Enjoying classic Italian at a London institution

Tonight I’m back in Covent Garden (which always makes me very happy) and I’m dining at a real London institution. Spaghetti House is nearly 60  years old. And it has a really good story.

The original restaurant was set up by Northern Italian friends Lorenzo Fraquelli and Simone Lavarini in 1955. The two first met in Soho’s Bar Italia (where else?) in 1948, having come to London separately. Lorenzo worked at the original Quaglinos and Simone in Switzerland and later at the Savoy. They started with coffee shops and in 1955 realised their dream by opening the Spaghetti House on the ground floor of a house in Goodge Street (hence the house!), with the motto: “Spaghetti, but not on toast”.

The original Goodge Street establishment is now set over four floors in the same building, and it has been joined by 11 siblings, 12 Spaghetti Houses proudly serving up the best of Italian food across London. The business is still a privately owned family run business with Simone’s sons Luigi and Ricardo and daughter Stefana now at the helm.

I visited the St Martin’s Lane branch in Covent Garden. It’s a rambling, maze of a restaurant that actually has entrances on two streets. From the outside it looks pretty small, but it’s charmingly meandering inside.

The menu offers everything you could want from a classic Italian. Fabulous antipasti, classic pasta dishes, pizza, salads, risotto and meat and fish favourites. This is the sort of restaurant I know I’m really going to have decision issues, it’s so hard to choose. Having said that, tonight’s decision was made easier with the appearance of two special menus. Firstly, Spaghetti House regularly does a seasonal menu, so that’s where our starters came from. And secondly, July is lobster month so it would have been wrong to even try to resist the lobster offerings! Choosing made easier…

An amazing salad of watermelon, ricotta, oranges and fennel from the special seasonal menu. Just perfect, it looks and tastes like summer on a plate.

This is the salad of the summer, so fresh and zesty

I love whitebait so couldn’t resist these tasty morsels dusted with paprika and served crispy and hot, again off the specials menu.

Fresh, perfectly cooked, piping hot whitebait

And now time for some lobster. I do love a good lobster dish and this pasta was magnificent. The beautifully light sauce of San Marzano tomatoes, white wine, garlic and chilli was the perfect mix with the succulent lobster and wonderful al dente spaghetti. This has got to be one of my favourite pictures of the year so far.

The ultimate spaghetti dish with plenty of chunks of lobster

And then there’s the Aragosta (lobster) burger served in a brioche bun with seafood salsa and fries. This is one substantial and delicious burger!

A wonderfully luxurious lobster burger to savour

The lobster is all sourced from Dorset, from a particular fisherman called Kevin who only practises sustainable methods of fishing. The family are big on the provenance of ingredients, you see.

Desserts are tempting as you’d expect. We shared a Strudel di mele – a warm russet apple strudel with toffee ice cream and caramel sauce. Totally amazing.

apple pudding
A meltingly warm strudel with added creaminess

The wine list has some interesting Italian offerings and we enjoyed a bottle of Fiano from Puglia. Wonderful! And then finished off with a lovely, lemony glass of authentic Limoncello (brought back memories of Sorrento).

The perfect way to finish off an Italian dinner: a glass of Limoncello

So lovely to have classic Italian food cooked and served with such love! I almost felt part of the family after an evening at Spaghetti House. Next month is Proscuitto de Parma month, so I’m simply going to have to return to see what delightful dishes they come up with using this fabulous product. Maybe I’ll have to make it my project to visit all 12 establishments? Now that’s a challenge I could take up without too much encouragement.

The Spaghetti House I visited was at 30 St Martin’s Lane. There are 12 to choose from – find out more at www.spaghettihouse.co.uk

Square Meal


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