Spin-offs don’t always succeed. Veer too far from a winning formula and your offshoot seems alien, but stay too close and the familiarity renders it utterly unremarkable. Padella, however, strikes the balance.
The beautifully simple brainchild of Tim Siadatan and Jordan Frieda, Padella starts with the winning ingredient of the duo’s first-born—handmade pasta from the Highbury neighborhood Italian joint Trullo—and then takes a few liberties with the recipes.
Whereas Trullo is all old-school linen tablecloths and a menu full of options (both pasta and non-pasta), Padella is rather pared back. The menu distills Trullo’s down to its essence: a single sheet offering mainly fettuccine, ravioli, and tagliarini in flavorsome slow-cooked sauces, with a couple of desserts, some aperitifs, and a selection of wines by the tap for good measure.
Padella’s interior is similarly stripped back: a small but (mercifully) not too poky space decorated with black and white tiling and polished metal. Around Carrara marble countertops, members of the staff (who are in some cases bearded and tattooed, and in all cases very attractive) roll pasta dough in the morning hours before service, while patrons sit on stools and hoover up plates of carb-filled comfort in the same spot from the afternoon onwards. (Should you wish to relish your plate of comfort in more comfort than a counter stool can provide, there is a seated dining area downstairs.)
Like its predecessor, Padella found its success in pairing time-honored Italian techniques with quality British produce. The result is pappardelle with eight-hour beef shin ragu (a Trullo signature so adored it crops up here again), tagliarini with Dorset crab, chilli, and lemon, and pappardelle with fennel sausage ragu.
The real star, though—and what you can’t miss if you’re planning on paying Padella a visit—is the pici (pronounced “peachy”). Fat and wormy, these Tuscan noodles (not unlike Japanese udon), are served simply “cacio e pepe”—which is lashings of pecorino romano cheese and freshly milled black pepper emulsified with a splash of the pasta cooking water—and, with their mouth-filling pillowy softness, put the diminutive Padella on London’s ever-expanding map of no-frills eateries.
Affordable, aesthetically pleasing, and proffering arguably London’s best pasta, Padella is nigh-on perfect. The catch? It’s first-come, first-served—so plan to decamp to a nearby pub (try the George Inn) for an aperitif while you wait for a text that your table is ready, or be sure to bring an umbrella. Inside might be redolent of Italy, but outside it’s still ol’ Blighty.