Hi Cosimo, first of all, what are you doing in London and how long have you been living there?
Hi! I have been working in London for six years as a Hotel Runner at The Langham Hotel. After my graduation at the hospitality training institute I.P.S.A.R. in Benevento, I worked in the kitchen in two local restaurants, and then I moved to London, and I decided to work as waiter to be more in contact with the guests.
What about the Italian food in London? Do you often go out to eat in Italian restaurants?
I often cook at home, but I also like going to a pizzeria to eat a yummy pizza. I usually go to restaurants twice a month. It is essential for my job to taste and get to know different dishes, therefore I think I can advise you some good places where it is worth to go to have a proper Italian dinner
Can you tell us about some of them?
I was really stunned by Cecconi’s Mayfair. There is a counter on which you can see the fresh products that they offer. On one side, you can find the seaside dishes such as gilthead breams, prawns and oysters; on the opposite side, the earth dishes with many types of meat. The recipes were excellent, and the products used as well. I appreciate that you can see the chefs while cooking.
Another one is Bocca di Lupo. Customers can admire the show of the chefs cooking in front of them. Here I tasted fish and I particularly liked the shrimp of Mazara del Vallo, one of the best in the world. They are extremely tasteful. These two restaurants are expensive, but the food is excellent, and the quality is high, therefore it is worth to spend that money.
Do you know any cheaper venue, which maintains the Italian quality?
Of course! For example, at Canada Water Café you can find a lot of long-life Italian products, and it is not all! Every day fresh products as mozzarellas arrive at the airport. I tasted it and I have to admit that it was delicious. There are fully prepared meals, such as cannelloni, lasagne and parmigiana, which you can eat in or take away.
The same manager owns Plough Way Deli, near Surrey Quays station. It sells excellent Italian products, wines and pizzas by the slice.
Talking about mozzarella and cheese, it can be difficult to find mozzarellas and burratas that taste as the one in Italy. Did you manage?
Yes, I believe I did. I am thinking about the cheese factory La Latteria. I know that they are using milk, which comes from small local farms, and they produce cheese with the ancient traditions of the south of Italy. I saw them, while using traditional tools, and it was a great experience of the most authentic technique of Italian tradition. Their products are as the ones that I find at home: there is burrata, mozzarella, scamorza, primo sale and much more.
Cosimo, we cannot avoid talking about pizzerias! You can find them everywhere, but just a few maintain the Italian taste. What do you think?
I completely agree. But you can find pizzerias with Italian chefs cooking with Italian products, therefore the result is similar. I’ll tell you more, at the Antica Pizzeria da Michele the chefs are Neapolitans, and you will hear Italian and dialect in the restaurant. The pizza is like the one that you can find in the pizzeria da Michele in Naples, where I often go when I am at home. In Baker street you can watch pizza makers kneading, while you are enjoying your pizza. The prices are acceptable since we are in London.
Another must is 50 Kalò, near Trafalgar Square. It won the price of the best pizzeria in Europe in 2020. The chefs are Italian and you can talk both Italian and English.
Finally, I think it is also recommendable Franco Manca. Personally, I prefer the two pizzerias that I have just mentioned; however, here you can also find good quality pizzas.
Give us a piece of advice: how can you recognize a true Italian restaurant before trying it?
I think it is important to have a look at the menu and the photos of the meals. Then, for me it is important to taste. You can ask even just a spritz and you will realize if the chefs are Italian. Reviews may help, but they can also be fake, so I prefer to trust the menu and my palate. The cost is not a distinctive factor since if you are in London Bridge, you have to pay much more even if you are eating low quality food.
Did it happen to you to go to a fake Italian restaurant?
Unfortunately, yes. You can recognize an Italian restaurant because the chefs (and some waiters as well) are usually Italian, so you will hear the Italian language. Moreover, I rely on the menu. If I see “Spaghetti with meatballs” I would be tempted to do as Checco Zalone in “Quo vado”: I take a ladder and a screwdriver, and I take off the sign saying “Italian Cuisine”.