Food maps

Just discovered (and love) these London food maps from @FoodHood.

Soho is the first

Soho

Shoreditch follows

Shoreditch_digital_sketch_CO3_to_export

then Covent Garden

Covent Garden food

and Hackney

Hackney food

last but not least, Brixton

Brixton food

Waiting now for Greenwich and Blackheath :)

London and five Italian food stereotypes

Looking for the opening date of Eataly food superstore in London (news on the web range from an imminent opening in 2106 to late 2017, in partnership with Selfridges Oxford Str.), I found this interesting piece on the Telegraph, dated June 2015, but still very actual.

Mr. Farinetti, CEO of Eataly, says he got shocked by the Italian food served in many UK restaurants. And I was shocked too. Then I learned the lesson (you never get used – but you can learn) and I started my personal exercise of selection of food and places.

There are some interesting stereotypes in the UK about Italian food – country that with the exception of some recent post-crisis dynamics has not benefited from an Italian mass immigration as it happened in the US 60-70 years ago. For this reason sometime Italian food is just an ordinary imitation, with no real identity, a clumsy tentative to put together some Italian taste without providing real dignity to the meal.

Garlic, for example, is stereotype number one. Yes – garlic is an important ingredient of the Mediterranean diet. But based on the stereotype one we Italians eat garlic everywhere and with every meal. Which is definitely not the case.

Bread and oil is stereotype number two. The habit of soaking pieces of bread in olive oil as a starter is result of some interesting anglosaxon experiment. Not an Italian habit.

Cappuccino is stereotype number three. As I wrote in a prevous post, among Italians it’s taboo to ask for a cappuccino after lunch, or, in general, after breakfast time.

Dolmio is stereotype number four. Dolmio uses a very basic marketing technique (pricing) to convince a not well prepared audience to buy; and is providing the cuisine a disservice (in general, the proliferation of imitation/low cost products in the UK and across Europe is harming Italy’s ability to export).

Carluccio’s is stereotype five. Londoners, Carluccio’s is the quintessence of non-Italian taste. Try something different, instead.

Iconic

Back to London after the Christmas break spent in Sicily & Milan with A&M, we had a dinner yesterday at the Shangri-La Ting Lounge restaurant at the Shard. Food is OK, not so bad – but definitely not something that I will remember forever. Views are stunning instead. Iconic views – as many would say here in London.

Iconic venues are opening all around. Towers. Buildings. Parks. Bridges. It’s the new tendency in London. The last: today Sky Gardens and its three restaurants open at the last floor of the Walkie Talkie.

“Reserve your place at this iconic address” they say. And I hardly try to understand what this really means, and why an address should be iconic. Until I discover that I am not the only one:

Could this usage (of the term iconic) please end in 2015? And with it, could we also see the end of the habit of calling places “public” when they are not? Again, 20 Fenchurch Street, better known as the Walkie Talkie, is at the top of the game: the “Sky Garden” at its summit is “the UK’s tallest public park”, you are told, when you ring its booking line. I don’t think they mean “tallest” – this would mean that the park was exceptionally vertical – but “highest”, meaning a long way off the ground. But then they might have faced rival claims from Snowdonia or the Cairngorms, so they need some linguistic fudge.

That said, we will visit this new iconic venue, next Saturday. And we will test the food and enjoy the views.  Of course I won’t forget to (deeply) think about the inner meaning of the iconic term.

The Cappuccino’s rule

After long conversations with my girlfriend about whether or not it’s the case to order cappuccino after a meal (note: she is Italian, but too many years spent in the UK have dramatically modified her DNA), I decided to take this debate seriously and to search the web for details.

Let me start defining one of the most controversial Italian food rules: ordering a cappuccino after a meal is a visible sign of (coffee) ignorance.

Just google “why Italians don’t drink cappuccino after…” and you will get millions of articles confirming the rule.

