Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Search For Italy’s Emilia-Romagna Regional Cuisine In London

By Arthur Browne.

I love Italy and I love Italian food. I thought I’d better throw that disclaimer out there up front. I like Italy and Italian food even more when I poke my head out of the door of the office to make the short walk to an Italian food festival and note that it is raining that steady rain which gradually soaks you to the skin. As a Londoner, you never need a taste of the Mediterranean more than on a cold, blustery day.
Fortunately, a swanky hotel called the Melia White House just off Regent’s Park - a previously undiscovered spot for this particular Fluid London correspondent - graciously stepped in to fill the void. The code name is the Deliziando project and the objective is to promote the products of the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy.
I need to use this posting as a forum to remind my editor just what incredible delights he passed over in giving me the gig. Let me hand over to Gioele Camarlinghi, general manager at Melia White House: “Think fruity olive oils, prosciutto, culatello [a refined type of prosciutto], not to mention an array of pastas, such as macaroni, lasagne, tortellini, cannelloni, pappardelle and tagliatelle.” The man was spot on. I entered the room and it was a fruit and vegetable-free zone. That only made me love it all the more.
I arrived promptly with my companion and at first the conversation was a little stilted. The guests bunched together making chit-chat, waiting for the range of hams to be unveiled, marvelling at a wheel of parmesan so big it could have been used as cover if a lorry had broken down on the A501 outside.
Then the Emilia-Romagna sommelier had the excellent idea of uncorking some red Prosecco. It only had a gentle fizz and got the conversation flowing nicely. It also gave people the courage to start digging in for sumptuous chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano soaked in Modena balsamic vinegar, as well as to devour a proper melt-in-the-mouth Parma ham called Secretum, among others.
You’d be forgiven for thinking a nibble of this and a nibble of that wouldn’t keep everyone happy, but whenever I paused for breath a mouthful of something else popped up. I am still getting flashbacks to the juicy Piacenza pancetta salami. After the meat and cheese, a regular flow of pastas and tortellinis soon followed. These pastas came in jazzy little glasses, which looked very smart; however I did rather feel for one of my journalist colleagues who foolishly mislaid his fork early on in the proceedings.

To show Melia White House’s Mediterranean roots, this theme will run until 29th April, with visitors having the chance to tuck into themed menus packed with Emilia-Romagna delights in the hotel’s bar and restaurants. There will also be another festival in July and, with the exception of brilliant sunshine and mopeds, Deliziando is a fine stab at bringing a small slice of Italy to London. To book at Melia White House’s L'Albufera restaurant, use the calendar above. To book at Melia White House’s The Place restaurant, use the calendar below. Having suitably whetted my appetite for cuisine from one Italy’s premier culinary regions, I went in search of some other Emilia-Romagna gems in London. Here are two to keep an eye out for: Il Portico Restaurant on Kensington High Street has been cooking regional Italian specialities since it was first opened in the 1960s by Pino Chiavarini and the family comes from Emilia-Romagna. You’ll be in for similar geographical joy at Ponti’s Italian Kitchen (Mayfair or Marylebone): they take pride in sourcing ingredients from the region and originally hail from Piacenza.

Click here to discover the Top 10 best Italian restaurants in London.

Images courtesy of Steve Dunlop.

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