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30 April 2009
218 Lordship Lane
Having just finished the standard fare for a reporter: a bap-on-the-run, filled with unidentifiable 'chicken mix', and having run (of a fashion) the length of Long Lane, I didn't really feel prepared for a food review, writes Oliver Pugh...
But you can never look an Italian gift horse in the mouth. Good food is something that country really values and enjoys - an Italian would certainly never let you leave his house hungry.
Walking in to the Italian run Fine Foods deli, you get the feeling it has been there for longer than its three years. It is a really comfortable place to be. There are jars, packets and bottles of lovely things stacked from floor to ceiling, an array of interesting meats and cheeses in the fridge, locally baked breads in the window and the smell of freshly ground coffee in the air.
Delis have sprung up all over the country in the past few years and it is difficult to stand out from the rest, but this one gives something different. Maybe it's the Italian accents and warm welcome, but it feels genuine - like you were walking into a little piece of Italy, but in Borough.
So Melo and Steffano's deli represented something of a challenge. How could I overcome my greed to try as much as I could and their willingness to give it to me, without leaving feeling overfull and sick?
I immediately felt better about things when I took a seat and tried some coffee.
I'm no coffee connoisseur, but I really enjoy drinking the good stuff, and this certainly was. The espresso was smooth and rich, not too bitter like some, and it was strong enough to slap me back round from my post-lunch trough.
Like so many of the products in this deli, the coffee is exclusively sold here. Nearly everything sold in the shop is imported by Melo, direct from Italy. Most of the cheese is from a family friends' farm near Lake Como in the North of the country, while all the pasta is from the Abruzo region - famous for its quality.
I decided to order some antipasti, the traditional first course of a meal, so I could try a bit of everything. He brought out a platter on a scale which, I have to say, was initially intimidating. I was reassured that it was normally for two and tucked in.
On the dish was some Val Montana (cheese made from cow's milk), Silvatica (cheese made from ewe's milk), fig chutney for the cheese, fresh buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes, Napoli Salami (spicy), cured ham, smoked ham (speck), pancetta coppata, spicy olives, pieces of artichoke heart cooked in the embers of a fire, roasted peppers, and some bread - in case I was really hungry.
Out of all of it, the mozzarella and the artichokes were the stand out winners - along with the tomatoes they were welcomingly refreshing compared with the heavier cheeses and meat. The Napoli salami, which has a nice kick to it, is also worth keeping an eye-out for.
I was surprised how much I managed to put away considering how full I was. I'm not proud of it, but it didn't seem to matter. Sometimes, when something tastes nice you just need to have more of it. And I did.
Having indulged my greed as much as I could I left feeling full but comfortable - until I ran for the bus…
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