I’m going to be frank with you. If you asked me to choose between my partner and a large portion of creamy pasta, I’m not quite sure what I’d do (sorry, Edd). But now you know how much I adore carbs, so when the opportunity came along to try La Nonna, Brixton Market’s newest Italian hangout, I jumped at the chance.
With Roman-born chef Daniele Pino at the helm, La Nonna pride themselves on fresh and unfussy comfort food with all the atmosphere of an authentic Italian trattoria. Each dish is thoughtfully curated and inspired by Dani’s grandmother (the eponymous nonna), so much so that you’ll see pictures of the lady herself on the walls.
Starting out life as a street food-style truck in Flat Iron Square, La Nonna needed the space to grow, allowing chef Dani and his team to experiment with new flavours and recipes. The new open-plan restaurant also gives us a glimpse into the impressive skills needed to make fresh pasta, and as a nosey parker, this gave me great joy.
As we walked in, we were directed to the far end of the restaurant and sat on rattan bar stools with a panoramic view of the kitchen. I like to think we were at the chef’s table, with VIP seating to watch the magic as it happens. Eager to kick off the evening with a drink that transports me back to summer sipping in Italy, I picked an Aperol Spritz (£7.50) while my partner opted for an Ichnusa beer (£5). Not your bag? There is also a great selection of authentic Italian wines, alongside aperitifs and digestifs including negroni, Campari, grappa and amaro. As I sat back to relax, I noticed the cute little finishes; baskets of garlic, shallots and dried chilli decked the marble-topped counter, while vines of tomatoes were hung from the kitchen beside graters and presses.
My partner went for the polpette al sugo della nonna (£6.50) to start. Served in a traditional terracotta dish, the little pork and beef meatballs were bathed in a rich tomato sauce, mopped up with two slices of focaccia. I tried to order the burrata (£7), but it unfortunately wasn’t available, so I panicked and chose the bread basket (£3.50). As a bonafide carb lover, this didn’t disappoint, think soft dough peppered with cloves of garlic, nestled next to crispy breadsticks, all ready to be dunked in olive oil from Dani’s homeland. As I looked around, I saw that most groups had a basket of pasta crisps (£3) on their table. Paired with salsa of the day, a gorgeous green dipping sauce, I instantly regretted not going for that. Still, the bread was really tasty.
By the time our main courses arrived at 7.30pm, the restaurant was packed out with no spare tables. My choice of arrabbiata radiatori (£8) was a delight. Imagine bites of fresh pasta in a spicy sauce with flakes of confit tomato and basil leaves. The heat from the chilli was pared back by the incredible smoked stracciatella, a gooey cheese not too dissimilar in texture to burrata; I’m gonna be on the hunt for that stuff when I’m next out. My partner went for the ragu della nonna pappardelle (£11), a 12-hour slow-cooked beef dish finished with a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano. The ribboned pasta clung to the tomato and fennel sauce, and although it’s not the most elegant of dishes to eat, every single last bit was scoffed in record time. It was a nice touch when chef Dani himself presented each plate to us and asked what we thought. You can tell this restaurant is his lifeblood and pours every bit of energy into every recipe.
As we couldn’t decide what to have for dessert, we decided to go halfsies on the signature dishes; La Nonna tiramisu (£5.50) and torta al pistachio (£6). The latter nutty feast had a crunchy caramel top and was perfectly matched with the light lemon cream. I have some bad memories of tiramisu from a hen do a while back (the terms warm and floppy come to mind), so I was pleased to replace those night terrors with this beautiful version. Soft, creamy and fluffy, if it was acceptable to lick the whole plate in public, we would.
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La Nonna is a great addition to Brixton Market; boasting fresh pasta made in-house every day and served al dente (nonna’s way, so don’t argue). Alongside matriarchal family favourites, there’s a daily rotation of new dishes to try; all conjured up in the onsite kitchen.
Do I regret not going for the pasta crisps? I’m going to be returning presto.
💰 The damage: A reasonable £53 for two, plus service charge.
📍 The location: Brixton Village. Unit 7, Market Row, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8LB.
👌 Perfect for: Filling your belly before a gig, or a lazy Saturday afternoon catching up with a friend.
⭐ Need to know: They're not currently open for lunchtimes as they settle into the new location.
Hungry for more? Check out our pick of the best Italian restaurants in London here.