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.