Apulia

50 Long Lane, Farringdon, London EC1A 9EJ

Food: 3.5/5

Service: 4/5

Price: £30 per person (drinks excluded)

I was actually initiated to this nice little Italian place by my friend Emma. Sharing the love for good food, I was very happy to give it a go, and I was not disappointed. 

“Apulia” stays for “Puglia”, a gorgeous region in the very South of Italy, it is the heel of the Italian boot. The cuisine is therefore very regional and pleasantly fresh. It is not easy in my opinion to find a Good restaurant in the City, especially around Farringdon where aggressive American-burger-grill places have taken over a bit. Apulia is small and cosy, a good option for a relaxing post-work mid-week dinner.

You can order both a la carte and from a set menu. We started with a couple of very fresh options: octopus carpaccio and burrata. The carpaccio was a very abundant portion, served with courgettes, sun-dried cherry tomatoes and crispy flat bread. The burrata was excellent! Absolutely as it should be. Served whole here and not in a bowl as you might find it in other occasions (both equally good). If you have been following my posts, you will already know I am a big burrata fan so finding good fresh examples in London make me ecstatic.

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We ended up ordering the same main as it sounded too good to let it go. Scialatielli with pesto, prawns and pistachios. Wow! (Note: be ware of the difference between scialatiellitagliatelle and linguine and be ware of restaurants that mix them up! Linguine is a long, flat but narrow pasta. Tagliatelle are long, flat and wide. Scialatielli are long, kind of flat but pretty thick.) The dish was nice and essential, made with good ingredients.

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We closed the meal with a chocolate mousse that although was delicious, it was way too rich for the light and fresh meal we had enjoyed hence we were not able to finish it, even if we were just sharing one! All in all a very good experience anyway, worth adding it to our Italian collection in the exciting British capital.

Osteria Antica Bologna

23 Northcote Rd, Clapham, London SW11 1NG

Service: 5
Food: 4
Price: £30-£40 per person

This osteria (traditional, cosy, Italian restaurant) lays in a standard white-British middle class neighbourhood that we all say we despise but we actually all desire to live in at the very bottom of our hearts. It settles nicely among the little boutiques, patisseries and bakeries of Northcote Road, strolling towards Clapham Junction.

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Rigatoni alla Campidanese

When I had a look at the menu outside, the place won my heart by listing the dishes between “primi” – first entrées – and “secondi” – second entrées. When you see this in an Italian restaurant you can hope they might know what they are doing, as remember that the standard ever-lasting Italian meal is composed by antipasti, first entrée, second entrée, sides, (sometimes cheese), fruit, dessert and closing espresso.

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Ravioli con zucca mantovana

The simple menu entails classics from the middle and north of Italy, such as wild boar ragù for example. We decided to go for antipasti, “primi” and desserts as we were still willing to survive the day. We chose a variety of dishes in order to try a little bit of everything. Worth noticing among the antipasti was a delicious salad of artichokes. We then asked and found out that the artichokes were actually imported from Italy, hence so full of flavour. Less spectacular were the fried courgettes that remained a bit too soft for my taste.

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Antipasti Mix

Coming to the first entrées, they were all absolutely delicious! Some of them are also pretty peculiar to Italian tradition and not easy to find abroad usually. This was the case for “Rigatoni all Campidanese” – Campidanese is a Sardinian sauce where sausage is mixed tomatoes and fennel seeds. They were a delight.
We had some very good, hand-made tortelli (broad ravioli) stuffed with pumpkin from Mantova, which is usually the best you get in Italy. I had the distinctive tonnarelli with wild boar ragù while my dad ordered linguine with scampi. Being very Italian, my dad wanted to make sure he was getting real linguine and not some random spaghetti of different sort! After his funny exchange with themaître, the chef personally come to the table offering three different types of traditional Italian pasta brands from which my dad could chose from! A nice treat indeed.

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Tonnarelli with wild boar ragù

We concluded the meal with again hand-made desserts: cannoli siciliani and a very delicate tart of pears and chocolate, another lesser known Italian passion abroad.

The whole meal was a success, the food was up to good Italian standards and the environment was cosy and relaxed. I can heartily say I will easily go back next time I crave for a real Italian meal.

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Linguine with Scampi

#theItalianraguexperience
#raguimpera
 

Trattoria Emilia

Via Marina Grande 62, 80067 Sorrento, Napoli, Italy

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Sorrento – Marina Grande

This is the place I would suggest my non-Italian friends for a real Italian experience. Great seafood, busy and loud, with long evening queues where tourists are not really sure weather to stick to their northern queuing instincts or joining the wrestle for a table with the very southern Italian families.

On the super famous, super photographed, super filmed marina of Sorrento, the place is a little jewel for its food, view and – not sorry to say – stereotypical Italian experience. Portions are for the daring! Let’s put it this slightly discriminatory way: a portion of spaghetti alle vongole for one Neapolitan easily feeds two British!

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Frittura di Paranza

We tried all we could, thankfully it was four of us! Gnocchetti all sorrentina are a great simple classic, that you can definitely try if fish is not really your thing. Simply made with tomato sauce and super fresh stretching mozzarella, their strength lies exactly in their little but local and fresh ingredients.

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Seafood Pasta (Paccheri allo Scoglio)

Seafood is the heart of the menu though. We had delicious paccheri all scoglio: large pasta with a mix of seafood, to notice the big and juicy mussels; and the never-tiring, ever-loving frittura di paranza (fried calamari, prawns, whitebait and other small fish – specifically fished on the day on a train boat called paranza. Also, in this case, served in the traditional Italian wicker tray called spasella). But the jewel in the kitchen’s crown are spaghetti alle vongole – clams. This can be served white – without tomatoes – or red – with cherry tomatoes. By no means the pasta should drown in tomato sauce! The clams must be tasted and married with the pasta. The dish must not be dry, but smooth and only slightly juicy, for it to allow you to clean it up with a piece of fragrant ‘cafone’ bread (slow rising, traditional Neapolitan bread). I loved Emilia’s version of the dish, abundant with vongole, sparkled with parsley, very faithful to the tradition. In the evenings, when families of ten or twenty come to dine, you might see the biggest quantity of spaghetti all vongole in your life, served in long and heavy oval trays, throning in the middle of long and crowded tables. I can easily say that – after the home-made spaghetti alle vongole by mum, aunt and grandma – these are the best I have ever had.

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Aunt Emilia, who runs the kitchen like a queen, is a wonderful Italian woman who keeps her food to the delicious basics of our cuisine. If you have the chance, go inside and congratulate her, she will definitely appreciate it and you might also peek into the bustling kitchen where waterfalls of spaghetti and seafood are prepared for the delight of our happy palates!

#therealitalianexperience