Great value, laidback vibes…and some of the best fresh pasta in town
There’s nothing quite so bastardised as pasta. Now as familiar to Brits as the Sunday roast, it’s sold dry and packaged in supermarkets across the country. Many people don’t even know what fresh pasta tastes like. And proper good fresh pasta, the type you’d guzzle on some sun-soaked terrazza in Rome? Well that’s a rare beast indeed.
Little wonder, then, the Pasta Factory is so popular. Since launching on Shudehill, it’s earned a legion of fans and the rave reviews keep coming. As per its name, pasta here is made fresh onsite; with many varieties you won’t find elsewhere, from maltagliati to radiatori. You might find some more familiar types too, but never served in the way you’d expect. Want spaghetti Bolognese? Then we’d suggest you go elsewhere.
For those who want an authentic Italian experience - at an independent restaurant founded and managed by Italians - Pasta Factory has become one of the places to on weekends and evenings. But what many don’t know is that it’s also open for weekday lunch…and what’s more, has all the ingredients of a top lunch spot: great value dishes (including the option to have smaller portions and pay less), prompt service and a laidback atmosphere. Soft drinks are plentiful - though we recommend trying the top-notch wine list at some point - and the interior is warm and welcoming.
We popped in one Tuesday to try out the weekday daytime menu (available Tues-Fri, 12-4pm) and, after a brief intro from the knowledgeable waiter, plumped on three antipasti and three mains in smaller portions: perfect for sharing. We would have tried some of the desserts too (Nutella cannoli looked particularly tempting), but alas were too full.
First up was panelle con salsa rustica; a creative take on the fritters served up in Palermo. Lighter than your average fritter, these velvety chickpea delights are filled with fresh salsa and drizzled in cashew cream. Orange zest undercuts the richness, while Ligurian olives add an extra pop of flavour. While most of Pasta Factory’s produce is sourced locally where possible, specialities like these are ordered direct from Italy.
Talking of which, mozzarella di bufala comes straight from Campania - and boy is it worth it. Served simply, with sunblushed tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil, the unctuous ball of cheese is quite literally a taste of the Mediterranean.
Our final antipasti was insalata di polpo, aka octopus salad, made using Atlantic octopus from the local fishmonger. Tossed with a light salad, including chickpeas for a little bite, it’s served with two chunks of intriguing squid ink focaccia. The black colour may look strange but the taste and texture works a treat.
Other antipasti include soup of the day and a trio of crostini, topped with the likes of Parma ham and parmesan, but we managed to resist and proceed to mains; each as beautifully seasoned as the starters.
Triangulo di funghi in salsa al tartufo is one of Pasta Factory’s most popular dishes and, while the menu changes regularly - based on chefs’ creativity and seasonality - has proven a mainstay with its earthy flavours and green spinach dough. Stuffed with mushrooms, the ravioli is drizzled in black truffle and porcini sauce and topped with an impressive Piedmont truffle, while cashews add a satisfying crunch.
Bucatini all'amatriciana was equally satisfying, a spaghetti-like pasta served in a rich sauce made with tomatoes and guanciale pork cheek; the latter is often compared to bacon but actually much more of a delicacy, and also appears atop the pasta in crispy strips (having been simmered in dry white wine). Our mouths are watering just recalling it.
Last but certainly not least was paccheri al frutti di mare, thick tubes of pasta in a hearty seafood sauce. While inspired by a Tuscan dish called Cacciucco that’s usually served alone, Pasta Factory decided to pair this broth-like sauce with pasta. Add in a whole host of seafood - including monkfish, cod, clams, mussels and king prawns - and you have a winner.
Other options currently include ricotta ravioli and a veggie-friendly bucatini; made with red chilli, tossed with special Pugliese olive oil and topped with breadcrumbs. There’s also a specials board, which changes regularly.
The only problem? It’s all so tempting, you might struggle to choose…