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Visiting Emilia Romagna without leaving London – Via Emilia:
It is some time since I visited ‘In Parma‘ – a small Italian restaurant in Fitzrovia where you can enjoy a simple menu of pasta, meats and cheeses from Parma in Italy – while drinking fizzy red lambrusco from bowls as it would be served in Italy. The experience was memorable. An invitation to visit the newly opened Via Emilia sounded intriguing, but it wasn’t until I was sitting in the restaurant that I realised it was another offering from ‘Food Roots’ the passionate Italians behind ‘In Parma’.
Now, while I’ve visited some parts of Italy, I know very little about the food of Emilia Romagna other than what I have learnt about Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma, three DOP products that are rightly popular in the UK. So I was fascinated to learn what a wealth of different products and dishes come from the region. Emilia Romagna is considered the Food Valley of Italy, with famous pasta including tortellini, lasagne and bolognese as well as Parma Ham and Parmesan. The menu at Via Emilia is a lesson in local cuisine though.
The speciality at Via Emilia is Gnocco Fritto – a special soft bread which is gently fried and served with a fresh cheese called squacquerone from Romagna and charcuterie. It’s a delicious and moreish mixture – the soft pillows of bread with a slight note of lard contrast with the delicate crudo meats – Prosciutto Crudo (Parma) di Parma, Coppa (Piacenza) and Salame Felino (Parma) and with the light creamy cheese. You eat with your hands, grabbing a morsel of bread and dipping it in the cheese or tearing off mouthfuls of the sweet cured meats.
Next, there is a range of handmade pasta dishes. A lesson in regional Italian cooking, each dish on the menu is given its regional name and the city of origin in addition to a description.
Thus, we chose Turte vèird – a squared ravioli filled with spinach, ricotta and Parmesan cheese and served with a butter and sage dressing from Reggio Emilia. Beautifully presented, the pasta had that lovely al dente texture that a good Italian somehow produces as if by second nature.
Then, Reginètti aj fónz from Parma – a Tagliatelle with a sauce made from Porcini mushrooms from Borgotaro in the mountains in Parma which was full of rich umani flavours contrasted with the salty piquant cheese and al dente pasta.
And finally turtlèin in brôd, a dish from Modena which comprises ‘small navel-shaped Ravioli filled with pork loin, mortadella, Parma ham and parmesan cheese.’ served in a chicken broth. Perfect winter food – Italian penicillin! The pasta dishes (there are eight options) are all priced between £5.50 and £11 and would be perfect for a light lunch.
We probably didn’t need to try the only dessert on the menu – a ‘light Tiramisu’ priced at £4. But in the interest of research, we did – and it was deliciously light yet full of flavour.
At this point I really wish I worked in Hoxton. Via Emilia would make the perfect place for a relaxed lunch or evening meal – and the pricing makes it possible to indulge as often as you might like.
For me, if I was a little closer, that would be really very regularly. As it is, I need to add it to my mental ‘where to eat in Hoxton’ file. And find a way to be back there soon.
37a Hoxton Square
London N1 6NN