People’s perception of ITV’s prized celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo can often be ‘that cheesy man off the telly who makes innuendo of whatever he’s cooking.’ I’ll admit, I was one of them, and didn’t hold high hopes for his new venture of pasta bars either, the first of which is located on London’s Fleet Street. However, on meeting him in person and seeing for myself how this new lunch eatery actually works and tastes, I was pleasantly surprised and have to confess that he and that concept won me over.
The initial thought process behind My Pasta Bar was to provide made-to-order pasta for busy Londoners on the go and was funnily enough inspired by the world’s most well-known fast food restaurant , ‘I wanted to combine the fast pace service and technology of McDonald’s and Argos,’ said Gino (I let out a cackle at this point). ‘No, I am being serious. Obviously the product I am offering is completely different but I wanted customers to get fresh, authentic Italian food as quickly as possible by implementing the fast order taking and number collecting systems of both establishments.’
The basic idea is that you pick a pasta shape and sauce of your choice at the counter, the order goes through to the kitchen and you’re given a number, whilst your lunch is prepared in under two minutes, ‘Well, one minute 40,’ says Gino, to be specific. Then your number is called out, you collect your (huge) takeaway box of pasta and help yourself to accompaniments of parmesan, chilli and olive oil to take with you, which is a nice little addition.
Should you choose to sit in, there are a few patio tables giving the place an outdoor piazza feel, each adorned with basil plants, if you wish to tear a couple extra leaves on to your dish. All pasta is of course served al dente with choices ranging from sedanini boscaiola; crispy pancetta, onions, porcini mushrooms, semi-dried cherry tomatoes and béchamel sauce; gnocchi in salsa rosa cooked to textural perfection and classically served with a tomato and béchamel sauce mix and one could not leave out: fettuccine Bolognese, which was surprisingly my favourite; the rich tomato sauce had a depth of flavour I would never expect from your run of the mill takeaway joint.
Some of the pasta dishes could be slightly on the salty side for the regular Anglo palette however, in particular the pancetta ones. Though the very generous portions may be too much for those used to a humble sandwich or soup, would Gino downsize? ‘No, way! I would never do that. I want big Momma Italian portions. That is the point.’
We polished off the meal trying their cannoli; traditional Sicilian pastries filled with lemon-flavoured sheep ricotta; accompanied by a coffee, which is now being used as another pull factor for the pasta bar with the launch of £1 for all coffees, all day, every day… forever. ‘Coffee in London is so overpriced,’ continued Gino. ‘This makes quality coffee affordable for everyone. I essentially want you to come in and try my pasta, so the coffee is like my gift to you.’
Awww, a bit of the cheesemeister returns, but to be honest, clearly underneath it all, he’s just an Italian guy who’s very passionate about the food of his ancestors and wishes to bring its authenticity to our manic lunch hour in a quick and easy way. My Pasta Par is soon to open in St Paul’s, Leadenhall Market and Brighton.
My Pasta Bar
40-43 Fleet Street
Tel: 020 7583 8534