Trying to find plates of pasta where both the portion and the prices are in proportion such that you can justify a second (or third) plate if necessary has been my unofficial calling for years. Here are 18 spots I find myself heading back to time and again for a beautiful bowl of something silky.
By definition, it is impossible to perfect perfection — and it’s almost as tricky to improve upon classic pasta dishes. Cacio e pepe has long been doing just fine as is, thank you very much, likewise Genovese. So when I saw Noci were topping the latter with Swiss cheese and mixing the former with brown butter, my first instinct was to give the place a wide berth. I’m delighted I didn’t. Not only is this fresh pasta at its finest — silky smooth, with a satisfying bite — the flavours are near unrivalled. Far from detracting from the faultlessness of those classic combinations, these riffs make you appreciate the originals afresh. Noci isn’t the cheapest, but the portions err towards the generous side. The vibe is decidedly buzzy — this is not a place for those who like to be heard without shouting — but for a catch up with friends it’s ideal, not least because the menu boasts £6 Negronis and a surprisingly decent espresso Martini on tap.
4-6 Islington Green, N1 2XA, nocirestaurant.co.uk
Established in 1967 and still run by the same family, Il Portico is everything a friendly local Italian should be — and a bit extra on top. That extra comes in the shape of their farm in Kent, where original founder Pino Chivarini has most of the food fuelling the restaurant, including foraged produce and wild game. Now the restaurant is in the friendly and capable hands of his son James, who has opened a wine bar and restaurant named for his dad two doors down, where you can enjoy an aperitivo before tucking into any one of their religiously traditional, almost soulful pasta dishes, plated on white plates and white tablecloths, surrounded by black and white photos of the Chivarini clan. The squid ink tagliolini is particularly impressive and whilst, like most of the dishes here, it will set you back a fair whack, it’s hard not to feel it is worth it.
277 Kensington High Street, W8 6NA, famigliaportico.co.uk
Long, yellow ribbons of tagliatelle smothered in a rich ragu that has spent 12 hours slowly simmering into itself; plump tortellini neatly stuffed with Parma ham, pork loin, parmesan and mortadella, all bathing in a strong, clear Capone broth. Fadiga aren’t fixing what isn’t broken — they’re just nailing the classics, which they do with considerable aplomb. The restaurant is family run: Michela Pappi makes the pasta, her husband Enrico cooks it, and their daughter Carlotta serves it up in their diminutive 10-seater dining room. It is every bit as comforting and wholesome as it sounds. Prices are on the steeper end, but portions are enormous; this is not a place where you need two or three plates to be full — though the squid ink spaghetti with seafood is good enough to make anyone seriously contemplate a second.
71 Berwick Street, W1F 8TB, fadiga.uk
Anima e Cuore
Forgive, if you can, Anima e Cuore’s bright lilac and yellow frontage, for the gaudy exterior belies some astonishingly impressive Italian cuisine. There’s plenty of fresh pasta on the near-daily changing menu that boasts, for instance, tagliolini tangled up with feathers of fresh black truffle and a fudgy pumpkin ravioli blessed with amaretto and crispy sage. The dining room is small and the kitchen smaller still, making for an intense experience, not least because it is beloved by locals and thus perenially busy. Anima’s Insta is hilarious, almost reassuringly bad, but then — it doesn’t need it. It mightn’t need you, either, but you may soon finding yourself needing the pasta, particularly when it’s married to fresh seafood and sauces luxurious enough to bottle. Speaking of bottles, Anima is BYOB, so expect the bill to be less punchy than the menu’s prices — between £14 and £19 for primi pasta — might suggest.
