“So, where are you from?”
“Near Manchester”, I reply
“United or City?”
Sometimes, you just know you’ve found the “right” sort of place just from the style of welcome.
Then you find out that the food is prepared according to Slow Food principles and you know all really will be fine. “Bring it on”, we said to ourselves.
One starter was simplicity itself. Two cheeses - one sheep, the other goat, served with lovely sweet fig jam that would be great on toast for breakfast. A classic combination of the sharp salty cheese and the sweetness of fig. It worked as well here as in Spain where I’ve had pain de higo or, in the UK, where cheese was served with fig roll biscuits at the now closed Juniper.
The other starter, described as artichoke cake was thin slices of the vegetable baked in a savoury custard. I was allowed a taste. Only a small taste, mind. And it was excellent. Rich yet simple at the same time.
On to the pasta. Spaghetti with a sauce made from “Cinta Senese” pancetta (apparently made from free range Tuscan pigs) and a powerful Parmesan cream. A similar richness to a carbonara but no egg. The other, mezze manichi (a large tubular pasta) with a white meat ragu. It’s explained that the “white” means no tomato, rather than any description of the meat. Both of these dishes were faultless – good pasta, great texture and taste to the sauces.
For mains, there was a fillet steak, simply cooked to a very rare side of medium. It came with mixed salad leaves and a thick tomato based sauce, heavy with mustard and a good touch of chilli. The other plate, taken from a recipe from ancient Rome, was a pork shoulder stew. There was a complex spicing going on here with no single flavour dominating the meat. The owner had explained that there were thirteen herbs, spices and other flavourings. There was nutmeg certainly, coriander probably and an asian fish sauce used as a substitute for a Roman flavouring of fermented fish (garum?). Served with a little finely shredded and wilted cabbage and a medium sweet apple sauce, it was the sort of dish you’d find throughout Northern Europe but entirely in its place here.
We passed on dessert but had good espresso. Thoroughly recommended.
So, returning to my opening sentences......forza azzurri.