Cappuccino in the afternoon? Never.  Cappuccino (in Milan: Cappuccio) is your welcome to the world in the morning, and it’s not to be repeated later in the day. It’s the thick, frothy and delicious cappuccino non-Italians enjoy drinking at all hours. But here in the Boot, it’s taboo to ask for a cappuccino after lunch, or, in general, after breakfast time.

In an interesting article in The Florentine, Julie Butterfield says that Italians obsess about digestion. It’s a cultural issue you get both from watching TV and from hanging around with Italians. There are no fibre drinks that make you regular, so common in the US but basically invisible in Italian pharmacies. But there are ads for yoghurt that help your digestion, because it’s what you eat, not what supplements you take, that counts in this country.

Aside from being bad form, there are sound dietary reasons for swapping the thick frothy latte with an afternoon espresso. ‘Italians cook and eat with purpose and intent; they recognize that milk contains fat, which is hard to digest, so if you tack that onto a big lunch, the unused calories get stored as fat, not nutrients (and thus, it’s a waste that goes to your waist).

In addition to this you have to consider another typical Italian habit: the order of food. Travelhopper writes about the order of meals in Italy: the appetizer (optional), the primo (pasta, rice or other starch-based element), the secondo (meat or fish, with side of boiled or grilled vegetables, sometimes salad), fruit and then dessert. Incidentally, you don’t have to eat all of these parts of the meal in one sitting — that is mainly for special occasions. The starch is considered the easiest to digest. The meat comes afterwards, harder to digest.  Whether or not this order of food would work for you this is the logic behind the structure of Italian eating, and understanding it helps understand all the rest.

Now, let’s go back to the Cappuccino’s rule. It is rather more complex. It comes down to the digestibility of milk in large, warm volumes. Whether or not you’re lactose intolerant, milk is filling. A proper cappuccino is made with whole milk, so it’s also fattening. Many Italians will consider this frothy beverage “breakfast” with just a few cookies dunked in, or even alone.

(…) The logic is really meal-related. Consider a cappuccino like a snack between meals. Had alone, it’s okay. Consumed right after another meal, it’s considered bad for your digestion, while the short espresso is considered a digestive.

So this is the story behind. Now you are free to order your cappuccino after a pizza. But don’t, don’t do it if you are in Italy. You will be immediately recognised as a rude food-ignorant stranger.

Milan, Eataly

Today (in 57 minutes) Eataly will open its 25th store – one of the largest around the globe. After Manhattan, Rome, Tokyo, Chicago it’s time for Milan’s Eataly Smeraldo (from the name of the theatre whose location is now the new Eataly store). The opening day is a clear choice: March 18th was the beginning of the five days of Milan, a major event in the Revolutionary Year of 1848 (and the barricades, and Radetzky, etc.). So the opening wants to be a sign of Resurgence (Risorgimento). For Italy, Milan and its delicious food (see also the Expo2015‘s theme, next year).

Oh, and by the way, some figures – the four biggest Eataly stores are

  • Rome, 15,800 sqm
  • Chicago, 5,800 sqm
  • Milan Smeraldo, 5,000 sqm
  • Manhattan, 4600 sqm

From the Economist:

Eataly provides its customers with gorgeous surroundings—less combative than at Harrods in London, less oppressively wholesome than at Whole Foods Markets, an American chain—in which they might imagine Gianmaria and Francesca weeding the tomato plants or treading the grapes. Mr Farinetti is selling them a seductive image of Italy itself.

Well done. I will go, soon. You?

Eataly Smeraldo

Eataly Milan Smeraldo (@EatalySmeraldo) is ready to open its doors next week. Not the first, but the largest store in Italy. Manhattan style, if not better.

Smeraldo was an historical theatre, in town. The venue brings memories and it’s plenty of history for the Milanees. Following its history, the super-store’s themes will be music and food. Eataly opens in the most buzzy district in town, Garibaldi/Porta Nuova.

Latest updates: from Eataly site, from Corriere newspaper site, Scattidigusto press opening, Nicola Farinetti’s tweets (@NicolaFarinetti – the owner), Where Milan (english).