Sitting in Passo’s calming dining room, you’d never know that you were eating just a stone’s throw from the thundering traffic of the Old Street roundabout. Inside the restaurant, however, all is spacious and relaxed, with circular wooden tables spaced so widely apart that they could fit almost twice as many in. What look like upturned wicker baskets hang from above in the form of lampshades and an open kitchen lies at the far end of the room opposite the long marble-topped bar.
Ex-Salt Yard chef Joe Howley’s Italian sharing menu aims to offer a huge variety of stylish small dishes without losing the feel of traditional Italian food, a balancing act he pulls off with aplomb.
Split into vegetables, meat and pasta as well as a short selection of pizzas, the menu reads well and the food generally lives up to the descriptions. Braised lamb belly croquettes come served with a tomato tapenade which packs a great punch, while chargrilled honey aubergine is a textural delight, with crisped-up onions topping the soft flesh.
From the pasta dishes, we liked the light smokiness to the confit rabbit filling of the doppio raviolo, although the pasta was erring on the side of too thick. Desserts are crowd-pleasing stuff; we’d recommend the light cappuccino mousse sprinkled with peanuts and salted caramel. None of it feels hugely original, but accompanied by a glass or two of Italian wine, or perhaps a cocktail, no one’s complaining.
Passo isn’t ground-breaking in any sense of the word but it isn’t trying to be – this is unpretentious Italian food with the added fun of getting to try lots of different dishes from the menu. And if you’re looking for somewhere near Old Street that doesn’t conform to the stereotypes of either Shoreditch or the City, Passo is bang on the money and won’t break the bank.