Pastaio

Restaurants, Italian Soho
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A small plates, no-bookings pasta specialist just off Carnaby Street.

Pastaio. Is it fair to compare it to Padella? Well, yes and no. Like the Borough Market wheat maestro, it’s a no-bookings joint doing small-sized plates of handmade pasta with gutsy sauces. But the setting couldn’t be more different. Pastaio is like the Italian version of a large ramen joint. Only serving pasta (well, duh). There’s steam billowing out of the open kitchen, plus row upon row of communal tables. One wall showcases a bright mural, another, shelves of Campari. Effervescent staff take orders on iPads. Floors are painted concrete. The music is loud and eclectic. You get the vibe.

But as at Padella, it’s all about the pasta. I mean, you could of course order starters (if you do, get the buttery clams and mussels, or the tomato-and-anchovy-stuffed roasted red peppers). And, for that matter, desserts (avoid these: the watery tiramisu was the worst thing I ate). But the pasta is where it shines.

Sage-topped parcels stuffed with pork, rabbit and grouse were dense and meaty without being gamey. They also had lashings of butter and parmesan. Big tick. Nicely chewy bucatini, like thick spaghetti, came with one of my favourite sauces (and yes, yes, a Padella signature), ‘cacio e pepe’. Literally, ‘cheese and pepper’. It was creamy yet still sharp and salty, with a good hit of pepper. Magnifico!

For such a fun, central spot, it’s decent value (especially if you stick to pasta). The alfresco tables, on pedestrian-only Ganton Street, will be like gold dust come summer. But why wait? Go now.

By: Tania Ballantine

Posted:

Venue name: Pastaio
Contact:
Address: 19 Ganton Street
Soho
London
WIF 9BN
Transport: Tube: Oxford Circus
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £70.
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4 / 5

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Tastemaker

Stevie Parle’s Clerkenwell based Palatino was responsible for one of my favourite 2017 date night dinners so opening a new, very centrally located place was always going to be accompanied by a whole new set of sky-high expectations. Like a similarly named, no-reservations, South London counterpart, Pastaio specialises in fresh pasta and, apparently, being beautiful with long communal tables in beautiful flecked stone, an open plan kitchen constantly blurred behind puffy clouds of steam and a warm, mellow glow from the sort of lighting that makes everyone look that little bit more attractive.

Having checked the menu ahead of time like any self-respecting obsessive, £4 Prosecco slushies were on my mind. Tarter than a straight up glass of bubbles, the stripy-strawed glass of sharp, lemony snow multi-tasked like a champ, washing down the food and softening the edges of a long day. Wine also starts at £4 a glass and comes from a set of taps in the wall. A genius idea. I want them in my kitchen.

The fried Mozzarella, n’duja & honey sandwich is crispy, stringy & warmly spiced, possessing near-perfect levels of greasiness and crunch.

Bucatini is served here with the now somewhat fabled cacio e pepe, making it a clever twist on the more traditional pici and as my first foray into the world of Pecorino, butter, olive oil & black pepper, it was thick, slippery & soothing, salty, peppery & altogether dreamy.

Malloredus, a tiny striped pasta that looks like chubby baby gnocchi, came liberally splattered with a slow cooked sausage sauce, rich from meat, sweet from tomatoes and incredibly comforting. FYI, a sideways glance at a neighbour’s table showed the grouse, rabbit & pork agnoli also looking molto bene. Portions are sized well, generous enough to feel that the exceptionally reasonable price-points are valid but dainty enough to encourage the partaking of desserts. Plural.

Chocolate cherry tart is fudgy, dense and surprisingly light. Cannoli shatters in the hand & under the fork, exploding delicate orange & pistachio cream across the plate. Cherry-amaretto ice-cream is ripe with the flavours of marzipan and sweet stone fruit. This is a good dessert menu. Short yes, but good and made even better because not once during our nearly 3-hour dinner were we rushed along. Thank-you Stevie et al for realising that a dining experience doesn’t end the minute the last forkful is gone.

It’s hard to commit yourself to return restaurant visits in London but it’s even harder to find the places that make those trips worthwhile. Pastaio, with its calm and inviting demeanour despite being sat in one of the busiest neighbourhoods in the capital is one such spot, worthy of both your time, your money and your adoration of all things pasta.

tastemaker

I've never been to Italy, so I don't know if restaurants like Pastaio or Padella which serve innovative Italian food are a thing there or not. However, Padella completely changed my perception of Italina food and I assume it applies to everybody else too. And hence we see new places similar to it opening every now and then. We went there thinking the portion sizes are as small as Padella i.e. we should order 3 for 2 people. So glad that we didn't. The portions were just about right for one person. We ordered a butternut squash salad as the starter. I had a complete different image of it before it was served for us. It was a whole chunk of squash, with shredded red cabbage on top. The squash was not cooked very well, it was't soft at all and overall I found it quite bland. As for the main courses we had the crab spaghetti and the one with broccoli. The flavours in the crab spaghetti were really interesting and unique. However, my verdict was that it was worth trying once, but I wouldn't order it in the future. The flavours were quite strong and halfway through I felt I had enough of it. The broccoli pasta was also delicious, although a bit salty. All and all, I wouldn't mind going to this place again. Especially to try their cacio e pepe as it seems to be one of most popular dishes on their menu!

Tastemaker

I went here with a friend, during their soft launch. I liked the decor and ambience and the service was friendly. As soft launch, food took some time to come out.


