Spent a few days in a freezing Milan (London is a tropical town in comparison), got cold and fog, visited nice sites, tested a few interesting restaurants (the good Osteria, the modern Ham Holy Burger, the easy-going pizzeria). Continue reading “Notes from Milan”
Trying to list all restaurants in London supporting the #amatriciana aid campaign for survivors of Amatrice and the other small villages of Centre Italy decimated by the Wednesday 6.2 magnitude quake that’s killed at least 280 people to date.
Here is what I’ve found so far.
— Lina Stores (@linastores) August 26, 2016
Hi guys in support of the victims of the earthquake in Italy me and my 700 chefs at… https://t.co/hX0BaX4ma2
— Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) August 25, 2016
For every coffee you buy we'll donate 10p to the Italian Red Cross to help those affected by the earthquake in Italy pic.twitter.com/EhzngE66UD
— Carluccio's (@Carluccios) August 26, 2016
— Firezza Pizza (@firezzapizza) August 26, 2016
— Il Cudega (@ilcudega) August 26, 2016
— Vinarius London (@VinariusLondon) August 26, 2016
Just discovered (and love) these London food maps from @FoodHood.
Soho is the first
then Covent Garden
last but not least, Brixton
Waiting now for Greenwich and Blackheath :)
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.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) June 9, 2015
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).
OK. Been at the iconic place and enjoyed an iconic lunch. Photos here, embedded in a couple of tweets.
— Giuseppe Caltabiano (@giusec) January 10, 2015
— Giuseppe Caltabiano (@giusec) January 10, 2015
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.
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.
Interesting piece about dining in London vs. rest of Europe – and it’s true, London’s restaurants are becoming noisy and pricey – but they still offer an incomparable choice.
One of the several things I am struggling with since I spend part of my life in the UK is garlic.
Wait a second. I am not allergic. I simply hate garlic. And I try to escape from each single garlic-empowered meal served while I travel around the globe.
Now, it’s true that garlic is typical of the Mediterranean cuisine. Right. It’s also true that it was introduced in the UK around mid 1500, at least this is what I found googling “garlic” and “garlic consumption”. But today garlic is becoming a British food obsession:
- No way to find a sauce – pesto, tomato, etc. – with no garlic; garlic is ubiquitous. And I’ve visited several food stores in London, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Whole Foods, others. I’ve inspected every single sauce can, hours and hours of meticulous inspections: all of them contain even a minimum quantity of garlic (note: in Italy you can easily buy pestos and sauces with no garlic); in few words, no way to buy a garlic-free sauce;
- Restaurants are even more dangerous; it’s here that the Italian food stereotype becomes obsessive: Italian food must include a lethal quantity of garlic. Because it’s Italian. And Italians love garlic. So do we. Stop.
So I am still struggling with this problem even if I found a temporary patch: once at a table ordering food, if I explain that I am allergic and I can instantly die, then I will get higher attention and the probabilities that I won’t get infected with the hated element become much lower. In few words, I can survive.
PS: if you are in my same desperate situation and you want to be a bit more creative you can always go with the short statement (a long one is also available here): “As a devotee of Krishna and a practising Bhakti-yogi, I don’t eat garlic because it cannot be offered to Krishna.”
Not sure who said that Polpo in London is one of the best restaurant in town. For people who doesn’t know much about Polpo, it’s a british replica of typical Venetian restaurants, bacari. Small chain, with shops in Soho, Covent Garden, somewhere else.
Noisy environment, not because of people eating but because of a loud semi-stylish music. You can sit at the bar, or at regular tables.
I have been a couple of times at the restaurant in Covent Garden. Last time, few hours ago. Food is tasty, menus and courses attract your curiosity, waiters are polite and ready to listen. But there is no way to get some bread, bread is even not on the menu (this might be not relevant if you are British; but it’s dramatically important if you are Italian – bread should always be on the table); pizzette are good but topping is too complex for Italian standards; meatballs are big, too big, following American standards – but we are still in a Venetian restaurants, aren’t we?
Bill was £42 for 2 appetizers, 2 plates of meatballs (3 meatballs per plate), 2 glass of wine, 1 affogato (and no, no bread).
Frankly, considering the offering, too much.