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Storing up plenty of passion for pasta

Traditional Italian food shop protects the spirit of Soho by launching a restaurant

05 July, 2018 — By Tom Moggach

Pappardelle with rabbit ragu, olives and rosemary is just one of the faultless pasta dishes at Lina Stores

ONLY a handful of food shops survive in Soho, where sky-high rents shoved out most small traders long ago.

Maison Bertaux, the wonderful patisserie and tea room, started life back in 1871 when the founder, a radical socialist, fled Paris clutching an armful of recipes. I Camisa, the tiny Italian delicatessen in Old Compton Street, opened its doors in 1961 – step inside to be teleported to the past.

Around the corner, Lina Stores in Brewer Street is another traditional Italian food shop. They are famous for the handmade pastas the family have been making since 1944.

In a bold move, Lina Stores have now launched a separate restaurant in Greek Street with a menu focusing on their beloved pasta dishes, antipasti and aperitivo.

The venue itself looks deceptively small from the street. Stripes of pale green and white echo the vintage décor of the deli.

The ground floor is dominated by a curving polished aluminium bar and open kitchen – claim a leather stool here to watch the chefs in action.

Downstairs, you’ll find a vaulted bright white basement with tables and terrazzo tiles – a touch less atmospheric than the bar.

Aperitivo ( the French call them apéritifs) are taken seriously at Lina Stores, with offerings such as a blood orange Bellini, Limoncello spritz and rhubarb Martini.

My Negroni was flawless – balanced and intense – and surprisingly reasonable at £6. You won’t find a better bargain in the West End.

I sat at the bar with a friend, grazing our way through the short menu. Service was swift, informal and friendly.

A colourful salad of chopped radicchio and puntarelle, two plants from the chicory family, celebrated the refreshing bitter flavours that they love in Italy.

Tossed in a feisty, anchovy-spiked dressing, it was a joy. Less spectacular was a snack starter of buffalo ricotta and ‘nduja, the spicy pork paste, served with ciabatta toast. The starter ingredients were slightly cold and hard to spread, perhaps scooped straight from the fridge. At room temperature they would really sing.

The pastas, as you might expect, are downright marvellous. Choose from around eight on the menu, priced around £6-12.

“Pici” is a like a thick spaghetti, the slippery coils served here with a creamy sauce of porcini mushroom and Umbrian sausage meat.

Thick, firm ribbons of pappardelle were lubricated with a meaty ragu of rabbit, olives and a hint of rosemary.

Other options included gnocchi with peas and salted ricotta and decadent agnolotti, a filled pasta from Piedmont, with black summer truffle.

Desserts hit the spot and are also good value at around £5. Lina Stores is famous for their cannoli pastries, stuffed with whipped sweet ricotta and pistachio.

We made quick work of a triangle of cherry and almond frangipane tart.

If you feel nostalgic for the lost spirit of Soho, a visit to the Lina Stores restaurant will provide sunny solace – a bridge between the old and the new.

Lina Stores Restaurant
51 Greek St, W1D
0203 929 0068
www.linastores.co.uk

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