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Italian recipes, British produce

Italian recipes, British produce

by Tom Shingler 12 November 2015

Tom Shingler stops in at London restaurant L’anima to talk to head chef Antonio Favuzzi and the legendary three-Michelin-starred Roberto Cerea to learn more about what produce Italian chefs use when they’re cooking in the UK.

For three days at the beginning of November, the three-Michelin-starred Cerea brothers came to the UK to cook for the British public at L’anima, an Italian restaurant in the heart of London. It was the first time brothers Enrico and Roberto had cooked for the British public, and I wanted to get to know how they and Antonio Favuzzi, the head chef at L’anima, source ingredients when they’re cooking Italian food abroad.

The Cerea brothers are culinary legends in Italy. They’re two of five siblings who run Da Vittorio in Bergamo, a haven for seafood lovers with three Michelin stars. ‘We like to touch on traditional food using new and modern techniques,’ explains Roberto. ‘The very best fresh produce is the foundation for every one of our dishes. We’re based in northern Italy, but use products which come from all over the country. For example, in this menu we’re using Fregula (a pasta similar to couscous) which comes from Sardinia and red prawns from the south.

‘My father opened Da Vittorio in 1966 in Bergamo – 300km from the coast in every direction, right in the centre of Italy,’ he continues. ‘Everyone there would cook meat or local vegetables, but he brought the seaside and seafood to the area, which no one else dared to do. Northern Italy is quite cold, so pork, veal, beef and game-based stews were the norm. Every single restaurant in Bergamo used to serve bollito misto, a selection of meats served with mustard and salsa verde. At the same time my father opened Da Vittorio, a fishmonger from Sicily opened a shop in the city. They both started at the same time, and now they are seen as the best fish restaurant and fishmongers in the region.’

roberto cerea
The three day event was the first time the Cerea Brothers had cooked for the British public
scotch tagliata
Antonio's Scotch beef tagliata, which includes Buffalo Blue cheese from Yorkshire-based Shepherds Purse

The collaboration between the brothers and Antonio at L’anima was thanks to the restaurant’s owner, who ate at Da Vittorio and was determined to get Roberto and Enrico over to the UK. ‘We don’t have a star at L’anima at the moment, so for Roberto and Enrico to come over was a huge inspiration,’ says Antonio. ‘It was great seeing their menu and mine together.’ The food at L’anima is an homage to Antonio’s roots – he was born in Sardinia to a Sicilian mother and Puglian father, so it echoes the Cerea brothers’ use of ingredients found all over Italy. Antonio loves working with basic ingredients like flour, burrata, bottarga, cheese and pasta and making simple dishes which let the fresh produce shine.

Source code

The problem with this, of course, is being based in the UK, where access to certain Italian ingredients can be hard to come by. But Antonio has adapted his style, and now around half his menu is made with British produce. ‘I’m very proud to use Italian ingredients in England and it’s easier to import them than ever before, especially fresh things like cheese, meat and even seafood like red prawns. But the UK has so much great produce it would be crazy not to use it. In particular, the different fish you have access to are delicious – there’s such a big selection. In terms of meat, cheese and vegetables, you guys have been growing like crazy in the last few years. English asparagus is the best in the world and I’m very proud to use Scottish langoustines. Roberto planned to bring over all the shellfish for his menu from Italy but after I showed him what Scotland had to offer, he changed his mind.’

Roberto is less acquainted with the produce available in the UK as he’s only visited a handful of times, but he’s starting to realise just how much is on offer. The seafood risotto he served at L’anima made use of British scallops, langoustines, clams, mussels and prawns, which Antonio chose as his favourite dish on the entire menu. ‘The food here is making me and my brother think about the future and what we’re going to do next,’ says Roberto. ‘We’re really attracted to London and it’s probably the best city in the world for food right now. I can’t wait to try Antonio’s T-bone Aberdeen Angus forty-five day old steak – my mother had it last night and said I must eat it before I go back to Italy!’

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