Pastaio do know how to build suspense: their Instagram teasers in anticipation of their recent opening were a long-haul. The number of simultaneous snaps that were posted to build up a whole collage of pasta did create a fuss around #handmadepasta! What became particularly frustrating was the anticipation they sought to create by not revealing they launch date for so long. Whilst my foodie companion and I missed out on their week-long soft launch – mostly because we couldn’t bear the thought of Soho’s queues – it still remained on Our List. But on our eventual visit one November Friday evening, the expectation failed to live up to reality; as my companion remarked, there’s nothing ground-breaking about this place. Yes, the pasta is beautifully al dente, fresh, and very well-seasoned, but at the end of the day, it’s only pasta…
A follow-on to Stevie Parle’s celebrated Dock Kitchen, North Greenwich’s CRAFT London, Dalston’s Rotorino and Clerkenwell’s Palatino finally has a Soho venture outpost. This place has a simple concept: pasta with a side of prosecco. Indeed, Pastaio translates as “pasta-makers”, and refers to chefs/cooks who make pasta by hand. Whilst the décor is industrially on-trend with its stripped back dining room, open kitchen, and low-hanging pendant lights, all stylishly designed by Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studios, my companion and I both found it overly noisy. We could hardly hear each other due to the high number of covers and the three big sharing tables. For us both it felt like a cross between Wagamama and a school canteen; it’s impossible to have an intimate dinner here and it’s certainly no date venue.
Despite having no ambience, the pasta didn’t disappoint. I love the simplicity of their menu which is made up of just a few seasonal pasta dishes reasonably priced at £7 – £11. Since my favourite pastas are ribbon-like strands, I opted for the Wild mushrooms, tagliatelle, garlic and olive oil (£10), whilst my companion went for the Pesto, green beans & potato cassarecce (£8). My tagliatelle had all the simplicity and confidence that makes Italian cookery successful. The scattering of mushrooms were very generous and the seasoning had a wonderfully lemony kick that oozed freshness. Whilst my companion enjoyed her pesto pasta, for her it was nothing to brag about.
What’s more, the fast-food like atmosphere of this place detracts from the quality of the pasta. So much so that my companion and I ventured out for our post-supper tea and desert. Sadly, Pastaio isn’t the kind of place you’d want to linger. With its overly bright lights, loud noise, and densely packed sharing tables, it’s more of an eat and run spot. Although Soho is generally overly-populated, it’s worth seeking out a more cosy and dimly lit haunt for an atmospheric bite. All in all, Pastaio was surprisingly underwhelming.
Pastaio, 19 Ganton Street, London W1F 7BN