Pastaio – where the pasta comes fasta!
16 November, 2018 — By Tom Moggach
Pastaio’s crab spaghetti : a bold hit of chilli and a dusting of bottarga
I LAST met chef Stevie Parle planting herbs on the terrace of his restaurant in Ladbroke Grove.
I was working as a gardener; he was a well-travelled cook with a taste for exotic, obscure flavours – ginger mint, Thai basil and the like.
He launched his stellar career at Dock Kitchen, an achingly trendy restaurant with a herb garden overlooking the canal.
Since then, he’s opened several new places: Rotorino in Dalston, Palatino near Old Street and Craft London over in Greenwich.
Pastaio is his latest – a buzzy, canteen-style pasta restaurant just off Carnaby Street.
I wouldn’t recommend it for secret trysts or leisurely lunches. This business model relies on speed: reasonably priced pasta served fast to hungry hordes on communal tables.
We went for dinner, braving the virtual queuing system. They don’t accept reservations and text when your seats are ready – so you can nip off for a drink nearby.
The chef is friends with designer Tom Dixon and the room is well put together. A colourful mural stretches across the right-hand wall, with abstract shapes evoking rigatoni, ravioli and spaghetti. A gleaming open-plan kitchen hogs the left.
There are three long tables and a handful of two-seaters. Music blares; the staff are young, fast and friendly.
The drinks list is short and all-Italian: 10 wines by the glass, plus cocktails, digestivos, bubbles and a prosecco slushy.
Parle deliberately keeps his prices sensible. A glass of house wine starts at £4.50 and a bowl of rigatoni with tomato sauce costs just £6.50.
For a starter, we shared a fried, oozy sandwich stuffed with mozzarella and enlivened with a touch of spicy ’nduja and lick of honey.
Other antipasti include charcuterie, clams and mussels, or a salad of roasted squash, red cabbage, hazelnut and salted ricotta.
The pasta dishes are excellent. You could choose conchigliette, shaped like tiny sea shells, with chickpeas, rosemary, sage and a glug of olive oil – a rustic dish that takes skill to get right.
Malloreddus, tiny gnocchi from Sardinia, are smothered in a sauce spiked with sausage meat; the filled pasta special was ravioli with mozzarella and bolognese.
Our favourite was an Instagram-friendly crab pasta: intertwined strands of black and white spaghetti with a bold hit of chilli and dusting of bottarga (cured fish roe).
New on the menu is a large sharing dish, brought to your table in its cast-iron cooking pot and unveiled with gusto.
A hunk of slow-cooked beef shin is paired with frilly reginette pasta, parsley, lemon zest and garlic.
Later, there’s ice cream, tiramisu and an excellent pear, almond, hazelnut and thyme tart.
Pastaio is a poem to pasta, with a hashtag of #madebyhand. It’s just what you want if you’re out and about nearby: a quick pitstop where prices are keen and quality is invariably high.
Expect to pay around £25 per person for a two-course meal and drink before service.
19 Ganton Street, W1F