Pasta is commonplace in most modern day households, so much so that we rarely stop to think about where it originally came from. The history of this wonderfully versatile carbohydrate vessel, which allows for infinite combinations of cooking styles and flavours, has long been debated. The commonly held myth is that Marco Polo returned from his famed trip to Asia, eager to introduce the noodles he had discovered on his journeys to his people back home. This myth has since been debunked by several food historians. Whatever the case, the history of pasta is still unclear, due to a gap in ancient historical documentation. What little can be agreed upon is that the noodle was developed simultaneously both in the Mediterranean area and in Asia. The noodle that was developed in Italy evolved into the pasta (made with durum wheat) that we know today.
Italian cuisine is a mainstay in any major city across the globe and Nairobi is no different. The world has fallen in love with noodles and all of their derivatives: from spaghetti, to penne, farfalle to rigatoni, or the more adventurous stuffed ravioli and tortellini. Served with a hearty bolognese, a nutty pesto or a creamy carbonara, there is a delicious pasta dish for all palates.
We explore 9 of Nairobi’s great pasta offerings from authentic Italian eateries to continental restaurants with delicious pizzas and pastas. Whether you’re looking for a quick food court meal or a fine dining experience to impress that special someone, there’s a Nairobi restaurant for all of your needs and wants.
Art Pesto -Ksh 1,050 add chicken Ksh 150
Sundowners at the Oval, lunch at Village Market, breakfast in Karen: Artcaffe’s many outlets have something for everyone. This is a tried and tested Nairobi establishment and its reputation for outstanding quality and understated charm and style precedes it. If you have never tried any of the offerings from the “I Love Pasta” section you are definitely in for a treat: novelty dishes like the delicious Linguine Dhania sit side by side with popular favourites like Art Pesto with chicken and Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna. Their pizzas also live up to their reputation with Pizza Roma, with its grilled eggplant and parma ham, a popular favourite amongst the restaurant’s Italian clientele.
Oven Baked Bologna- Ksh 1,500
Derived from the original 18th century French word ’bonhomie’ meaning ‘good fellow’, this is a restaurant that offers a warm and friendly atmosphere from its good-natured service to the tantalizing array of contemporary Continental dishes. In a vibrant, light and airy al fresco atmosphere, guests are sure to feel at home with family and friends. Try the Oven Baked Bologna for a melt-in-your-mouth dish made with hand chopped beef, red wine and cream sauce. Pair the dish with a glass of red wine from their menu and you’ll be sure to have a great time with friends or family.
Tagliolini al Nero di Seppia all’Aragost-2350
A homemade black pasta with squid ink in a fresh tomato lobster sauce. Served on a half shell of lobster, this dish is one of a kind. Be sure to check out Susan’s review of this dish and more.
Linguine con Gamberi e Zucchine Profumate – Ksh 1,950
Set on the top floor of Kempinski, one of the most majestic hotels in Nairobi, this is the place to make an impression. With a bright and airy patio and traditional Italian interiors, this is trattoria style dining which is both simple and incredibly sophisticated. Their egg Fettuccine al Ragu is the closest thing to an authentic Bolognese sauce you’ll get outside of Italy, the complimentary focaccia never fails to get mouths watering, the Linguine con Gamberi e Zucchine Profumate is bursting with flavour and if you still have space left over make sure you taste their tiramisu!
Vegetable Lasagne -Ksh 950
Mouthwatering pizzas, steaming plates of delicious pasta and exciting Italian mains… Mambo Italia successfully caters to even the most difficult to please palates. Have a light business lunch or make it a fun night out as you tuck into their sharing platters with your friends and family. The branch at Lavington Curve offers some of the best views of Nairobi and its Garden City mall outlet has lost none of the original restaurant’s eclectic appeal. Decorated with reclaimed dhow furniture, Mambo Italia is a place where you can feast all your senses. Still hungry? One nutella pizza coming up!
Spaghetti allo Scoglio-Ksh 1950
Mediterraneo was the winner of the “Best Italian Restaurant” at 2015 Taste Awards and it is not hard to see why. Each of its three outlets successfully recreate a little slice of Italy. Whether you are relaxing in the classically inspired garden of its Gigiri branch, sitting underneath the vespa motorbike that hangs on a wall above the mosaiced pizza oven at 9West, or taking a bite at its rustic Junction outlet, you cannot but feel that you are experiencing a slice of Italy like no other. The extensive menu offers a glimpse of the different cuisines the Italian peninsula has to offer.
Spaghetti Pomodoro- Ksh 700
Think that Pomodoro at Village Market only makes Nairobi’s most delicious Roman style Pizza al taglio? Well you were wrong. For years the owners Fausto and Lorenza Trufelli have strived to bring a taste of Rome to their customers by preparing pasta dishes made just like they are back home. Their specials menu changes daily with their ricotta ravioli a definite favourite. Some argue that this is the best value for money establishment in the Village Market food court. Whatever the case, they do an excellent job at serving good, simple and honest food that does exactly what it says on the package.
Penne alla Genovese – Ksh 1,750
Step into Sale e Pepe, set on the ground floor of central Nairobi’s Hilton Hotel, and you would be forgiven for thinking this is the Italy we see in films. The checked tablecloths, the wooden chairs, the terracotta tiling, all it’s missing is those bottles of Chianti wine, the ones with the round bottom that sit in a straw basket, sitting on each table with a candle stuck in for good measure. The no frills menu strives to remain authentic and offers up only the most classic of Italian dishes. Try their Penne alla Genovese, it really is as good as they say.
Spinach Tagliatelle with Lemon Chicken-Ksh 1,000
360 Degrees Pizza got its name from the wood burning pizza ovens which cook their authentic Neapolitan pizzas at a precise 360 degrees Celcius. Their famed pizzas are served in an upscale casual dining setting great for friends or a fun date night. Don’t be fooled by their name, however, 360 Degrees Pizza also serves a selection of pastas, salads, meats and brunch on weekends. Try their homemade Spinach Tagliatelle with Lemon Chicken tossed with sundried tomatoes and snow peas for a healthy, colourful dish enjoyable at any time of year.