One tends to forget that sometimes in Berlin you should enter a restaurant not when you get hungry, but an hour before you get hungry. Yes, you need to plan your hunger according to the speed or slowness of restaurants.
Nudelbude on Neukölln’s Weichselstraße is a good example of this: we waited a record 72 minutes for the main course! This was slow food in its truest sense, a trying experience – we came totally unprepared, i.e. thoroughly famished. A shame because when the food finally came, it was quite good. It was also ridiculously cheap: €4.50-6.50 for a hat-sized bowl of fresh homemade pasta.
The humble Bude with a 1950s shop door housed a horse butcher in a previous life and has just six randomly sized tables. The tables are too wide, in fact, to stretch your torso across them to kiss your dinner date. Here you order your pasta at the counter, in deceptively fast food fashion. The choice is between pappardelle, fettuccine, and spaghetti (basically a matter of width) and a long list of home- but pre-made sauces – to be ladled over your chosen pasta.
All the classics are there, from bolognese to spinach-gorgonzola. Ravioli, lasagna and Käsespätzle (all €7.50) round out the selection. We ordered quickly – little did we know that was only the beginning of a wait that felt like purgatory. Sipping our cheap bio Italian table wine (€2.50 a glass) and chewing laboriously on the bread (we resourcefully went on covering with olive oil) to kill time, we entertained ourselves with the view out of the giant shop window into slumming expats’ favourite neighbourhood and its assorted inhabitants, who gawked back at us with pointed apathy.
Curiously, we could monitor the progress in the kitchen in the reflection against a tree outside. Shrouded in a cloud of steam, the cook was bustling about cooking her batches of pasta. We began counting plates in the continual hope that we were next. Alas, three tables complete with dogs had arrived just before us, nearly paralysing the workflow – which appeared painstakingly linear – one table after another, one group’s salad first followed by their batch of pasta, one table at a time.
The starter came at minute 45 (after we suggested to the compliant waitress that she could bring it at the same time as that of the table before ours). It was a satisfying salad comprising lamb’s lettuce, baby greens, mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes held together with a crowd-pleasing pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette (€3.50).
We immediately regretted that we hadn’t ordered more. And when our plate-counting meant it was our turn for pasta, we were so hungry we would have eaten it off a bleeding knee. That said, our fettuccine was as fresh as it can get. They make it from scratch on the spot and turn on the pasta machine every time they run out.
While not the finest in Italian cookery – the sauce was a bit soupy – for €4.50 it’s hard to expect better or more generous portions. If you don’t like it sticky, opt for spaghetti – the wider the pasta, the stickier – but that’s often the problem with fresh pasta.
Nudelbude doesn’t offer dessert as of yet. Not that you really need one, and you don’t want to totally overwhelm the cook, anyway. Something about the dilettantish nature of the place is endearing, but that’s not going to carry them indefinitely. They already seem popular. Why don’t they add a cook to the kitchen and make Nudelbude an enduring success?