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La Famiglia and Parioli:
A rather chic and immensely popular Italian restaurant in Chelsea, La Famiglia has been around for as long as I can remember. And, I’ve been there before too. I remember vividly a New York lawyer friend taking me there on the recommendation of his Hotel concierge. My memory is of a charming, warm, friendly local Italian. And, nothing much has changed.
Now, this particular invitation maybe wasn’t the best way to review the restaurant food, because we were there to learn a bit more about Parioli, a ‘Venture Brand’ of Tesco. And, so the food we were served was at least in part a demonstration of how the ingredients could be used in dishes to give an authentic Italian taste. Alvaro, the owner of La Famiglia, is the Brand Ambassador and led us through how to make use of a whole range of ingredients. Manufactered in Italy Parioli is exclusive to Tesco and includes a selection of oils, olives, dried pasta and sauces.
The focus of the lunch was how to use the ingredients together with fresh produce. While all of us would prefer to use fresh ingredients where possible, there are times when canned or bottled ingredients can work better. Tomatoes are one of the most obvious examples as they don’t ship well and those grown in the UK never seem to the depth of flavour of their Mediterranean cousins. And, you know what, Italian cooks use dried, bottled and canned produce. Even Carla our chef tutor in Sicily, where the tomatoes were ripe and plentiful, used ready made passata, shop bought pasta and a whole range of olives, which of course are totally inedible picked straight from the tree.
We started our Paroli/La Famiglia meal with Olives in Salmi – a marinaded olive dish with spring onions. I’ve already published a recipe for marinaded olives on London Unattached and the great thing about marinading olives is that you can prepare them in advance, keep them in the fridge for anything from a few hours to a week or two. The most important thing is to use good olives to start and then to select a marinade that works for you. We had a range of antipasti, including a simple dish of Pomodori Secchi con basilico, which Alvaro told us had been made by just putting a fresh basil leaf with some Paroli sun dried tomatoes. And, my favourite, Mozzarella in Carrossa, melting mozzarella in a crispy deep fried ‘shell’ with a rich tomato sauce on the side. All good examples of how to use the sauces in conjunction with your own cooking to make a great dish.
Our pasta course we sample four different pasta dishes – the three in the photo and then a dish of farfalle con ragu di maiale, a pork meat sauce with fennel seed. The sauces were fabulous and had a real Italian depth of flavour. This was great, simple Italian food, perfectly prepared.
Desserts were from the main La Famaglia trolley and I picked a fabulous Torta della Nonna, a lemony tart that is served in Italian restaurants everywhere, sometimes with rather less success than this version. My dining companions raved about the tiramisu and the pannacotta, but I was too full by this stage to manage anything more than an expresso.
La Famiglia is a charming restaurant with a great atmosphere. The walls are covered with black and white photos of friends and family, mostly taken by Alvaro himself, the blue and white decor is fresh and clean and the staff are friendly and attentive. While we were not eating entirely from their normal menu, what I remember from my last visit is excellent quality traditional Italian food. Comfort food for friends. And I hope it never changes because that’s what I remember from my last visit to Tuscany…and it’s lovely to find a small corner of London that produces the same kind of food!