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Rossopomodoro – a taste of Naples in Chelsea
The exterior of Rossopomodoro is an unremarkable restaurant front almost opposite Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. I’ve passed it by many times – I had no reason to believe that it would be different to any other pizzeria in London. Invited to take part in a celebration for the start of the Mozzarella season, I was intrigued enough to go along and find out more. The promise of a one kilo mozzarella to taste might just have contributed to my enthusiasm too…
After a welcome glass of prosecco, olives, bread and pancetta, Mario Romano told us a little about the heritage of the Rossopomodoro Pizzerias and about Mozzarella itself. Rossopomodoro prides itself on producing authentic Napolitan food. That means most of the ingredients used in their restaurants are imported from Italy, from the olive oil – which is a DOP Sorrento extra-virgin oil through to the Gragnano pasta which comes from a small town near Naples that has produced artisan pasta since the 17th century, to the San Marzano tomatoes and of course the buffalo mozzarella.
Although Buffalo Mozzarella is produced all the year round it is during the summer that the milk is sweetest and the water buffalo are happiest. That produces the best mozzarella, a rich, creamy cheese that has a higher fat content than the cow’s milk equivalent. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is a PDO product that can only be produced in Campania, Italy, from a consortium of some 200 producers in the area.
It’s a challenge for any restaurant in the UK to provide Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, it has a shelf life of no more than a week. But, once we tasted the Mozzarella it was clear why it is worth the effort. One of the staples of Southern Italian gastronomy, Mozzarella is eaten by itself as part of an antipasti and also used on pizzas.
We started by trying slices of the special Mozzarella season cheese, cut into generous wedges and served with Italian bread, tomatoes and a selection of meats and grilled vegetables. It was, of course, delicious – creamy and yet firm in texture and without that salty after-taste you sometimes get from the supermarket version.
We went on to try a selection of pizzas and calzone from Rossopomodoro. My favourite, the Salsiccia Friarelli, made with Italian pork sausage, friarielli (an Italian green vegetable a bit like tenderstem broccoli crossed with kale), smoked mozzarella and basil. But I wouldn’t have been unhappy with any of them as a full portion.
What is interesting for me about Rossopomodoro is that the excellent quality food is authentic. It’s quite possible to make a delicious pizza with ingredients that are not from Italy and there’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes it is good to be able to try the ‘real thing’.
There are Rossopomodoro restaurants in Italy as well as in the UK and they all rely on using the authentic ingredients that have made up a Napolitan Pizza for generations. The olive oil is nothing like you will find in a normal mid-range pizzeria, the water is Ferrarelle, Italy’s favourite mineral water, a natural sparkling water from near Naples and the pizzas are cooked in a traditional wood-burning oven. Most of the pizza chefs are from Southern Italy too.
If you’d like to try the mozzarella for yourself, Rossopomodoro transports fresh buffalo mozzarella twice weekly direct from Campania. And, until the end of August, to celebrate the Mozzarella season, you can order two special types of mozzarella in addition to the normal menu items.
1. The Mozzarellona : a huge 1kg serving parties of 6-10 people – £40
2. The Trecciona : a giant 3kg serving parties of 20-30 people – £120 (one week advance pre-order required)