• Travel

The best pasta restaurants in London

  • 16.08.2017

“Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti,” actress Sophia Loren once famously said. And Londoners, it seems, have taken note – their love of Italy’s most famous export evident in the rise to fame of Contaldo, Carluccio, Locatelli and their ilk, and in their current predilection for queuing around the block for plates of freshly made fettucine, ravioli and tagliarini at Tim Siadatan’s runaway success story, Padella. Londoners’ affection for Italy goes back to the 18th century, when northern Italian craftsmen settled in Clerkenwell – later coined ‘Little Italy’. While the Italians paved the way, the British-born brigade has taken up the calling. “We’ve come a long way,” says Jamie. “Now, you can find some of the most extraordinary varieties of pasta and devourable dishes right across the capital.” Here’s where to find the perfect plates.

Set on the fringes of Borough market, and from the team behind North London favourite Trullo, the constant queues outside is testament to ex-Fifteen graduate Tim Siadatan’s food – proving that sometimes simplicity is best. “This is a beautiful and humble place,” says Jamie. “It’s homage to the many different pasta shapes and sizes. Happily, it’s super affordable, with plates starting at just £5, and the ingredients are so good.”

Bocca di Lupo
This soho favourite prides itself on authentic regional dishes – plus a great wine list to match. There’s always a good selection of pasta on the menu, such as paccheri (giant pasta tubes) packed with flaked gurnard and coated in a thick tomato and basil sauce, pigeon lasagne, and tortellini with peas and asparagus.

Cafe Murano
Here, you’ll find the prettiest bowl of slender capellini, and lasagne made with a pecorino béchamel. The pastificio next door is also worth a visit, if only for the ‘meal deal’; flawless tagliatelle, linguine, pappardelle or homemade ravioli, pasta, a sauce (choose from tomato, puttanesca, basil or sundried tomato pesto) and a bottle of wine to take home for £15.

Locanda Locatelli
Giorgio Locatelli’s eponymous restaurant, just north of Oxford Street, remains one of the most celebrated Italian restaurants in the capital. The Michelin-starred plates don’t come cheap, but there’s no special occasion that a plate of Giorgio’s egg-free pasta parcels filled with borrage, ricotta and walnuts won’t suit.

River Café
While you can taste the influence of Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray all over London – Jamie, Theo Randall and Morito’s Sam and Sam Clark all cut their teeth here – there’s nothing like returning to “the mothership” (as Jamie puts it). “Rose and Ruthie had this extraordinarily unapologetic desire to find the best ingredients, and to make pasta the right way,” Jamie says. “The pasta dishes here change twice daily and are always elegant, joyful and beautifully reflective of that exact seasonal moment in time.” Plus, the canteen-style restaurant really comes into its own in the warmer months – spaghetti alle vongole served at the blue garden tables dotted across the relaxed courtyard.

Theo Randall at the InterContinental
Former River Café head chef, Theo Randall, opened his light and bright restaurant here in 2006. While the menu features luxury produce, such as lobster, opting for the set lunch menu will give greater insight into Theo’s cooking; taglierini with sea bass, pappardelle and slow-cooked beef, mixed-green ravioli. “I highly advise eating here,” says Jamie. “Theo is one of my favourite people – he taught me how to eat with gusto and really get stuck into a dish. The pasta he makes here is sublime.”

Lardo Bebè
The East London eatery serves the same prime Italian fare as its older sibling, Lardo – just on a smaller scale. However, the big draw of this London Fields joint is their ‘lasagne Sundays’. From 12pm to 11pm, you can help yourself to as much lasagne and green salad as you can eat. Luckily, the restaurant doubles up as a wine shop, so pick up a bottle and settle in for the afternoon.

Burro e Salvia
Named after the classic filled-pasta accompaniment, butter and sage, Burro e Salvia is a shrine to pasta. Peer through the windows to discover chefs rolling, stuffing and folding golden-hued parcels, with their finished wares proudly displayed on mesh trays, ready to eat in or take away. Pasta here is fine and silky, the shapes interesting and fillings ever-changing – look out for their signature beef, pork and spinach ravioli.

The food here is a paen to the food of Rome, and it couldn’t feel more at home in Clerkenwell (think industrial-style lighting, exposed pipes and colourful marigold-yellow booths). Start with fried sage leaves, before ordering sharing plates of ravioli smuggling generous amounts of spinach and squash, the much-Instagrammed pici cacio e pepe, and dinky bombolotti with a ‘Marcella’ pork ragù. “Stevie is a wonderful cook,” adds Jamie. “He’s got great vision for simplicity and authenticity but delivers plates in a fresh, new and exciting way. You’ll also find great little pasta dishes popping up at his nearby restaurant, Sardine (sardine.london).

Find more restaurant recommendations in Jamie magazine every issue, or click here to save on a subscription. Words: Anna Berrill. 

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