Step up to the occhi and enjoy ‘theatre kitchen’ at Officina 00
Comforting Italian cuisine with a devilish twist on tradition
12 September, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
Watch the chef mix, knead, stretch and shape pasta
In times of political turmoil, you can’t beat a bowl of warm pasta to help calm the nerves. A brand-new restaurant called Officina 00 offers soothing refuge if you’re ever near Old Street.
It’s a short stroll from the roundabout and hard to miss – look for the gorgeous young chef making fresh pasta in the window.
This “theatre kitchen” is an eye-catching trick and also features at Bancone, my favourite pasta place in Covent Garden. Watch the chef mix, knead, stretch, cut and shape the dough, typically made with the premium “00” flour from which the restaurant takes half of its name.
The other half, “Officina”, suggests an industrial workshop. This helps to describe the aesthetic: a mix of scuffed concrete, extraction vents and rustic touches such as emerald green tiles and wooden shelves cascading with house plants.
I grabbed a stool by the counter overlooking the main, open-plan kitchen. The head chef is a young man called Elia; his friend Enzo handles front of house. Both grew up in Naples and polished their skills in red-hot restaurants around London.
Their concept is to gently play around with some familiar Italian dishes. “We start with traditional classic Italian cuisine and either twist it or put completely our own recipe,” explains Enzo. For example, they do a clever take on a carbonara, switching the guanciale ham for clams and whisking lemon juice into the egg yolk emulsion.
Their rough-cut, handmade grissini are the best I’ve tried. These arrive with a dip of ricotta whipped with lemon zest and chilli powder. The fried raviolo are a devilish snack – stuffed with a cheesy, peppery paste and deep fried until crunchy and molten.
The short list of starters offers a snapshot of the seasons. There’s a simple tomato salad made with “Cuore del Vesuvio” – a connoisseur’s tomato grown in volcanic soil and famous for its deformed appearance.
You can sample charcuterie or a fish carpaccio with pink peppercorns. My burrata was fresh and wobbly, although I didn’t see the point of the bitter, blackened courgettes on the side.
Pastas are served in small-ish portions, priced around £7-11 and designed for sharing with friends. There are around 400 pasta shapes in Italy – no one knows for sure. You’ll find some obscure ones here, from cavatelli (small folds of pasta from Puglia, like a hot dog bun) to cappellacci (an ancient disc shape from Liguria, traditionally embossed with a pattern).
I tried some occhi, filled with a long braise of tender pork and served with the cooking juices, sweet with caramelised onion. Fresh parsley cuts through the richness; a grating of aged provolone adds depth of flavour.
Prices are keen at Officina 00. Expect to pay around £20-30 per head before drinks. Wine from the tap is £6 per glass.
“We don’t want to be a Michelin-star restaurant – we want to have fun,” says Enzo. These carb-heavy comfort foods are just what we need right now.
156 Old Street, EC1V
0208 037 7161