With Italian restaurants in the capital spawning like rabbits – and for good reason – Londoners’ penchant for pasta is showing no signs of slowing down. And with restaurants opening second sites and street-food outlets meeting the demand for pasta loving diners, the Italian food landscape in the capital has grown exponentially.
Long before the rise of Italian fast casual-dining restaurants, which has seen the likes of constantly-packed Padella, Stevie Parle’s Pastaio and Emilia’s all sweeping the board, Mele e Pere, has become a Soho cornerstone thanks to its consistently delicious Northern Italian cooking. However popular the cuisine has come, simple fuss-free dishes still form the backbone of Italian fare; bowls of cacio e pepe, fancy riffs on the dinner time staple ‘spag bol’ and doorstep wedges of tiramisu are still loved, and habitually ordered by Brits.
Italian for ‘Apples and Pears,’ Mele e Pere, opened in 2012 by two alumni of Arbutus, is split into two levels. The street-level Aperitivo bar, with its bright neon signage, and smattering of tables and bar seating, lends itself to a quick bite or a homemade spritz. While the downstairs dining room houses a large vermouth bar, boasting London’s largest selection of vermouths, and decorated in vintage Italian posters, is a lively spot serving rustic Italian dishes, served by a welcoming and friendly team.
As for the menu, it sticks to well-loved Italian bites. Think antipasti, a handful of meat and fish dishes, along with pasta – using pasta made fresh everyday on-site. A recent dinner began with a selection of antipasti: soft, cheese-spiked arancini (£6.50) with smoked Provola and sun-dried tomatoes were gloriously golden and crispy, while the pleasingly plump burrata Purilgese (£7.50), with its soft centre of thick, slow-oozing filling, paired nicely with the delicate yellow courgette and basil pesto. Milky, salty and fresh all in one mouthful.
Despite the seasonally changing menu, one dish that always features on the pasta section is the tagliatelle with beef ragù (£16). A certain magic happens when beef is slowly simmered with wine, and woven between fresh, long ribbons of pasta. Covered in an additional helping of parmesan, naturally, this Italian comfort dish was swiftly given the big thumbs up by the table. The pasta was shortly followed by a time-old classic: aubergine parmigiana (£12). A bowl, nay, vessel filled with layers upon layers of slow-cooked tomato and Rizla-thin aubergine ceremoniously covered in a thick layer of crispy cheese was wonderfully simple, and a dish well received on a bleak evening.
We let ourselves down in the pudding stakes, having become somewhat defeated by consuming the above dishes. All desserts, along with ice cream are made on-site, and will be tackled upon our next visit.
While Mele e Pere isn’t exactly rewriting the rulebook with its offering, it doesn’t need to when it continues to plate up stellar bowls of pasta executed with aplomb and warmth. Come for the pasta, stay for the parmigiana.
Mele e Pere can be found at 46 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9TF.