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.

Polpo

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.