North London's Cultural Guide

Mario’s Cafe

Years ago, when Pulp’s masterpiece ‘This Is Hardcore’ was dropping like a stone out of the charts, Mrs Kentishtowner (then a rather svelte Miss Gant’s Hill) would like nothing more than to commiserate Jarvis’ misfortune over a lunchtime bowl of minestrone soup at Mario’s Cafe.

It’s not hard to fathom why it was, and continues to be, the First Lady’s neighbourhood choice. One of the first Italian cafes in Kentish Town, this tiny former butchers’ lock-up dates back to 1957, when it was known as Tony’s Restaurant. Taking over in 1989, original owner’s son Mario changed the name – and began to attract an arty crowd so devoted that iconic pop band St Etienne even dedicated a track to it (from their 1992 album So Tough).


In the dying embers of 2010, Mario’s eclectic interior is still buzzing, in a disgarded-G2-kind-of-way, with its mismatched chairs, bearded media types and rotating art exhibitions. This year it was even the subject of a documentary (pick up the DVD for £3 on the counter).

On a recent visit, Mrs Kentishtowner moaned that the coffee wasn’t quite as directional as in our heyday. To which the obvious retort is: are any of us? But, in the name of research, a short strong cappuccino was re-tested in The Kentishtowner’s Laboratories first thing this morning – and we’re happy to report that high standards are still being kept.

Oh, and for the Pulp-watchers amongst you, rumour has it that Jarvis still swings by for a double macchiato. Hardcore indeed.

6 Kelly Street. Cheap breakfasts & lunches (around a fiver).

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About Kentishtowner

The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.