An interview with Butta la Pasta
Butta la Pasta opened in July on London Road and their menu celebrates authentic Italian cuisine. They offer a range of seasonal dishes from across Italy from Tuscan style soup, pasta made in-house to homemade ice-creams and sorbets.
I met up with Stephen Ogden and his wife, Marion, to find out why they decided to take the leap from working for the NHS to opening their own Italian restaurant.
Why Italian food?
[Stephen] I had some family holidays in Italy and the experience engendered a love for the country. From my early 20s I cooked a lot of Italian recipes and developed my repertoire, it just came naturally. I like the simplicity, for example, the tomato soup we have on the menu is made from four ingredients. If you create dishes with enough thought and care as they do in Italy you can create wonderful food.
I read the The River Cafe books and it was at that sort of moment in the 90s when Italian food was being redefined for English market.
[Marion] Stephen enjoys cooking and the kitchen is his happy space. I am happy to enjoy the results!
What made you start this journey?
[Stephen] When we were both working as nurses and living in London, then when we had children we decided it was time for a change and we started to think of ideas. Marion gave up nursing at that point and I got a job working at Sheffield’s Children’s hospital.
I had the thought about doing a pasta restaurant when I was reading a book called La Cucina which has thousands of recipes from across Italy. I realised that you do not get these options here in England and it would be great to bring these recipes to people.
I was still working as a nurse and wanted to find a way to try out my cooking with the wider world. My best friend got married in America and over there the attitude is just do it, if you want to do something just go for it. I realised we’d been overthinking things and decided to go for the pop up and if we fail, then it will be onto the next thing.
We did the pop up which was nerve-wracking but a great opportunity to get feedback and find out what people liked. We tweaked things and learnt all the time from then and to now with the restaurant.
How did you decide what to put on the menu?
[Stephen] We work with the team and get the staff as involved as possible. I chose the first menu, then we’ve been talking to the team and deciding how we will move forward. We have dishes we have tried from the pop up and some new ones too. When we start to think about the menu it starts with the ingredients and what is available. The next menu will be focused on Sicilian and that will be out towards the end of August.
What are your favourite dishes?
[Marion] Spaghetti Lucia, this is our signature seafood dish and my favourite. Stephen came up with the idea after we spent time in Naples and it is one of the most popular on the menu.
I also love the Sicilian caponata not just for me but for others… I don’t want to take it off the menu. I am a bit obsessed with it and reading the Montalbano books has increased my love for caponata.
[Stephen] I love the tomato soup, it looks beautiful and the flavours are great. It is made with just four ingredients, I love the simplicity.
From the main courses, the linguine with mussels is beautiful at this time of year.
We have some great desserts, the chocolate torte is super light, we have a really zesty lemon tart, ice creams we make and a pistachio loaf cake. We change the ice creams all the time, recently we have made a peach ice cream and a watermelon granita. Soon raspberries and blackberries will be coming onto the dessert menu.
How did it feel when you got in the kitchen?
[Stephen] That first moment was weird, there was no-one here and I started chopping something and I just had that thought, I am chopping something in my own restaurant. It felt great.
Butta La Pasta
280 London Road