127 Kentish Town Road, NW1 8PB, animaecuore.co.uk
Flour and Grape
When it comes to pasta and wine, Flour and Grape is almost as faultless as its name is straightforward — that “almost” has nothing to do with the pasta and wine, but everything to do with the booking policy (F&G don’t take ‘em). That said, the place does use the WalkUp app, which details availability and wait times, and runs a virtual queue — those waiting are best doing it in the subterranean gin bar. Upstairs, the menu roams all over Italy and reads like a greatest hits list of pasta, though the standout is the pork shoulder tortellini, which packs a punch of slow roasted pig, heady sage and creamy butter. The setting is like an interior design equivalent of that dish — supple brown leather banquettes, long wooden tables, bare brick and warm filament bulbs — and the wine list is equally winsome. Best of all, the prices are entirely reasonable; you could have a starter and a pasta for less than £20 and still go home very happy.
214 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ, flourandgrape.com
Mele e Pere
Maybe it’s the vermouth menu, maybe it’s the vibey basement bar, maybe it’s the luminescent, green and red loopy lettering, but there’s something about Mele e Pere that feels so Soho, as though this Italian trattoria has been here 50 years rather than 10. Like Fadiga, it’s family run, though this time it’s three brothers manning the helm, making pappardelle, tortellini, spaghetti and bigoli daily and bringing them together with carefully sourced, seasonal ingredients like truffles, morel mushrooms, smoked scamorza and – best of all – lobster and langoustines, their pink, hunky flesh flaked into the pasta and their shells simmered down into a powerful bisque. Come for lunch, and you’ll get two courses for £14.50, which is ridiculous but true. Come for dinner, and you’re not going to get much change out of £30 for the same but then — well, it’s so Soho.
46 Brewer Street, W1F 9TF, meleepere.co.uk
To say Stevie Parle’s Pastaio is the best thing coming out of Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush is to do both Stevie and his artfully conceived, deftly executed pasta restaurant a disservice. But if one has to be in Westfield (and most of us do, sooner or later), a bowl of eight-hour Hereford beef Bolognese or clam linguini is a wonderful way to redeem the experience, especially if it’s a Thursday, when £25 buys unlimited plates of pasta and a sorely needed spritz. Worth bearing in mind too that this is one of the friendliest fresh pasta places for vegans and vegetarians — there’s a full vegan menu, in fact — and there’s gluten free pasta available on request. Should Westfield be a shopping centre too far, Londoners can experience all of this in Soho too, where Stevie’s slick, pared-back outpost is doing the same thing, just out of sight of Waitrose and Louis Vuitton.
19 Ganton Street, W1F 9BN, pastaio.co.uk
Trattoria Raffaele looks and feels like the local Italian so many of us seemed to grow up with. Indeed, if you were born in Sydenham, it probably is the local Italian you grew up with. There’s the garlic bread and dough balls, with or without mozzarella; the deep-fried calamari and whitebait; the checked tablecloths and of course, vintage posters of Italian spirits. There’s also pasta: nothing fancy — think lasagne, fettucini with prima vera, spag bol et al — but done to a standard that brings in not just local Brits, but local Italians too. Servings are as generous as you remember your childhood Italian being, and whilst the prices reflect inflation and the London location, they are still very reasonable. There is, of course, a little pasta bambini for kids, priced at £7, and gluten-free gnocchi and fettucini are available as well.
94 Sydenham Road, SE26 5JX, trattoriaraffaele.com
Oi Spaghetti + tiramisu
Many swear by Artusi when it comes to fresh pasta in Peckham, and rightly so, but for my money, Oi Spaghetti + tiramisu can’t be bettered. This is not just on account of the name, though it’s a strong start. In this tiny cabin on Copeland Park, owner Francesco Magrograssi knocks out nonna-worthy pasta both in terms of quantity and quality, sourcing fresh produce from organic producers in Britain — Flock and Herd are their butchers, for example — and DOP cheese and cured meats from Italy. The pasta is solely spaghetti, as per the name, and comes tangled up with seasonal vegetables, quality bacon, or chunks of fish or shellfish in sauces smacking of chilli, garlic and anchovies. The dessert is no surprise either, being well executed tiramisu. The atmosphere is intimate (it’s a cabin, after all) and with big plate portions of pasta at no more than £15 and house wine by the glass from £6, Oi Spaghetti also represents top value for money.
