Mario is amazing. From his own mouth, "I leave the bragging to the locals", and that they do. This is a much-loved Kentish Town institution. No bells, no whistles, just a good old-fashioned Italian / British cafe, started by Mario senior way back in 1958. There's even an indie documentary about the place (you can buy the DVD there).

Compact is one word to describe the space between the pale mint green and white walls, that also happen to showcase local artists.

Regulars come here for the top notch English breakfasts and the daily changing Italian 'Mum's specials' board, rotating between the likes of escalope with penne, parmigiana with chips and salad, and what I had, a big plate of comforting British/Italian spag bol.

one of 'Mum's specials' at Mario's Cafe

one of 'Mum's specials' at Mario's Cafe

There was a lot of Parmesan, and you could taste all of the components; the tomatoes, the meat, the oregano, the seasoning. Good ingredients, a tasty plate, no fuss.

If I had a pound for every time a customer said "see you soon", I'd have had more than enough to cover my meal, thrice over. The whole menu is under £8 - a great place to return to and work through the rest of it.

Words and photography | Bisi Bajomo

6 Kelly Street NW1 8PH

Opening hours
Mon - Sat | 7.30am - 4pm

Website |
Twitter | @marioscaff

Tel | +44 (0) 20 7284 2066

Last updated | 5th Jan 2016