There are times when one finds oneself at a loose end, but can’t actually find the energy to go out and DO something. This was the case this past Saturday. I could have spent the whole day at home, just relaxing and being slept on by the cat but, much as I needed the rest, that wasn’t sitting well with me. My friend Becca happened to have a rare, free day and as we’d been talking about having a crawl of some of the Italian delis in London for ages, we decided to make it a reality. A quick natter to another friend, Kate, and we had our partner in crime for the day.
We started out at Bermondsey Square market. This much overlooked market really needs to be recognised. There were two organic veg stalls, overflowing with gorgeous looking produce, the tops of the leeks fair waving over the partitions, and an immense tumble of tubers, root veg and squashes. There was one selling highly scented cheese and Italian goodies and then there was the stall that was the reason for my visit.
Scarlet Rosita. A powerhouse of creativity when it comes to food. Her ranges of gluten free and RAW goods are simply amazing but she doesn’t just do that. I can’t praise her highly enough. She works so very hard to accommodate peoples’ needs, and she has a loyal customer following. She used to be based at Maltby Street, but for no reason that anyone can discern, they didn’t renew her place. Their loss. There’s no way that I would let a stall go that provided soups, curries, cakes and cookies for all. Her knowledge of food is encyclopaedic, and her warmth and kindness know no bounds. Go, and go soon. I get hugs and everything when I go, maybe you will too.
Cake for breakfast was the only way to go. It was coffee cake, so that counts as a morning food, right? This is what I call a proper cake. Moist, packed with flavour and with a frosting that wasn’t that overly sweet fluff that you seem to get a lot these days. I often think that the frosting is the very last thing, not the whole of the thing. Style over substance in cakes is a very sad occurrence, and it should not be so.
Becca chose gluten free carrot cake, and it was one of the nicest carrot cakes I have ever tasted. So fresh, and gently spiced with, I think, a hint of coconut, which never fails to garner my attention. I apologise for not getting a picture. We were eating.
I came away with some of Rosita’s roasted hazelnut biscotti – intense hazelnut flavour imbued throughout;
and also some vanilla and sultana scones. The vanilla is subtle, but lends almost a softness to the scone.
Just the thing to have with a cup of tea on a dreary Sunday afternoon. (which it is as I am typing this.)
Full of cake, we stopped off for a beverage or two, and then took to knocking seven bells out of our travelcards by bussing it all over the place.
First stop was Terroni’s, on the Clerkenwell Road, just up from the blue and gold Italian church.
My first job was in Bowling Green Lane back in 1989, and Terroni’s and Gazzano’s were regular haunts. Becca lived in Northern Italy for four years, and I spent entire six week summer holidays in Southern Italy, almost as far south as you could get without being in Sicily. Our food experiences were fairly different, but we both have a passion for la bella lingua, and very definitely for the food.
Terroni has a different smell to how I remember, but then it has changed and branched out over the years, now serving cooked food as well as being a deli. They closed for a fair while, but it’s very good to see them back, just where they should be. That area is so much little Italy.
There was a certain amount of excited gaping at the shelves, and wishing that I had a car with me, or a bearer. They have a huge range of products at one end, and a large selection of wines at the other, with a cooked meat, cheese and olive counter in the middle. Friendly service, knowledgeable staff and excellent products.
Pancetta and mortadella are always my first choices, and I bought provolone cheese too.
We all stocked up on various things, bought some Neapolitan sfogliatelle and sat outside in the sun to get covered in crackling pastry shards and icing sugar.
Gazzano’s used to be a tiny place, and I have a recollection of a stone floor and a cool, calm interior with not a lot of room but stacked to the ceiling. They moved over to what used to be the Guardian building while their shop was being totally refitted, and now they are back in place. I almost preferred the first incarnation, as it was far more reminiscent of Italian alimentari shops that I visited as a child, but this is London, with a different clientele and different weather.
The range of products is still every bit as good though, and I bought some gorgeous pumpkin ravioli and some plump, garlicky Italian pork sausages.
Again, lovely, friendly staff and an overwhelming array of goodies.
Our next bus ride took us to Kings Cross, to the Continental Store on Caledonian Road. Now that is a shop that hasn’t changed at all. It’s still run by the same man , Leo, that started it in 1964. He is 80 years old and you would not believe it to see him.
This shop is small, stacked high, and smells right. There’s always something new to try out on the counter, so this time I got pan forte for £2 and salt packed capers for 50p. Yes, that’s right, 50p. Oh and a can of San Benedetto orangeade. Beats the hell out of Tango.
Leo is so friendly, that when I go there, I go there as much to see him as to buy things. He and his shop bring all that I remember from my childhood front and centre and into the present day. If he tells you which olive oil is the best, then you know that it absolutely will be.
This time he took great pleasure in showing us a ‘cheese and ravioli’ board where the cheese and the raviolis were all made of white chocolate. Christmas anyone?
I hope that the council don’t manage to price him out of existence, but they are trying.
Go see, eat a sandwich that he makes you and shop. It’s is so very worth it.