Al Dente is refreshingly un-gimmicky. The focus at this pasta bar and wine shop is on the quality of the food. Born out of a group of friends’ passion for handmade fresh pasta, the place serves it up artisanal and al dente, tasting like it comes straight out of an Italian nonnina’s kitchen.
The small restaurant has limited seating – a lot of space is taken up by the on-site ‘pasta laboratory’ – with high tables and bar stools along counters. Cutlery and water glasses can be found in the table drawers, with this lack of set-up adding to the casual vibe. It’s got an unexpectedly neighbourhood feel, even though its neighbours are office blocks and a tube station.
Although a pasta dish here is sufficient for one person, it’s worth going in a group and sharing, so you can try as many options as possible. No-miss selections include the spaghetti alla carbonara: chunky tendrils in a rich, creamy, eggy puddle of perfection, sprinkled with guanciale (cured pork) for added saltiness. Also good was the tonnarelli cacio e pepe: creamy and fairly peppery, as you’d expect from the name. Finally, the ravioli zucca e pecorino: silky pockets of pasta stuffed with pumpkin and pecorino in a ricotta cheese sauce.
Dessert, though not the main event (there are just three choices), was equally delicious. Specifically the cannoli: a beautifully crisp pastry cigar, bursting with sweet ricotta and sprinkled with bitter chocolate.
Best of all, you can eat like you’re at a royal banquet, but without paying a princely sum. I’m almost reluctant to share how good the food at Al Dente is, as it’s currently still an easy place to wander into without a reservation. Go soon, before everyone else finds out about it.