There are few ills in this world that cannot be cured by a large bowl of carbohydrates. Forgive me if that’s an overstatement, but one look at London’s proliferating pasta scene and you’ll see I’m not alone in that thought. From the high streets to the food markets to the queues that have snaked down Borough High Street since Padella pitched up, it is safe to say that this city has gone ape shit for al dente. Even Old Street is getting in on the action as new spot Pasta Nostra has had more than a few tongues wagging, so we went down to check it out.
Situated down the Clerkenwell side of the roundabout, the black brick frontage of Pasta Nostra gives way to bright and airy interiors. Spread over two floors, the space incorporates a ground floor dining area, with a view into the kitchen and a small deli counter, and an upstairs mezzanine decked out with colour-pop features and comfy furniture. There is also a small courtyard area looking out on to Old Street; we choose to sit here, because it is still summer, theoretically.
The menu is split between small plates and larger bowls of pasta. We jump right in with the arancini carbonara (£5), crunchy balls of peppery rice that pack a serious parmesan punch, a spongy anchovy focaccia (£4.5) and a plate of delicious salumi (£6) to top it with. For a drinks pairing you can’t do much better than a Negroni (£7). Crisp and bittersweet it sees off any back-of-the-throat tang from the arancini. Our last plate is a very diddy one indeed as two shot glasses arrive filled with a single crispy breaded prawn in parmesan foam (£3). I can say with all confidence that there is nothing like being presented with a shot of liquid cheese to remind you that sometimes the best things come in small packages.
Our mains arrive as we're wiping down our plates with the last of the focaccia. A pappardelle with 12-hour braised oxtail and tomato (£12) looks beautiful in situ, but lacks the juice to turn each silky ribbon into a real king’s mouthful. On the flipside, the fettuccine amatriciana (£8) was as juicy as they come, with a slow-roasted pork and tomato sauce smothering each strand of pasta with mouthwateringly meaty flavour.
Pasta Nostra offers just two desserts, so it would be almost rude not to order both. The Sicilian cannolo (£4) is the perfect indulgence for the sweet-toothed, offering sugary ricotta in a crisp and equally sugary shell. Combining this with the Tiramisu (£5) was probably enough to put us in a diabetic coma but it was well worth the risk as the gorgeously coffee-soused dessert provided a decadent final flourish to the meal.
Stylish and relaxed, Pasta Nostra is a welcome addition to Old Street’s restaurant collective. The small plates are a triumph, with classic Italian dishes given a thoroughly modern makeover, while the pasta itself is comfort-dining at its finest. A place for low-key date nights or a quick glass of vino and a bowl of the good stuff after work.