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  • Writer's pictureMatias

Nothing yells more comfort food than pasta and pizza

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

Italy has been a country I've visited countless times, and I've had the pleasure of tasting its indulgent cuisine from North to South, including staple dishes from regions such as Tuscany, Liguria, Piedmont, Rome, Emilia-Romagna, Sicily, and Sardinia.


However, as a food enthusiast, I still had to visit perhaps one of the most important culinary cities in the country: Naples. The birthplace of Pizza and Ragu is arguably what took Italian food to every corner of the world, and I finally made it there a few weeks ago. This experience gave me another first-hand understanding of how pizza and pasta are enjoyed in traditional and humble neighbourhoods. Although I've eaten these dishes all around Italy, there's something unique I got from this visit, which has to do with Neapolitan culture and how people enjoy food in the city. The common behaviour of enjoying meals as a family is shared, as in every other Italian city, but somehow Naples took it to the next level. There, in a busy metropolis, you can observe families sharing food on the streets with neighbours, their communities, and even tourists when enjoying comfort food at the end of the day is non-negotiable.


It's not difficult to come to a quick conclusion about why Italian food is so popular because it certainly has to do with the simplicity of their cuisine, making the best use of fresh ingredients, particularly used in pasta or pizza. When I say simplicity, in essence, both are doughs, one cooked in a wood fired oven with toppings and the other boiled in water with its 'salsa' of choice (in its simpler form). In saying that and when picturing any of those two simple preparations, I guess no one can pass on either, can you?

Pictures: Pizza Napoletana, Scialatielli al ragu, Pasta alla bottarga, Carbonara, Homemade pasta and Prosciutto pizza

 

Fresh pasta is what I love preparing at home (as you can tell from the picture above), particularly ravioli, my take on ragu, and the unmissable carbonara, perfect to enjoy on grim autumn days. However, homemade pasta can be time-consuming, especially if you opt for the old methods of doing it by hand. But if you’re like me and enjoy preparing homemade pasta, there's one fantastic YouTube channel dedicated to the ancient method of preparing Italian food which I think you'll enjoy. It's called Pasta Grannies, and it's the most wholesome channel dedicated to rescuing ancient pasta recipes from all around Italy. As the channel owner says, they're "saving skills and sharing traditions one recipe and Granny at a time." Have a look and get inspired by the countless recipes.

 

In the pursuit of classic Italian food

If you were to ask any of your relatives, friends, or colleagues about their top three cuisines, it's highly likely Italian food would be mentioned. And when delving into specific dishes, pizza or pasta would undoubtedly be among them. In my case, it's no different—I live with a pizza and pasta aficionada who could eat both dishes repeatedly. Over the years, I've sampled a fair amount of terrible, decent, and amazing pizza and pasta in London which brings me to the challenge of finding the right places in North/East London to savour and enjoy the experience I get every time I travel to Italy.


Finding Italian restaurants that offer those classic dishes in London is a struggle because the city is filled with establishments claiming to offer the real deal, but in most cases, they're far from it. And the challenge intensifies when craving carbonara, Ragu, or a simple pizza Margherita, as you'll most likely encounter modern takes on these staple Italian dishes. A fitting example I've experienced countless times is the classic crime committed to carbonara, where they add cream to make it creamy—an absolute disgrace to this unique pasta dish!


Acknowledging that most of the famous Italian restaurants in London focus their efforts on presenting modern menus and elevated versions of classics, such as one of the most Instagrammable Italian restaurants in London, Circolo Popolare, it's challenging to find honest, tasty, and comforting Italian food in a cosy atmosphere. It's worth clarifying that I have nothing nothing against these hyped places, but again, when you crave the classics, the struggle becomes real. That's why I'm sharing a mix of five Italian restaurants in North/East London that will put a smile on your face on any given day.


Casa Tua | King's Cross

This is my go-to place when I want to indulge in comforting Italian food. I've been coming to this restaurant for a decade now, and it's great to see that they haven't lost track of who they are. It's like having a little piece of Italy where you can taste a proper Ragu or Carbonara.


Via Emilia | Hoxton

I used to be a big fan of their original restaurant in London Fitzrovia, In Parma, which has now taken the spotlight under the name of Via Emilia in trendy Hoxton. In this place, you can savour authentic food from the Emilia-Romagna region. In full transparency, I haven't visited Via Emilia yet, but if they are still sticking to their old recipes and cosiness, you should be in for a treat.


Oi Vita pizzeria | Newington Green

A Neapolitan specialty pizza place where both Italian owners share the passion for the real pizzas in a cosy environment. You need to visit this restaurant to understand what a true pizza Margherita should taste like - the real deal!


Pizzeria Pappagone | Finsbury Park

This family-run Italian restaurant has been in business for more than a decade and in their popular Finsbury Park location you can find delicious pizza as well as some of the most famous classic pasta dishes. A visit to Pappagone is where comfort food comes alive in its biggest expression with generous portions and in a buzzing atmosphere.


Lardo | London Fields

This restaurant falls into the category of local gem. Located in trendy London Fields and occupying a former Warehouse, Lardo offers diners a concise menu of delicious and seasonal Italian dishes from Pizza to Lobster Pappardelle and excellent natural wines.

Pictures: Casa Tua, OiVita Pizzeria and Lardo Instagram

 

Fancy a good Italian meal this weekend? Now you know where to find and enjoy some of the best classic Italian pasta dishes and pizza in North / east London.

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