My Life In Food: Lina Stores Head Chef, Masha Rener

My Life In Food: Lina Stores Head Chef, Masha Rener

Since Lina Stores opened nearly 75 years ago, the Soho deli has become an institution, providing homesick Italians and in-the-know Londoners with the best ingredients Italy has to offer. As of 2018 it has its very own restaurant, using the very same fresh ingredients. A vibrant no-bookings restaurant, the kitchen is headed up by Masha Rener, the deli’s in-house pasta chef and a restaurateur from Umbria, Italy. Here, she shares all her foodie favourites…

What restaurant from your childhood will always stay with you?

I grew up on my parent’s farm and restaurant so always helped my father and mother run La Chiusa for as long as I can remember. Since I was always in and around their kitchen it sparked my passion and interest for food. 

What was the first dish you learned to cook?

Pasta, without a doubt. Homemade ravioli was one of the first dishes my mother taught me both at home and in her restaurant kitchen.

Which restaurant do you revisit most often?

My go-to restaurant in Perugia is La Taverna, a traditional north Italian restaurant serving boiled meats. In London I find myself going back to P. Franco for its wines and rotating chef residences. It’s such a surprising and innovative concept. I also love A. Wong in Pimlico. Those langoustine noodles are divine.

Do you have a favourite chef?

Nadia Santini, who is the owner of Al Pescatore in Canneto sull’Oglio. She has become one of the best female chefs in the world, and I’m incredibly inspired by her recipes and professional attitude towards cooking.

What’s been your favourite restaurant opening of 2018?

Kym’s in Bloomberg Arcade, the newest venture by Andrew Wong. It’s all about the reinvention of Chinese classics with a focus on roasted meats. It completely blew my mind when I visited and I keep going back for the pork belly.

A Wong
A Wong
The Ship
The Ship

What restaurant should everyone visit in their lifetime?

Kadeau in Copenhagen, it’s Michelin-starred. They use local products from Bornhom Island and focus on algae products. They even have a pastry dish filled with ants on the menu.

What’s your most memorable meal?

La Trotta near Terni in Umbria. The menu is truly exquisite at this Michelin-starred place but what makes it even more amazing is the surrounding area – it’s located on the river with willow trees adorning the riverbed. It’s truly magical and straight from a fairytale.

In London, where’s your favourite pub?

I love a pub that serves good food. The Ship in Wandsworth, a gastro pub with a riverside terrace, serves amazing barbecued food in the summer.

And what about your favourite London bar?

Quite possibly Bar Italia – it’s a great little place in Soho, which is a hub for Italians in London.

What’s your go-to dish on a Sunday night?

Pizza. Everyone in Italy has pizza on Sunday night. Just down the road from my flat in Umbertide there’s a place called Golden Saloon. They have very crispy and thin pizza – my favourite kind!

What’s your top recommendation for a date location?

I think there’s nothing better in the world than cooking for someone. Taking the time to cook your favourite meal or the one you are most skilled in is a great way of getting to know someone.

What do you like to eat – if anything – after a long, late shift?

I usually have a quick bowl of pasta with butter and parmesan – as it fills me up and is quick enough so I can get to bed fast.

Do you have a favourite cookbook?

Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well by Pellegrino Artusi as it’s a very comprehensive book with lots of useful tips on recipes and ingredients. Plus, it’s very funny at times too.

Where do you like to buy ingredients?

Organic local markets wherever I go and, in London, Lina Stores of course.

Lina Stores
Lina Stores
Lina Stores
Lina Stores
Lina Stores
Lina Stores

Who’s your favourite dining companion?

My kids. They’re so fun and I love hearing about their day and what’s going on in their lives. 

What’s your signature dish if you have people coming for dinner?

Roasted lamb with sour cream and lemon on top. Served with artichokes, it’s a dream.

If you could invite anyone, who would it be?

Danilo Petrucci, the motorcycle road racer. I feel like he’d have great stories to tell.

What’s the secret to a good dinner party?

Inviting the right people.

Any guilty pleasures when it comes to takeaways or food on-the-go?

Anchovies are my favourite. They’re not really a guilty pleasure but I love them. They’re delicious when served simply with bread and butter.

Who’s inspired you most when it comes to cooking?

My mother, without a doubt. Everything I know I owe to her.

The one dish you always order if you see it on the menu?

Soft-shell crab as I love the texture and fragrance of it. It’s so versatile as well. In Italy there’s a typical dish from Venice called moeche (fried soft-shell crab), which I always go for.

What’s your drink of choice?

An Old Fashioned.

Quickest midweek meal?

Mix breadcrumbs, capers, pecorino and very thinly sliced beef steak together before frying it in the pan – super quick and delicious.

What's your death row dinner?

Arrotolato – it’s a dish my mum cooks for us. It’s made from bread dough dipped into milk then rolled with spinach and boiled in water in a tablecloth. After it’s boiled, it’s sliced, grilled in a pan and served with veal gravy.

What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday lunch?

Cappelletti in brodo (‘little hats’ of pasta in a clear, meaty broth) and pork ribs as a main.

And the most decadent meal you've ever had?

At Mulino della Ricavata in Urbino, an Italian farmhouse which only serves products they’ve grown themselves. Their minestra al sacco dish, an Italian soup, was one of the best of my life.

What's your food hell?

Boiled fennel – I hate it!

Find Lina Stores at 51 Greek Street, Soho, W1D 4EH. For more information visit 

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