table we'd booked, ate with the restaurant closing down around us — but a testament to how nice the staff are/good the pasta is that, somehow, we didn't care much?

Popolo, Shoreditch

Norma, Fitzrovia

Image by Norma, Fitzrovia.

More than just a nice space — okay, a very beautiful, Moorish-meets-Sicilian-meets-Orient-Express-carriage space — Ben Tish's restaurant also happens to be doing a handful of spectacular pasta dishes. Expect southern Italian classics tempered with north African influences, and even when that sounds like a travesty — raisins in anything savoury, we're looking at you — it's done with flair and usually turns out somewhere between good and great. Read more about Norma here.

Norma, Fitzrovia

E Pellicci, Bethnal Green

The pasta's more of an excuse to go to E Pellicci, rather than the reason, though the lasagna's good. Great actually. Actually, some sort of Platonic archetype of lasagna. But Pellicci's isn't a trad pastificio, it's closer to a British caff filtered through a very Italian prism, with the pasta dishes on the menu massively outnumbered by the fry-ups and chicken sandwiches. Still one of the most joyful places in London to eat half your bodyweight in lowkey, just-like-nonna-used-to-make ragù.

E Pellicci, Bethnal Green

Campania, Shoreditch

Campania, Shoreditch. Image by Lydia Manch.

It's been around long enough that the bare-bulb, ramshackle, slightly ex-schoolroom look of the space has slid in and out of fashion, probably on repeat — but Campania endures, mostly unchanged, waiting to serve you lobster scialatielli and slow-cooked rabbit and whatever on their short menu they haven't run out of when you arrive. Tables spill out onto the streets on summer evenings, and service is languorously slow, and you could — if you look past the very much zone 1 London prices — be on an Amalfi coast street corner.

Campania, Shoreditch

Noci, Angel

Noci, Angel. Image by Lydia Manch.

Newish pasta restaurant from ex-Bancone Louis Koravilas, they're going for a mix of classics and theatre here — dishes like the fazzoletti with wild mushrooms and an egg yolk balancing on top like a spring sunrise are also, despite being very much aimed at your Instagram, actually really good. Same goes for imo the best pasta on the menu, the paccheri with veal and pork Genovese ragù, Tête de Moine cheese whirled onto it, tableside, from a cheese curler. A lot of swagger, but also a lot of substance.

Actual favourite dish of the menu, though, when we visited, wasn't even a pasta — the leek, walnut, and taleggio torta fritta, little fried, light, chewy, tensile, cheese-stuffed envelopes of dough. Not that striking to look at, but chef's kiss.

Noci, Angel

Via Emilia by Food Roots, Shoreditch

Same people behind In Parma in Fitzrovia — also good — but this one has the edge for us, thanks to its lowkey, lowlit nonchalance and spectacular Emilia-Romagna menu. Tortellini in brodo, a lot of stuffed pasta, a lot of cured meat, and the bonus presence of the rarely-sighted-on-a-London-menu squacquerone. You love to see it.

Via Emilia by Food Roots, Shoreditch

Ombra, Bethnal Green

Not primarily a pasta place, but very good at it, Ombra could get by on the allure of their little timber-framed terrace alone. Luckily they also have three or four outstanding pasta dishes on the short menu — changing regularly, but in two 'bring us one of everything' evenings there, we've yet to hit a pasta we wouldn't repeat order, immediately.

Ombra, Bethnal Green

Marcella, Deptford

The second restaurant from the team behind (the also great) Artusi in Peckham, Marcella's built along similar lines — simple, Scandi-spartan space, short and spectacular menus, good wine at good prices. Like Artusi, they've turned a tiny, neighbourhood space into something that eclipses any number of bigger, flashier spots. Read more here.

Marcella, Deptford

Padella, Borough

The OG of the sharing-plates fresh pasta scene in London, Padella is still usually, and justifiably, packed out. Not much has changed over the years: it's still seasonal pasta dishes, often riffing on British ingredients — tagliarini punchy with Dorset crab, ravioli stuffed with English ricotta. Bar vibes rather than restaurant, and queues to deter all but the most dedicated, it wouldn't be our choice for a rowdy group dinner or knees-brushing-knees date night, but if you're looking for a little lunchtime drop in or a mid-afternoon pasta refuel, it's a classic for a reason.

Padella, Borough

Gloria, Shoreditch

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Want your pasta to come in a giant wheel of parmesan, to a thumping backing track of Andreotti-era Raffaella Carrà? Maybe a flaming cocktail or two, jostling for aesthetic real estate with all the kitsch maximalism? Big Mamma Group to the rescue, with their OG London trattoria — though their two newer restaurants, Circolo Popolare in Fitzrovia, and Ave Mario in Covent Garden, are both going to deliver a lot of the same 70s rowdiness and truffle-on-everything vibes.

Gloria, Shoreditch

Ciao Bella, Bloomsbury

A big, expansive place where the pasta's okay — huge portions, decent prices — or sometimes very good, but it doesn't really matter because you're there for the feels. Even between lockdowns, even when nights out didn't really feel like nights out, Ciao Bella somehow did — friendly and rowdy, in an undemanding, relaxed way.

In restrictionless times, it's even more so: it's the place where people cluster till midnight smoking or drinking under the awning outside, and inside people are sitting on each other's laps, arms slung over each other's shoulders, or, possibly, climbing onto a chair to sing happy birthday. There are probably a few Hollywood celebrities tucked into shadowed corners. Seafood spaghetti comes in a big paper bag, upended steaming onto your plate, and your after-dinner digestivi probably come as a selection of full-sized bottles, crammed onto your table for you to dip into at will. Vivid green-gold oil on everything. Chance of a song being smashed out on the piano: high. It's a very Italian-dolce-vita-meets-lock-in-at-your-local-pub vibe, and if that sounds like a chaotic nightmare, we're probably not describing it well — we've never met somebody who'd been to Ciao Bella who didn't fall for it.

Ciao Bella, Bloomsbury

Honourable mention

Passione Vino, Shoreditch: usually just one pasta dish on the menu, and sometimes zero pasta. Still gets a shout-out for being a great bar, where the pasta represents a bonus level unlocked, rather than a reliable reason for going.

Quarantacinque, Bethnal Green: A little Italian cafe, on the very-Italian stretch of Roman Road near Bethnal Green station. Didn't make it into the main list because they only serve pasta on Friday, and usually just a lasagna. A good one, though, made the same day by Bottega Prelibato in Shoreditch. Buy to eat in or takeaway, by the portion or by the platter — order on the Thursday for entire trays.

Al Dente, Fitzrovia: Better for takeaway than a drawn-out dinner, we reckon — you're basically eating perched inside a (very good) pasta shop, which doesn't have a lot of the stay-for-hours vibe that we're after with our pasta. Still good Roman classics, decent prices.

Legare, Bermondsey: Heard good things, just haven't been ourselves, but its time shall come.

Last Updated 18 May 2022

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