On Brewer Street, family-run Lina Stores heaves with the very best of Italian produce – olive oils, cheese, stacks of tinned tomatoes, prosecco, cured meats and fresh coffee are piled high. But it’s the pasta – made fresh every morning – that’s really made this delicatessen a hit with Italians and locals alike. So it seems a natural step for the team to show off its wares via an eatery just two blocks away.
A no-bookings restaurant on vibrant Greek Street, the kitchen is headed up by Masha Rener, the deli’s in-house pasta chef and a restaurateur from Umbria, Italy. Together with her team, she’s creating spectacular dishes out of the simplest ingredients.
We’re a big fan of the aesthetic, which mirrors the same colour scheme of the green-tiled deli. The bang-on-trend mint exterior leads into an open kitchen surrounded by a 12-seat dining counter, complete with reclaimed globe pendant lighting and green leather stools. Striped green and white floor tiles lead guests down to the lower-ground floor, where white brickwork, green banquettes and traditional terrazzo flooring bring the look together. The mint colour also lends itself to the chef’s uniforms and plates upon which the pasta is served.
When the weather’s warm, we imagine there’ll be high demand for the four counter seats outside – it’s the perfect spot to get stuck into an aperitif.
We begin with a selection of antipasti – a raw courgette and radicchio salad is dressed with a punchy anchovy dressing, while the substantial pork belly sandwich is as simple as it comes. Sitting up at the chef’s counter, we watch as a slow-roasted pork joint is released from the oven and sliced into a crunchy roll. It’s crispy, salty and packed with flavour. The same can be said for the fiery nduja and cooling buffalo ricotta (prepared at the deli), which are served alongside more of that freshly baked bread.
When it comes to the main event – that’s the pasta list – we’re relieved to learn that we should try three dishes between two. Of the eight, we opt for the veal ravioli with marjoram and toasted breadcrumbs (umami-laden and buttery); and the ricotta and herb gnudi, with sage and brown butter, which was crammed with so much leafy flavour, that were it not for the parmesan hit it would almost feel healthy. But the highlight had to be the rabbit ragu with rosemary and taggiasca olives – a tangle of silky pappardelle heaped with gravy-slicked rabbit and a lively hit of olives. We’d eat it every day if we could.
Perusing the aperitif list is another exercise in restraint. Negronis, spritz, bellinis and americanos are all present and correct, but it was the Italicus Spritz, made with Maley gin, Italicus liqueur, nettle syrup, lemon and egg white that really stood out – it was deliciously bitter. Meanwhile, the Rhubarb Martini (Aperol, Sabatini gin, rhubarb and lemon) may well be our drink of the summer.
A short and sweet Italian-only wine list offers decent sips by the glass and the bottle (we were pleased to see a Montpulciano on there). A chilled glass of Gavi de Gavi was the perfect accompaniment to that rabbit pappardelle. A shot of ice-cold limoncello on the way out was a fun way to end the evening.
While it’s often successful restaurants that launch shops off the back of their produce, this U-turn from Lina Stores breaks with tradition in impeccable style. The passion and pride with which the team talk about the provenance of the individual ingredients is refreshing – while we tuck into lemon sorbet (sour yet creamy), a chef talks to us at length about how it was made and who by; when we’re asked if we’re enjoying our Italicus Spritz, the man beams at our reply and explains that it’s his recipe.
What’s more, it’s an affordable spot – pastas cost around £8.50 each, antipasti averages £4.50 and cocktails start at £6. This personable restaurant has the looks and the flavours to back it up. We’re already plotting a second visit.
51 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 4EH