Excellent Restaurant Downstairs by Joanna Haber
[…] Le Marche is one of the many (20) regions in Italy that I didn’t know existed. I’ve been to Italy once – to Venice, as an exchange student, when I was fifteen. We stayed in a converted convent, drank a lot of contraband alcohol, and played mean tricks on the kids who fell asleep first. It wasn’t exactly the cultural experience that I imagine having there today and I spent a good chunk of my time being terrified of pigeons pooping on me. The only thing I learned how to say in Italian was: “Could I please have two scoops of coffee ice cream in a cone.” I ate only pizza (all I could afford) and drank a lot of wine and Fanta because both were cheaper than water. […]
Rossodisera on Monmouth Street features in my new favourite book, Secret London: Unusual Bars and Restaurants – you will probably see further entries from this guide in future blog posts. The owners, Igor Iacopini and Samuele Ciaralli, come from Le Marche, which is on the eastern side of Central Italy, incidentally – and have done no less than transform the basement of an English deli into their own little slice of Italia in Londra.
From the outside, Rossodisera looks like your average deli/sandwich shop come tourist trap in Covent Garden. It is a sandwich shop, yes, and it is also in Covent Garden, but beyond the meat counter and down a narrow flight of stairs is the “excellent restaurant” itself – a tiny, warm, inviting (did I say tiny?) space full of hungry Italians looking for a taste of home. OK, so there was one table of loud Americans. We’re talking theatre district, after all.
The room is tastefully designed to resemble an Italian country house and is decorated using actual stone from the actual owner’s actual father’s actual house. I forgot that I’d never been to real Italy (having concluded that Venice doesn’t count, sorry Venetians and your blinds) before I could even begin to remember that, in fact, I had.
We ordered the obligatory selezione di formaggi to start, which arrived on a slice of olive tree from Le Marche. We were served two hard cheeses and two soft – what they were exactly I couldn’t tell you, the waitress had a pretty thick accent from, you guessed it, Italy – paired with confiture and a beautiful clear honey. We also ordered the cheapest bottle of red wine on the wine list – we have no reservations about looking cheap – and it more than did the trick.
We both chose pasta for our main dishes. I chose the orecchiette rossodisera – a small, oval-shaped pasta with a generous serving of extra virgin olive oil, soft ricotta cheese, sundried tomatoes and fresh basil. Not to detract in any way from how nice the sauce was, but I really like this pasta shape because it looks like little ears. In fact, I would wager that the direct translation for orecchiette is little ears. I’m not even going to bother looking this one up.
Duncan ordered the chitarrina sibilla – a homemade egg pasta with a cream and truffle sauce, a roulade of pork belly direct from La Marche, mushrooms and ‘scorzone’ truffle shavings.
Now, my other half is not one to dish out praise lightly.
“This is the best pasta I’ve had in years,” he exclaimed. I couldn’t have agreed more; made fresh in-house with great quality ingredients, this really gave new meaning to the word homemade.
When the waitress came to clear our plates, Duncan was quick to let her know that this was, in fact, “the best pasta he’d ever had.” I was very close to suggesting we order another plate each, or move to Italy. (Dunc – if you’re reading this – is this an option?)
Sitting next to me while I write this, Duncan says:
“It was the dog’s bollocks. Quote me, will you?”
You can’t get any more Italian than that.
You can read the entire article here