I’ve been wanting to go to Lina Stores for ages but every time I went to book, they didn’t have any availability! That’s how popular it is. I finally managed to get a table for lunch on Saturday, so was it worth the wait?
Lina Stores, the deli on Brewer Street, has been a Soho institution since 1944! It’s an absolute treasure trove of Italian delights and it’s where we go to buy our guanciale for making amatriciana. They also make fresh pasta and sandwiches on site, every day. Back in May 2018, they decided to open a restaurant around the corner, on Greek street and apparently they’ll be opening another in London soon.
The restaurant is styled in the same way as the deli – a gorgeous mint green with black and white touches. It has a real 50s feel to it. In fact, the glass fridge that houses their fresh pasta is from the 50s and apparently took six people to carry it into the restaurant!
Upstairs is counter seating only and it’s where you can watch the chefs making the pasta. We were actually sat downstairs but when we were leaving, one of the managers was chatting to us about the restaurant and I took a photo of one of the chefs in action.
Downstairs there are a number of tables as well as the bar, where there is seating for four people. The tables are fairly close together so we chose to sit at the bar. There’s no natural light at all downstairs and it reminded me of some of the basement restaurants we’ve been to in Italy that feel a bit like being in a cave (in a good way!).
The concept at Lina Stores is that everything is small plates that is meant for sharing – even the pasta. We started by ordering some bread and two starters, whilst we decided on which pastas to go for.
The bread was toasted and absolutely delicious. They brought the bread with our starters, where I would have preferred it being brought straight away (as I was ravenous!). Next time we go, I’ll order it as we sit down!
We opted for the arancini with Trumpet mushroom and Taleggio and arancini with Gorgonzola and the Polpette di Melanzane, which is aubergine ‘meatballs’.
Both the arancini were delicious! And as they both had cheese, they were really oozy when you bit into them. YUM. You only get one of each so if you’re a fan of arancini, order two portions!
I really liked the polpette di melanzane. Really crispy on the outside but soft inside. Super tasty!
We ordered our pasta dishes as our starters arrived and chose the Pici alla Norcina, the Cappelletti in Brodo, the Ravioli di Zucca and Pappardelle con Ragu di Vitello.
The Cappelletti were filled with veal and the brodo was traditional – chicken stock. It’s very similar to Tortellini in Brodo, which is one of Bologna’s most famous dishes. They poured the brodo at the table, to keep it warm, and we started with this pasta. It was very good and the brodo was given the thumbs up by my husband. We both enjoyed this dish!
Next we started on the Pici alla Norcina. Pici is a type of pasta and it was served with Porcini mushrooms and Umbrian sausage meat. The flavour was lovely but I personally don’t like Pici as I find it quite stodgy. So I left my husband to eat it whilst I started on the ravioli.
Luckily my husband isn’t a fan of ravioli with butternut, which meant more for me! It was served with a sauce of butter, sage and crushed hazlenuts from Piedmonte. It was quite al dente, and I think the pasta could have been slightly thinner, but it was delicious and I’d order it again.
The last pasta was the Pappardelle with veal ragu, rosemary and sage. It was very flavoursome but I think we made a mistake ordering four pastas as once because by the time we got round to eating it, it was lukewarm. Next time I think we’ll order two and then two mid-way through.
We were a bit full so didn’t order dessert, although the Amarena Cherry & Almond Tart caught my eye on the menu… My husband did have a macchiato though and declared the coffee ‘ very good’, which is high praise indeed from an Italian.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Lina Stores and will definitely be returning, especially as they change the menu every couple of months. Next time I’d like to sit upstairs though so I can see the chefs cooking the pasta!