We went for the nduja toastie, which was a bit let down. I could've made it better at home myself.


but the pasts was great, portions were small, but very tasty.  The Cacio e Pepe was phenomenal, we could've both licked the places, the sauce was that good.


If i was passing and craved pasta, I would definitely pop in, but don't think i would queue. 

tastemaker

Ever since this joint opened up, I haven't stopped seeing reviews and picture on social media. Obviously, the only thing to do in this instance was to go try it myself to see if it lives up to the hype. Indeed it does! 


My friend and I came here 2 weeks ago for a much needed catch-up session but also to break my dairy-free month. Although I'm lactose intolerant, I do have a slight tolerance for small amounts of cheese. What better way to end my dairy-free month by having pasta topped with freshly grated cheese? Since they don't take reservations, my friend showed a little earlier to get us a table, which I'm glad she did as I was late for our dinner. 


Upon arriving, I noticed that the tables were stuck together - so essentially, it was several long tables and customers sat literally right next to each other. I suppose this works if you have a large group but since it was just my friend and I, this was quite uncomfortable. We could hear the couples on either side of us and the whole restaurant in general was rather noisy. It was hard for my friend and I to communicate without shouting, even though we were sat across from each other. Equally, our waitress had to shout at us to convey information and when we took our orders. This wasn't very pleasant. If I come back, it'd definitely be at a quieter time so I wouldn't 'have to shout through my meal.


I went for the Wild Mushrooms Tagliatelle, which was delicious! The mushrooms were a kind that you wouldn't typically get at a restaurant because they're a bit more expensive. But they tasted so fresh and flavourful, it really brought the whole dish together. I liked how the tagliatelle was cooked al dente and I could taste that it was homemade and equally fresh. This came served with freshly grated parmesan on the top, which was kept at a sensible amount - enough to give another layer of flavour without killing the taste of the mushrooms. 


Since the portions weren't very large, we then decided to share another plate of pasta. We went for the Crab Reginette. This was cooked in a tomato-based sauce with a good amount of crab meat, which I could clearly see in the dish. This was also very delicious and tasty! I enjoyed the type of pasta used because they were very pretty and again, not a typical kind you'd get at the supermarket. 


In all, the dishes were not only delicious but also aesthetically pleasing. They looked great and that made me want to eat it even more! The reason it isn't a 5 star rating is because of how crowded the whole restaurant seemed, I didn't like how close we were to other customers and that my friend and I basically had to shout our way through our meal. 

tastemaker

Really great atmosphere, delicious food, refreshing drinks. We went as a group of four on a Saturday night at 7pm and had to wait about an hour for a table, but we just went next door for a drink so it was fine. I had the wild mushroom tagliatelle and it was divine, incredibly fresh, light and super tasty! On our table, we also had the cured meats and pickles (no prosciutto was a let down), cacio e pepe, sausage malloredus and pesto cassarecce. All pastas were delicious! Pretty low prices considering other restaurants in the area, I think it's going to become a favourite of mine in the city.

tastemaker

I enjoyed my dinner at Pastaio - I had the slow cooked sausage one and it was excellent. The starters were good, nothing mind blowing but still nice. Tiramisu was excellent. We had a good seat looking out of the windows, the rest of the tables were quite canteen-y, so maybe not ideal if you don't want to share! The staff were helpful, particularly considering it was only the 2nd week they had been open.

tastemaker

The pasta was so light and delicate, I finished my plate clean and didn't feel bloated from a carb overload. Simple and tasty flavours, this is how pasta should be. I really liked the staff there too and it had a good vibe.

Wheelchair access ✔️. There is a step to get in but they keep a ramp by the door. There is an accessible toilet, but during busy times it may be a bit difficult to get to it as people have to get up to make room for you.

Definitely recommended for quality pasta at a reasonable price (3 courses plus glass of wine for ~£27).

Tastemaker

A very high three star for me but nonetheless a three star. 


The food is fresh, simple and tasty. The Cacio e Pepe was the best of the three pastas we tried although the others were good too. Delicious, creamy, flavoursome - Pastaio really nailed it on the actual pasta front. That said, the starters need work. As a list of appetisers in general, it's an unexciting line up of cold meats, or lacklustre looking salad. The saving grace should have been the nduja toastie, but unfortunately, it was greasy and didn't deliver. 


I didn't love the modern almost school canteen style dining with long tables and uncomfortable stools. I felt a yearning with that delicious simple pasta to have a delicious simple background to go with it, and couldn't help but think that a woody, more traditional Italian style might have worked well. I'm sure it's deliberate to get people in and out quickly, anticipating a high turnover but I would have liked a seat with a back to it (I must be getting old). That said, my dinner partner in crime very much liked the decor so it may again just be to personal taste. 


Staff were friendly but certainly still finding their feet. I expect this will sharpen up in weeks to come. 


Overall, I'd say go for the pasta, but I wouldn't queue for hours to go here again. 

tastemaker

Absolutely love this place! The pasta is handmade and you can really taste how fresh all the food tastes! This little treasure is tucked away on Ganton street and recently opened. As a vegetarian I was quite impressed as there were quite a few options on the menu. We tried the cacio e pepe bucatini, the slow cooked tomato rigatoni and the pesto, green beans and potato cassarecce. All tasted so delicious! The portions are fairly small and light so you can order a selections of dishes to try and share if you wanted. Highly recommend this restaurant if you like your Italian food! My top tip would be to try and book in advance as it's fairly small and gets quite busy and at peak times it can be upto an hour for a table.