Lina Stores is one of the best reasons I can think of for visiting Soho, though some would have other reasons for an outing. This Italian deli is right in the heart of lively Soho, surrounded by flashing neon and haunts such as Taboo and Madame Jojo's. However, even the old red-light district has a villagey side to it, and Lina's personifies that aspect of the area. In fact, Brewer Street is being talked up as a residential hot spot right now, and a few unexpected shops are here, like Fresh and Wild, Anything Left Handed, and Cox Cookies & Cakes (UPDATE-NOW CLOSED)
Ask anyone for the place to buy Italian ingredients in the area and they'll either send you to Camisa or Lina Stores. Of the two I'd have to come down in favour of Lina's. Very much a family business, Lina's has been on Brewer Street since the 1930's and is currently run by the 3rd generation of the same family.
The shop's closure last August caused some dismay until shoppers realised it was only for refurbishment. What a lovely job they did of it too, echoing the 50's green-tiled exterior inside with paler green tiling relieved by natural wood and a white marble counter. Still absolutely recognisable as the much-loved Lina's but the space has been opened up. You no longer feel anxious that you might brush something off a shelf as you move around. A freshen-up, clear-out and re-focus has rejuvenated the place but retained its friendly, welcome-to-browse feel. In fact I was there today, looking for the hard to find Garganelli pasta which I know Lina's stocks. They had run out but, without my having to ask, they made a call and told me they'd have it later this week. That's what I call service, and it's Lina's way.
You'll find hessian sacks of rice, lentils and pulses, spices sold by weight, honeys including the excellent Seggiano, cured meats, a great range of dried pastas, polenta, pestos, cheeses, olives, truffles, pannetone and biscotti. What makes it particularly special for me is that Lina's keeps the more difficult to find things like good filled pastas such as veal-filled tortellini, squid ink pasta filled with crab, Spinach and ricotta Tortolloni. Then there's the practically impossible to find things such as fresh yeast, chestnut flour and veal stock. Whether you want to pick up some roasted peppers, anchovies mozzarella and fresh plum tomatoes for an easy to prepare meal, or some double O flour to make your own pasta, you'll find it here. Long live Lina's.
18 Brewer Street
Soho, London W1F 0SH
Tel: 020 7437 6482
(Site under construction)