New indie coffee shops are a dime a dozen in London, with the pleasant effect of pushing aspirations beyond the established Italo-triumvirate – ciabatta, biscotti, Lavazza. But what makes another little hangout a hot destination?
Well, a booze licence certainly helps; as does having an effortlessly affable owner, and chef with the ability to make simple food sing. All of which seem happily present and correct at Casa Tua, which has quickly carved out a role as a bustling community hub, just opposite Camden Road overground.
On our Tuesday lunchtime visit, couples giggled across lazy afternoon Aperol spritzes, office groups dallied over returning to their desks and a series of beautifully gesticulating Italians dropped in. Close your eyes and you could be tucked away on a Milanese backstreet.
The relaxed, urban holiday vibe continued as host and trained mixologist, Giuseppe Miggiano, poured a potent Campari spritz while we grazed on bruschetta, struck by the obvious quality of the ingredients verses their £3 price tag. A board of meat and cheese antipasti (£5) made an equally affordable, perky light lunch choice too. Like everything else on the menu, it’s available to take away if you’re in a dash, although lingering in the cosy interior, alternating bites with cheeky sips of vino, admiring the old gramophone, is surely the point.
In our case, the boards were merely the prelude to a succession of hearty Italian café staples, all presented with clear flair. On recommendation, we went for a chalkboard speciality of the day, in this case pumpkin and pecorino ravioli in a salsiccia sauce (£7.20). The pasta muddled the sweet veg and tart cheese well, while the meaty sauce managed to be both light and comforting.
The dish was, however, easily surpassed by the café’s most popular pasta, a house tortelloni of chicken and pancetta (£8). Six generous parcels burst with buttery richness and a spicy tang. Some red by-the-glass Mezzogiorno (£4.50) set off the zippiness of the filling a treat too.
All smiles and genuine warmth, Giuseppe seems rightly pleased with all he has created here in a few short months. And he’s already maximised every opportunity to keep the place busy throughout the day. An attractive selection of brunch items draw the early(ish) risers, while live music and cocktails keep things lively after dark. Weekends often see baking workshops, mixology masterclasses and other foodie-focussed events.
The result is just the sort of place everyone wishes they had tucked at the end of their street: slick and modern in operation, yet still bearing all the best hallmarks of a family-run, home-cooked Italian cafes of old. Espresso, for example, was very strong, probably a good thing after such midday indulgence.
The relaxed, highly civilised blurring of the lines between coffee shop and drinking den, so popular ‘on the continent’, has been all too rare in London’s idiosyncratic licensing environment. It is a simple premise, but deceptively difficult to pull off this beautifully.