The funny thing about Italian food is that it doesn’t really exist. It’s the reason why I love Italian cooking as much as I do. Its culinary reputation built on an abundance of recipes from Italy’s 20 unique regions. Each prides themselves on being the best when it comes to home cooking. Risotto, meat and dairy commonly used in the north, while the south cooks abundantly with pasta, seafood and vegetables.
Secondly, I just adore how Italian food lends itself to be at the centre of many social gatherings. I have so many wonderful memories of being at my happiest when I am surrounded with some of my favourite people, enjoying each others company, while devouring some of the most gorgeous food. Sharing food with others somehow makes it taste so much better.
So when I got invited by Filippo Berio to spend an evening cooking classical Roman dishes and to dine with other like-minded souls, I jumped at the chance.
Based at the central London cooking school, La Cucina Caldesi, the evenings menus theme was inspired by the Italian classical 1960’s movie ‘Dolce Vita’ by Federico Fellini, which was famously set in the Italian capital city.
The Filippo Berio team were there to greet us on arrival. They directed me to where I could find an apron and more importantly, where I could grab a cocktail, which I enjoyed with a slice of freshly baked focaccia while I settled into the evenings’ events.
Before cooking began and anyone had a chance to get their hands and aprons dirty, the evening started with a fun cocktail masterclass. Lead by Matteo, who runs the cookery school, we learnt all the top tips on how to make Italy’s most recognisable pair of cocktails: the spritz and the negroni.
After a glass or two we were all hyped to get cooking. Stefano, the chef at Cucina Caldesi, took us through the menu and the prep we would be doing for each course. My mouth was watering at the mention of every dish. I couldn’t wait to get started.
The menu included delicious Roman classics:
Lagana served with Salsa Di Pesce Piccante – A thin crispy Roman unleavened flatbread served with a moreish warm fish pickle.
Gnoochi Alla Romana – Baked Roman gnocchi which are made with semolina flour, parmesan cheese, milk, and butter. Very different to the potato gnocchi we see often here in the UK.
Saltimbocca di Spigola – Pan-fried Sea bass with parma ham and sage. Usually traditionally cooked with veal. However, this healthier fish version was excellent, wonderfully complimenting the parma ham and sage.
Patate Arrostite Della Nonna – Roasted potatoes with herbs and onion. I could have kept on eating these for days.
Insalata di Farro – Warm Spelt Salad with pancetta, leeks and spinach.
Chocolate Orange Tiramisu – a gorgeous indulgent alternative to the traditional recipe.
Next, divided into small groups, we each took on the responsibility for a different course. It was my favourite part of the evening, where we got the chance to mingle and get to know each other properly. Everyone took on different roles, worked as a team and produced some absolutely delicious food. Stefano and his team were on hand at all times to make sure that we were on track, and we weren’t getting too distracted. The atmosphere was electric with everyone getting involved, having the best time. You could see that people were thoroughly enjoying themselves, embracing the cooking and the time spent together.
As the cooking was coming to an end, the kitchen was swiftly converted into a large dining room.
We were all sat together, fork and knife ready in each hand to enjoy the fruits of our labour. Each course was brought out one at a time, so we could take our time to enjoy each dish. This is such a reflection of how Italians like to enjoy their meals and I loved every moment of it.
While we enjoyed the meal, we were in for another treat. Luisa, from Zonin wines, paired each dish with a beautiful wine. She then went on to share the origins and characteristics of each glass.
We started with a glass of prosecco aperitif, followed by a white Sicilian Grillo which we enjoyed with our Lagana and fish pickle. Next, we were presented with a white Tuscan Astraio Viognier to drink alongside our Gnocchi and Saltimboca courses. The meal ended with the very indulgent chocolate orange tiramisu where we drank a beautiful glass of Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont.
By the end of the meal, I was bursting with a full belly and a happy soul. What a fantastic experience and I wanted to do it all over again literally. The guys at Filippo Berio did an amazing job in taking an interest and making everyone feel welcome. I also would like to add that Stefano and his team were extremely helpful throughout the whole evening, ensuring that all cooking and service was seamless.
I couldn’t recommend these cooking evenings enough and look forward to attending future events in the months to come. It’s a fabulous way to meet like-minded people and enjoy an evening of old school Italian cooking. The moment you step into the kitchen, you get to switch off from what’s happening in the outside world and get busy cooking and socialising with a fabulous group of people.
Tickets are £75 and by the end of the night, you walk away with new culinary knowledge given by a well-respected chef, you’re confident in recreating a selection of authentic Italian dishes, you get to enjoy all the wonderful food that everyone cooked together, over a relaxing, leisurely dinner. How perfect does that sound?
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