Thankfully, 2019 is the year of the carb because London’s famous Italian deli, Lina Stores, opened its own restaurant in Soho last year, and has since become one of the city’s trendiest places to eat, in the least pretentious way. Jenny Southan reports
Arriving at 51 Greek Street back in May, Lina Stores restaurant has proved it excels in serving small plates of handmade pasta and expertly mixed aperitivi made from native Campari, Cocchi Americano, Fernet Branca, Malfy Gin, Italicus and Cynar, bottles of which are displayed artistically on shelves.
The interior design by Red Deer is undeniably stylish. Inspired by the restaurants and cafes of mid-century Italy, it continues the mint green and white stripes found at the deli, combined with polished aluminium, reclaimed globe pendant lighting, leather stools, peppermint banquettes and terrazzo flooring. Even the font and French crockery are well considered.
It’s all highly Instagrammable but the lighting – at least downstairs – is just low enough to force you to leave your phone in your pocket.
Although there are often queues to get a table (a good sign), diners are guaranteed a familial warm welcome from staff and the option to put their name down for a spot so they can get a drink elsewhere before returning for supper. (You can book ahead online too.)
The atmosphere is convivial to the point where, towards the end of the night, groups on different tables get talking to one another (a rare occurrence in London). Seating 51 people over two floors, the ground level features an open kitchen and a 12-seat sit-up counter, plus a few chairs on the street, while downstairs is a cosy cellar. Always buzzing, Lina Stores is a neighbourhood restaurant you’ll want to keep returning to.
Given the deli’s 76 years of sourcing the finest Italian produce, the ingredients used in the restaurant are expertly chosen, and transformed into dishes that change seasonally. The cheese and antipasti that Lina Stores has become known for over the years are available as starters, alongside addictive balls of gorgonzola arancini, and aubergine and San Marzano tomato polpette.
Head chef Masha Rener and her team are adept at whipping up simple classics such as burro e salvia (butter and sage), with all the egg pasta made by hand daily at the deli, as it has been since 1944. And you can taste it for as little as £5.50 a plate (more indulgent truffle-enhanced creations go for £14).
Although the menu changes quite regularly, other temptations might include pumpkin-filled schiaffoni with Pietmontese hazelnuts; spaghetti with deep-fried sun-dried tomatoes, capers and olives; and agnolotti verdi with black truffle and ricotta. To finish, you have to order a cannoli filled with sweet ricotta and pistachio