Newtown’s newest establishment is exactly the kind of Italian restaurant every neighbourhood wants. Rising from the ashes of “stoner food cafe” D’Munchies, La Favola is a place where that central tenet of all good Italian cuisine – freshness – reigns supreme. Pasta is handmade daily, sauces and stocks are made from scratch, and stewed fruits find their way into dessert.
Alex Busse and Italian-born chef Fabio Stefanelli met though their wives. “When I tasted Fabio’s food for the first time I instantly knew we had to work on something together,” says Busse. Together they’ve created La Favola: a simple Italian diner designed to churn out fresh food fast. There’s just six pastas with your choice of sauce and a couple of starter options (takeaway is available, too). “What’s the quickest way to get people great food? Keep it fresh, keep it simple.”
Busse insisted on recycling as much of the old fit-out as possible, but the space has been given a minor facelift. Gone are the dark tones in favour of a clean, bright swatch that seems to abide by the fresh new philosophy here. Crucially, the kitchen has been brought right into the dining room. “We want people to see the quality ingredients we’re working with,” says Stefanelli.
Born and raised just outside Naples, Stefanelli is fresh from a stint at Cucinetta restaurant in Woolwich. Before that he worked under Italian celebrity-chef Carlo Cracco at his Milano diner Ristorante Cracco, and before that Rossellini’s near Amalfi: restaurants with five Michelin stars between them. Suffice to say he knows his way around fine dining, but La Favola’s brand of pan-Italian is soul food done right. “I’m very fussy with my ingredients,” says Stefanelli. “There’s no reason a casual place can’t have the highest standards.”
Organic egg yolks and semolina from Puglia are laid out on a gigantic kitchen table to create La Favola’s dough. “I love this table,” says Stefanelli, jokingly. “I bought it before the restaurant.” It’s from this station that all the restaurant’s pasta is kneaded and then cut into ribbons or fusilli and casarecce.
For four hours every morning, Stefanelli simmers away chunks of beef, roma tomatoes, mushrooms and red wine to create a rich pasta sauce. Paccheri (oversized loops of pappardelle) is then cooked, forming little pillows of dough, which are perfect for tossing through the ragu Napoletano. Marjoram lends the dish a depth of aroma and a fresh acidic ballast. For dessert, Sicilian cannoli are piped with a fresh-ricotta cream infused with oranges that are stewed for five hours with cinnamon and star anise.