Si e’ sempre meridionali di qualcuno…
This phrase (‘you are always southerner to someone else’) was made famous by a Neapolitan movie in the 80s (Cosi’ Parlo’ Bellavista), a funny, heartwarming satire about stereotypes between North and South in Italy. I am meridionale, from the south and a lot of the food and places I cover in this blog belong to my meridionale heritage indeed. So when I was asked to try an Italian restaurant called Meridionale, which proposes classic dishes from the Italian southern regions (and Sardinia, which technically speaking is one of the islands and in the centre), I was of course very keen. I am always searching for authentic places in London where to try food I am familiar with and often long for.
Given the changes in our schedule, we opted for an early Sunday lunch. I thought the place would be quite empty at midday but actually it was pretty full of families with young children and babies, like us. This immediately made us feel welcome and comfortable… a baby in a high chair is a liability! The staff were very attentive and gave us a great table by the window (the restaurant has a small terrace at the back, perfect for al fresco dining too).
Enzo the owner introduced himself and introduced the menu, although for me it needed no introduction, I could just straight away see loads of options that I wanted to try. A basket with fresh pizza bread and pane carasau (Sardinia crispy flat bread) and olives and olive oil dip arrived and we made our choices.
@bmcboy picked a focaccia bread filled with mozzarella and topped with parma ham and fresh tomatoes. They have a wood fire oven and the pizza bread was pretty good, the dough well risen and cooked. I had initially ordered a panzarotto (Pulian specialty) but then saw a Frittura di paranza passing by to another table (mixed fried fish) and decided to swap and I am glad I did. The portion is a good size (not the huge ones they bring in Italy) and very well fried, lightly so: the squid rings were fresh and crunchy on the outside, the anchovies the right size (not too small, not too big) and also well fried, the single prawn very good too and well cooked, and the string of zucchini a nice addition.
We both opted for a pasta dish as main: Meridionale offers a wide variety of pasta, hailing from Campania, Sardinia, Puglia. @bmcboy went for Orecchiette salsiccia and friarielli. I tried them and they were great, with a lot of friarielli which he complained about but then again, not a problem for me (he’d have liked more sausage of course). I treated myself to Scialatielli a`Puveriell which means the poor person’s pasta. I wasn’t familiar with this simple dish from Napoli, a local version of Carbonara, home made fresh pasta with eggs, garlic, chili, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, parsley and parmesan.
I thoroughly enjoyed this carb load, the portion is massive in fact, and the pasta had a great bite to it, while the egg and cheese and pepper were really well mixed, a very satisfying dish overall. My only complain is that the garlic isn’t used as usually done in Italian cuisine (the whole clove so can be removed or left uneaten) but rather, my guess, the ‘foreign way’, thinly chopped and blended, which meant it was overpowering in the end (with all due consequences of course).
We were too full to try dessert, and finished with an espresso. By the time we left the restaurant was packed, a lot of Italians too (always a good sign in my view, of course) and a lot of regulars. We had a very good meal with some authentic, well prepared food with some concession to the ‘local market’ shall we say (the garlic already mentioned, the olive oil and balsamic dip, the mayo with the frittura instead of a lemon slice). I would definitely got back often if it was my local, and would definitely recommend for a solid, meridionale meal.
Pastabites dined as guest of Meridionale; opinions are my own.