133 Copeland Road, Copeland Industrial Park, SE15 3SN, oispaghetti.co.uk
Many of the best things that go with, in and on pasta come via Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, so it makes sense to have a restaurant exclusively dedicated to it. From this fertile, mountainous and rich — both culturally and financially — area of northern Italy comes Parmigiano Reggiano, pancetta, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, the recipes for Bolognese sauce and for tortellini, to name but a few. Via Emilia takes all of these, as well as the region’s abundant variety of wines and beers, and puts them in a comfortable 40-seater restaurant in Hoxton with a lightly industrial vibe and marble tables. Come for the eggy homemade pasta, stay for some of the most affordable prices you’ll find amongst the city’s pasta joints — though beware you’ll need three plates between two people. Don’t miss the puffy, golden gnocco fritti, served with cheese and charcuterie, or the turte vèird, which is ravioli stuffed with spinach ricotta and parmesan and dressed in butter and sage.
37a Hoxton Square, N1 6NN, via–emilia.com
Officina gives the impression of having known about fresh pasta before it was cool, despite opening in 2019 on one of London’s most notoriously confusing and grubby roundabouts. Like Padella, it offers food porn in the form of a pasta station where strong men endlessly wield smooth dough into dainty shapes and strands, and an open kitchen where these are cooked and folded into innovative, seasonal combinations inspired by traditional recipes: trofie with pistachio pesto, sure, but also with yuzu koshu, the Japanese seasoning, or papardelle with beef short rib ragu and meatballs and burrata with basil. They all work, aren’t expensive (£13, tops) and are served in a softly lit, green-tiled restaurant that feels a million miles away from Old Street. Treat yourself to Limoncello Martini or three, too.
156 Old Street, EC1V 9BW, officina00.co.uk
Manteca may be Italian, but it is so, so London. Like the city that birthed it, Manteca takes its inspiration anywhere and everywhere: Manteca is Spanish for pork fat (and the title of a Dizzy Gillespie song), parfait shares a menu with miso, dates and salsa, there is a long, low intervention wine list which sweeps across Europe and co-founder and head chef Chris Leach delights in nose-to-tail butchery, a Nineties-heavy playlist, and hand rolled pasta tossed with seasonal, well sourced ingredients that include brown crab meat in a cacio e pepe, slow roasted duck ragu, and sausage with black truffle and cream. The pasta is the high point of this very reasonably priced menu, though there’s joy to be had from most plates which are priced at around a tenner. Don’t miss the aforementioned crab cacio e pepe and the pig head fritti.
49-51 Curtain Road, EC2A 3PT, mantecarestaurant.co.uk
Jade Nina Sarkhel
Maremma is devoted to Tuscany — as likely is anyone who has ever visited Tuscany, because it is impossible not to fall in love with its long, sunny beaches, pine forests, cured meats and chiantis. That’s exactly what happened to Alice Staple and Dickie Bielenberg, Maremma’s founders, which is how they came to be bringing the latter back home to Brixton. Meats, cheese, olive oil and wines are imported from a carefully curated selection of small Tuscan suppliers — but it is their union with fresh tagliatelle, mezzelune and pappardelle that regulars come for, in a warm, amiable neighbourhood restaurant that does a pretty good job at recreating the feel of the region too. Prices are on the steeper side: £17-£19, if you’re making the pasta your main course, though that speaks to the quality of the ingredients. Smaller plates come in around £12.
36 Brixton Water Lane, SW2 1PE, maremmarestaurant.com
Ciao Bella is not just a decent Italian restaurant and one of the last remaining Anglo-Italian restaurants, it’s also a rite of passage for any Londoner looking for good time, a long time and a loud time, fuelled by bowls of pasta that are as big on flavour as they are, well, big. And huge they are, spilling over with shellfish or buried in snowfalls of parmesan or both, because in Ciao Bella anything goes. There’s a piano, there are black and white photos, the tables spill out onto the pavement with as much exuberance as the seafood out of the dishes. The outdoor tables are well heated and are perfect for long lunches that turn into dinners, aided and abetted by copious amounts of good value house white. Seafood pasta is the star dish, though I’ve a nostalgic soft spot for the salmon, broccoli, and cream. Ciao Bella doesn’t dish up the best pasta in London; but it does dish up the best time for the best value, especially if you take your best people. And you should.
