77 years ago, when most of you reading this were a twinkle in the eye of your parents (or grandparents!), an Italian delicatessen opened in Soho. Named for the ‘formidable’ Italian women who opened it, Lina Stores quickly became the primo spot for Italian produce in the capital, and after 75 years of perfecting their pasta recipe, the store branched out in a restaurant on nearby Greek Street. Here in 2021, they’ve just opened their third restaurant, and Secret London was lucky enough to pop along and try it out – and let me tell you, all that time honing their craft has certainly paid off…
Before we delve into the food though, let’s start at the beginning, with the deli where it all began. Still standing proudly on Brewer Street, the mint-green accented store is chock full of high-quality ingredients imported straight from Italy, allowing you to pop in to pick up cured meats, delicious cheeses, and seasonal treats like panettone. If you’re planning a rustic Italian feast for your next dinner party, this is definitely the place to head.
A couple of years ago, Lina Stores branched out triumphantly to open their Soho pasta restaurant, under the careful guidance of head chef Masha Rener. Boasting the same suave aesthetic as their original deli – think cool mint tiling and plush leather seating, with Italian aperitivos filling the bar – it was a near-instant hit, serving up some of the most delicious pasta in town at really reasonable prices. Unsurprisingly, success followed quickly, leading to a second restaurant in Kings Cross, and their third and most recent opening, in the Bloomberg Arcade over in the City.
That’s where Secret London (hi!) comes into the story: we snagged a much-coveted invite to dine at the newest Lina Stores, fulfilling a long-held foodie dream of mine. All that hype, all that expectation, and Lina Stores delivered the goods and then some. We started – as one really ought to – with a Negroni. Having had plenty of Negronis during my years in London, I like to consider myself clued up on the best ones in town, and Lina Stores have quietly created one of London’s finest. Classic, simple, and smooth, it’s the ideal choice to begin your meal.
From there, we made a beeline straight for the arancini, which come in two flavours: gorgonzola and pear mostarda, and taleggio and truffle Parmigiano Reggiano. Hard to split the two, to be honest, but the unexpected treat of pungent gorgonzola and sweet pear just nudged it ahead as our favourite. Having said that, the pasta menu is where Lina Stores secures its spot as one of the best Italian restaurants in town. The Tagliolini al Tartufo e Parmigiano (pictured; that’s tagliolini made with 30 egg yolks, by the way) and Pappardelle with beef shin ragù, horseradish gremolata, and pangrattato both offered temptation, but we were swayed by a different pair of dishes.
The warming, spicy hit of Calabrian chilli made the Casarecce alla Calabrese a hit, but for my money, the best dish on the menu is the Mafaldine alla Carbonara. With silky-soft pasta, crunchy guanciale, and a healthy dusting of Pecorino Romano, it’s a true delight, one which really brings Lina Stores’ years of pasta-making into focus. For dessert, the pistacho and fior di latte gelato is a crowdpleaser, but you’d be a fool to overlook the giant cannolo, flavoured with pistachio and chocolate, and rounding off your meal with a moment of pure indulgence. La dolce vita has rarely tasted so good!
You can’t go wrong with any of their restaurants, but the experience at Lina Stores in the City, with the gracefully curved central bar and open kitchen, puts it right at the top of my list for a repeat visit. Things may have started slow and steady for Lina Stores, but with three London restaurants arriving in three years (plus an outpost in Tokyo), you can expect to see their iconic mint façade spreading even further across the capital in the coming years…
Also published on Medium.