***this restaurant has since closed down***
A few months ago I stumbled upon a curiously named Instagram account; it sounded ‘milanese’ to me, and they had some photos of food, of course, and an empty railway arch. I started following them and became quite interested in their progress into a fully-fledged Italian deli in East London. Being a little out of the way for us, southerners, I had not managed to visit yet since their opening in September. So when I was approached with an invitation to try Il Cudega, I immediately recognised the name and accepted with no hesitation.
We decided to visit on a Sunday to allow more time than a mid week lunch break and we drove in our mini towards Broadway Market on a very cold and frankly depressing December Sunday. When we arrived the venue was still fairly empty which gave us the opportunity to really meet the guys behind Il Cudega: Luca, one of the partners who comes from Italy often; Giovanni, the East Londoner (he’s been in this area of town for 20 years); Marco, formerly of Zucca, the restaurant manager and Paolo, their enthusiastic chef.
The venue has a welcoming outdoor area and inside, has been laid out modernly with white and grey covering the arches, a wide kitchen area at the back fronted by display (with plenty of cheeses and meats), a wine cellar and a number of tables.
Il Cudega is an ‘Enogastronomia con piccola cucina Lombarda’ that is to say a deli, wine bar and restaurant where you can taste the best and most unknown wines and food (prosciutti, formaggi, salami e focaccie) from small ‘slow food’ producers of the Italian region of Lombardy.
We started our lunch with a festive and very elegant Italian bubbly, a Franciacorta Cuvee Royale Marchese Antinori, which set the right mood. We opted for a selection of their cheeses and cold cuts: soft, creamy robiola del Lodigiano, an aged white cheese from the same area and a shaved, delicious grana like Lodi cheese called Raspadura. Accompanied by artisan bresaola, guanciale and salame, all of course from the same region and carefully selected among Presidio Slow Food products.
To follow, we shared a delicate vitello tonnato, the tuna sauce very light and the meat beautifully cooked. We opted to share a pasta dish as well; as tempted as I was to try a risotto (as I was eyeing the people eating it next to us), @bmcboy does not like Italian rice, so we chose a hand made pizzoccheri della Valtellina. This is a mountain dish, which my mum used to make when I was a kid and my dad returned from a business trip ‘up north’ bringing a box of pasta down. Il Cudega’s version is indulgent, with the buckweath pasta well made with fresh spinach, potatoes and rich, creamy cheese.
To finish off, we had to try some panettone (Martesana): slices of soft, fresh fruity sponge served with a delicious crema and the most intense slivers of candied bergamot ever. And I don’t even like panettone!
Finally, I could not leave without one of Giovanni’s ‘Espresso del ciclista’, a tiny shot of espresso topped with a zabaione, fantastic even after such a filling lunch!
We really liked Il Cudega and their passion for the produce they show case is evident; they are dog friendly and it was a pleasure to be able to bring our well behaved Amber with us. We will definitely be back to try more!