86-90 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1N 3LZ, ciaobellarestaurant.co.uk
La Mia Mamma
Londoners have become so accustomed to seeing young, tattooed chaps flexing their muscles and dough in the windows of the city’s fresh pasta joints, it’s easy to forget that pasta in Italy is mostly made by women. Remind yourself by heading to La Mia Mamma, where the windows are filled with real-life Italian mammas making fresh pasta. This is combined with regional ingredients which change every three months, as the restaurant ranges around different regions of Italy. Expect the classics and a zero-tolerance policy around riffing on them. For £35 one can get an Aperol Spritz, antipasti to share and a pasta — which is hard to argue with, especially in west London — and meanwhile, you’ll be championing a bunch of ordinary (but extraordinarily talented) Italian women.
257 King’s Road, SW3 5EL, lamiamamma.co.uk
“Hidden gem” is a hopelessly hackneyed phrase —but if you’re a beloved Italian restaurant born of carefully sourced, organic produce and you’re based far enough along the Central line to make non-locals question the schlepp, I think you’ve earned it. Mora, then, is hidden — at least to anyone west of Bethnal Green — but so too it is a dazzling gem. Fresh pasta comes courtesy of Carlo Usai, a Sardinian with decades of central London cheffing under his belt; service is in the hands of his wife, Silvia. The pair’s love for Leytonstone is heartily requited, as you’ll see the minute you walk in the door. So comforting is Mora — its people, but also its pasta, which comprises Sardinian specialities such as fresh sausage with pecorino and saffron, or tagliatelle tanged with hazelnut pesto and Sardinian goats’ cheese — that a friend of mine took herself for a solo dinner here the same night her heart was broken. Prices don’t break the bank either, at around £13 for a very generous plate of pasta and a huge list of wines under £30.
487 High Road Leytonstone, E11 4PG, moraitalianrestaurant.co.uk
Lina Stores is a 78-year-old London institution reimagined for the 21st century. This is mostly on account of its fresh pasta, which start at £7 for a refreshingly zesty spaghetti alla chitarra with Amalfi lemon and pink peppercorns. The setting across all four (soon to be five) of their sites is as pleasing as the pasta and price tags, all cool shades of mint and pistachio green, wooden tables and marble floors, with Italian deli produce providing vivid, scattered splashes of colour. There’s usually something very good with agnolotti and ricotta, and a few cracking seafood options too: the casarecce alla Calabrese is reliably a highlight. You’ll need a couple of pasta plates if you’re even remotely hungry, and make space for some hot, crispy aubergine polpette too.
W1F, W1D, N1C, EC4, linastores.co.uk
For the truly committed carb lover, there’s only one place better than a great pasta restaurant — and that’s a bakery that does great bread and pastries by day, before turning into a pasta restaurant come nightfall. Pophams is that place: Ollie Gold and Lucy McWhirter are those visionaries who are uniting not just the best carbs, but the best possible versions of these carbs together with crockery, décor and art that reflect the same level of dedicated craftsmanship. Phil King and Rae Arends are their chefs, and the seasonally changing menu offers a rather irreverent approach to traditional recipes — though no nonna could fault the quality of the pasta itself: tense, silky, and shimmering in emulsions and sauces. The cavatelli bathing in a pretty, pixie-green blend of buttermilk, peas and leeks and crowned with goats cheese is a must; ditto the cannelloni with girolles, rabbit and mustard. You can eat both of these, and some starters, and drink some wine and still have change out of £50.
197 Richmond Road, E8 3NJ, pophamsbakery.com