Close
Restaurant Review

Dalla restaurant review: Nostalgic Italian cooking comes to Hackney

Retro décor and comforting regional dishes set this new east London Italian apart from the pack

London isn’t short of great Italian restaurants right now, but Dalla offers something a little different. There’s no flashy glitz and glamour here – instead, you’ll find hearty regional Italian dishes and timeless, Mediterranean-inspired décor. The restaurant is the result of a collaboration between chef Mitchell Damota, Gianmarco Leone, and Gennaro Leone – who’s known for his curated design studio Spazio Leone – and feels like a breath of fresh air in the London dining scene. Here’s why Dalla is our restaurant of the week.

Dalla Restaurant Review 2024: Hot New Italian Spot In LondonPin

On a Saturday night at Dalla in Hackney, diners hold their mobile phones under their tables, sneaking a look at Google Translate like school kids cheating on a test. They’re trying to make head or tail of the menu, a short but unfathomable list of Italian regional specialities. 

Dalla Restaurant Review 2024: Hot New Italian Spot In LondonPin

I thought my Italian menuese was competent after a couple of decades in this job; but apparently not. When it comes to the kind of obscure, near forgotten dishes from tiny villages known only to a few, I still have a lot to learn. “Winter vegetables with bagna cauda”, “puntarelle alla Romana”, and “frutta di stagione” I can manage; seabass crudo with Kissabel apple and bergamotto” and “flan di zucca” I can decipher. But “angiulottos di arrescottu”? “Panissa vercellese”? “Lambrichelli”? Not a clue. And that’s what makes Dalla such an exciting new arrival. 

Dalla Restaurant Review 2024: Hot New Italian Spot In LondonPin

The chef Mitchell Damota is Canadian, not Italian. He was head chef before at Burro e Salvia in Shoreditch and at P. Franco in Clapton, and has become a specialist in Italian food, having been cooking and researching it for so long. His partner in the business is first-time restaurateur Gennaro Leone, a former music promoter, who those with a passion for 20th Century Italian furniture and art may know from his design showroom Spazio Leone. Leone’s chef brother Gianmarco joins from Claridge’s

Dalla Restaurant Review 2024: Hot New Italian Spot In LondonPin

If the food is very much Damota’s, the look of the restaurant is Gennaro Leone’s. It is tiny. The tables cannot be more than a couple of inches apart. Leone’s filled the corner site (it was previously Peg and, before that, Legs) with pieces that he’s been collecting for years, including white bistro chairs from France, a wooden rotary dial telephone from Germany, a Gio Ponti mirror and a Stilnovo chandelier.

Dalla Restaurant Review 2024: Hot New Italian Spot In LondonPin

It’s retro, romantic (if you don’t mind knocking knees with the people at the table next to you) and nothing like the flash new breed of Italian super restaurant you’ll find in Mayfair. 

In spite of barely understanding the menu, I find it thrilling. There’s no specific regional focus at Dalla. Damota cooks from all over. Seasonality is the narrative thread that ties the dishes together. We begin with primi: the aforementioned “angiulottos di arrescottu”, a type of ravioli from Sardinia, filled with ricotta; and the “panissa vercellese”, a warming, wintry risotto with beans from Piedmont cooked with pork fat. The latter in particular is sublime. Stewed cuttlefish in a parsley-flecked broth is robust and warming. We order a radicchio salad on the side with slices of crisp pear for health. 

Dalla Restaurant Review 2024: Hot New Italian Spot In LondonPin

“A more recent menu lists pallotte cacio e uova (cheese and egg balls from Abruzzo); chestnut flour trofie pasta with marjoram pesto; and bonet, a chocolate and amaretti dessert from Piedmont. I could eat here every week and not get bored.”

I won’t say the food tastes like a real Italian nonna has made it. It doesn’t; it’s all a notch or two more precise than home cooking, sharper around the edges, more assertively flavoured. But it is comforting, flavoursome and sometimes, but not always, nostalgic. Dalla posts the menu semi-regularly on Instagram, so you can pore over it there as I am wont to do. A more recent menu lists pallotte cacio e uova (cheese and egg balls from Abruzzo); chestnut flour trofie pasta with marjoram pesto; and bonet, a chocolate and amaretti dessert from Piedmont. I could eat here every week and not get bored. 

Dalla Restaurant Review 2024: Hot New Italian Spot In LondonPin

What a great time it is to be an italophile in east London. Damota’s not the only chef to be looking backwards to move forwards. Sophia Massarella at Polentina in Bow and Dara Klein at Tiella in Islington cook in a similar idiom too. All are worth a visit. But you might want to bone up on your Italian before you go.

Dalla Restaurant Review 2024: Hot New Italian Spot In LondonPin

THE LOWDOWN:

Meal for two (with wine): £150

Signature Dishes: Fresh Pasta; Tiramisu; Rum Baba

What to drink: Nebbiolo


120-122 Morning Lane, Hackney, London E9 6LH

dallarestaurant.com

RECOMMENDED
The Glossary Logo

Subscribe to our curated London guides for the very best in contemporary culture across the capital. Plus the latest style and beauty news and reviews

Share to...