1944: the year the D-Day landings brought hope of an end to the Second World War and – as the story goes – an enigmatic émigré from Genova known only as “Lina” opened the doors to a delicatessen on London’s Brewer Street, offering a taste of the Mediterranean to homesick Italians and curious Londoners. Seventy-four years on, the store is an icon of the Soho scene with fresh aspirations as it launches its new pasta restaurant at 51 Greek Street, open for dinner from today.
The Aladdin’s cave of hams, cheeses and antipasti that have delighted the deli’s patrons are a staple of the restaurant’s new menu – and, as one would expect, will be served as starters alongside a small selection of carefully sourced Italian wines and classic cocktails. The pasta will be hand-made every day at the Brewer Street deli – as has been its tradition since 1944 – and Italian-born head chef Masha Rener will serve classic dishes, some family recipes, of fusi all’arrabbiata (£6); ravioli di vitello (veal ravioli, wild garlic and toasted breadcrumbs, £7.50); gnudi con burro e salvia (ricotta and herb gnudi, with sage and brown butter, £8.50); and spaghetti alla chitarra con granchio (spaghetti, Dorset crab and chilli, £9.50).
There will initially be no requirement to make reservations. “We do plan on taking reservations eventually, but opening without them ensures flexibility and helps us gauge demand,” says Rener, citing the negative consequences of “no shows” as a factor in the decision – a matter that is at the forefront of debate within the restaurant world.
Indeed, Rener is among the growing number of restaurateurs urging those making reservations to provide notice of a cancellation if their plans change, ensuring their favoured haunts – and newcomers like Lina – continue to thrive.