We check out Pasta Nostra, an Italian eat and fresh pasta offering, on Old Street, a month after its opening, to see how this new venture is getting on in the busy city hub.
Friday lunchtime around Old Street in the Summer is always busy. With so many exciting restaurants on offer, showcasing eclectic cuisines as well as old favourites, dining out in the area is either a hectic and overcrowded affair, or an indulgent treat that gets you in the mood for the weekend.
So, it is with great intrigue that we stroll over to Pasta Nostra to find that the wonderfully airy two-floor restaurant with dedicated outside seating, is rather quiet. Somewhat relieved that it won’t be too loud, we wander in and, after a cursory glance around the cute downstairs are dotted with tall circular tables bordered by stools to create an informal quick-stop café vibe, make our way upstairs. Here, brightly coloured walls and mid-century-meets-modern furnishings are pleasant and comfortable, and the mezzanine position gives us the perfect opportunity to watch the going-on on the street below.
We take a look at the short but sweet menu, and elect to start with some Aperitivi – it is Friday after all. Negroni Spagliato (£8) and Campari Spritz (£9) catch our eye and we – after a long wait – are rewarded with two beautifully bitter and gently herbal cocktails. We’re impressed that the Pasta Nostra duo of chefs Wildred Mafham and Luca Cianti have made the brave choice to only offer bitter palate Aperitivo cocktails, with Carpano Antica Vermouth as the only listed that is on the sweeter side. For those not looking for typical Aperitivo-style drinks, there is the choice of Tanqueray Gin, rich and fragrant Venezuelan Pampero Rum, and of course, Italian wines, local beers and soft drinks.
Our starters of Burrata, Gazpacho, Chili EVO (£6) and Parmigiana, Baked Aubergine, Tomato Sauce, Burrata (£6) arrive a while later and we are certainly ready for them. The burrata has a creamy, pull-apart texture and is dolloped into light, creamy and flavoursome gazpacho that has a good pepper kick to it. The aubergine is also good with nutty Parmesan and ripe tomatoes bringing the dish together.
Our plates are cleared and we finish off the melted ice at the bottom of our glasses, waiting for a member of the waiting staff to pass by so that we can request a menu and drinks. Whilst there are a fair number in the venue and few diners around, the staff all appear to be elsewhere. We see a few of the other tables on our level who’ve been similarly looking around for servers check their watches. After waiting for a good while, we wonder over to an empty table that has a menu and pick out a glass of wine in preparation for the apparition of service to appear. Another half an hour goes by and a server appears to ask how our mains were…we say we haven’t had them, and order our wine instead.
More time passes and we sip our wine slowly to avoid finishing it before the mains of Pappardelle with 12-Hour Braised Oxtail, Tomatoes and 24-Month Parmesan (£12) and Gnocchi with Slow-Cooked Puttanesca, Olives and Capers (£7) arrive. When they finally do, the pappardelle pasta is a bit harder than al dente – not good for a restaurant whose name translated as “Our Pasta” – but the sauce is aromatic and well-seasoned. The gnocchi itself is good with a light spice to the sauce that brings the dish out of mundanity. However, for a place that is trying to pass itself off as a quick lunchtime spot, it has failed to deliver speed of service (we’ve been here for well over an hour since ordering our Aperitivi drinks until this point) or the necessary competency needed from staff in a fast-turnaround spot with few items on the menu and even fewer diners.
Hoping that dessert might prove a saving grace, we opt for one of each of the two options available: Sicilian Cannolo (£5) and Tiramisu (£4). Thankfully these are both lovely with the pistachio and chocolate cannoli especially winning our hearts with its combination of a thick crunchy shell filled with smooth sweet ricotta and its toppings of roughly chopped pistachio nuts and chocolate.
Whilst our experience at Pasta Nostra was by no means seamless, we hope that the next couple of months will see its teething problems resolved. Currently it is definitely not a place that we could recommend as a working lunch stop-off, however if you’re looking for somewhere to pick up a coffee and a cheeky treat, go get that Cannolo!
Pasta Nostra, 122 Old Street, London, EC1V 9BD