Like mamma really made it
Some of the Italian food served in Britain wouldn’t be recognisable to a native of Napoli, but ‘Britalian’ food is beginning to be replaced by the real thing, finds Beatrice Colin.
Ever had the Italian Restaurant From Hell experience? The 0in waiter from down the road via Barcelona. the red liquid in a wicker carafe which would taste better in a dressing. and the food? Well someone might have whispered Italy over it but Italians wouldn‘t recognise it as edible.
The British have tended to gobble up anything which sounds vaguely exotic and some restaurateurs have gain adapted their menus and style of eateries to suit supposed British tastes. We now have chop suey. beef curry and veal a la creme. all of which are as foreign as pizza topped with pineapple or croissants stuffed with ham.
But restaurants in Scotland are changing. Vito’s in Edinburgh and La Parmigiana in Glasgow are two of a growing number of Italian restaurants that are introducing authentic. regional cooking and trashing the gingham tablecloths. plastic fruit and sarcastic waiters serving ‘Britalian‘ food.
‘On the whole a lot of Italian restaurants are not nice places to go to.‘ Sandro Giovanazzi. head chef at La Parmigiana says. ‘There are lots of restaurants which like to think they‘re Italian. They serve things like Mamma’s pasta and Mamma's bread and that’s just a caricature of Italy. Italian people are serious people. We‘re a serious restaurant and we do serious things and we try not to make a fool of Italy or Glaswegians.‘
‘It‘s inevitable.‘ points out Cosimo Polcino of Vito‘s. ‘With wider travel. people‘s taste has become more sophisticated and the emphasis has shifted to more traditional. genuine Italian food.‘
Common misconceptions have been that Italians eat sauces made from cream. And as for a meat dish and pasta on the same plate? Never.
‘Most ofthe Italian restaurants in Britain have used cream in everything.‘ points out Giovanazzi. ‘In Italy they use cream very occasionally. They don‘t use it in carbonara and they don‘t use it with veal. In the North of Italy
near Parma. there are grazing areas and the milk is used for parmesan cheese. The further south you go. the less cows there are as it‘s too hot. There. the cooking is based more on olive oil and what milk they do have they make into cheese.‘
The strength of real Italian cooking is in its imaginative use of fresh local ingredients. In recent years there‘s been no excuse for using tomato puree and tinned mushrooms as Mediterranean vegetables are widely available. ‘When I travel in Italy. I try to pick up as many ideas as I can and then I adapt them to the raw materials we have here.‘ Giovanazzi says. ‘That‘s the secret of proper Italian cooking. What we do here is try to do everything as authentically as we can. We do a kind of pork sausage and serve it with canneletti or borlotti beans done with chilli peppers and plum tomatoes. a touch of wine and some herbs. That‘s a typically Italian dish.‘
But like all the top restaurants in Scotland. La Parmigiana fully exploits one of Scotland‘s greatest assets. its abundance of fish and seafood. ‘The fish in Scotland is probably the best you'll get anywhere.‘ Giovanazzi says. ‘We buy it in fresh and cook it in the Italian style with basil. garlic and lemon. or make it into a fish stewjust like they do in my home town in Italy.’ Vim is is (1! 55a Frederick Street. Edinburgh. 225 5052 and La Parmigiana is u/ 443 Great Western Road. (I/ugsrm'. 334 0686.
FLAVOUR OF THE FORTNIGHT
luppa dl Pesce
A quick, easy and filling stew which combines Scottish produce with an Italian approach, suggested by Sandro Giovanni of La Pannigiana. Serves 2.
For the base:
A stick of celery
A large plum tomato
llalf a chopped onion
A piece of chilli (according to taste) Chopped parsley
A clove of garlic
‘A lb of fish scraps
1 lb of cleaned fish and seafood such as cod, crayﬁsh, squid, tiger prawns and mussels, depending on the fislInonger’s selection.
Chop the vegetables and sweat slowly in olive oil to make the base. Meanwhile, cover the fish scrapes with water, season and simmer for five minutes. Add a ladle-full of stock to the base, then the raw fish and bring to the boil then simmer until the fish is cooked (around five minutes)
Serve with a bottle of chilled Frascatl and Italian bread, toasted, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
a new.” ’>&‘A
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The List 20 May—2 June I994 93