In a recent article, jazz and blues-lover Gareth Jones was afflicted by another kind of blues as he realised that “Soho’s food heritage has not only gone, but even worse, it has been air brushed out of the capital’s history”. http://www.garethjonesfood.com/9315/our-soho-food-culture-air-brushed-for-ever/. When we met for the first time, at Bar Italia on Frith Street, he regaled me with many a story of the thriving food business and stores that were the mainstay of Soho way back when — and since I know I am not the only who who loves a good story, I told him he really ought to write a book, even a short one, about his own and very direct and intimate experience.
I have never lived in London as such but started visiting on a fairly regular basis ever since favourite daughter went to university there in 2007, followed by favourite son in 2010 … and have had occasion to cook in rented accommodation whose kitchens were hardly the stuff of masterchef. I really do hate electric stoves for starters. When it came to sourcing food, I didn’t expect there to be an abundance of small, family run food shops (greegrocers, rotisserie, butchers, etc) the way we do in and around Rome (though even here they are dwindling as those ghastly supermarkets continue to open up everywhere). I do hope that no immigration officer gets to read this post, but I have been known for ferrying a lot of food to the UK on every trip, all of it for personal use however — so no smuggling or anything like that. Just prosciutto, parmesan, pecorino, pancetta, guanciale, chilli, garlic (yes, garlic too: the garlic I found in London is tasteless and smells of must), olive oil, plus mozzarella and on occasion parsely too. Any vegetable vendor will give you a bunch of parsely around here, whereas you have to pay through the nose in any Sainsbury’s or Waitrose.
And with every visit, I went for very long walks along Farringdon and Clerkenwell, and I also went to Borough Market, China Town, Fitzrovia, Notting Hill, Planet Organic, the amazing cheese shop that is Paxton and Whitfield in Jermyn Street, as well as — noblesse oblige –Harrods Food Halls, naturally, and Fortnum and Mason’s and Selfridge’s Food Hall. And what a feast for the eyes, what an endless range of foods from all over the world, what a pleasure to wander through and gaze and appreciate.
Buying, however, was a different matter because the prices are for big and very deep pockets. Number one. Number two: even the best shops, and I mean the best, sold vegetables that were very sad-looking to my eyes. Very expensive and, except for mushrooms, and cabbage and potatoes and veggies that grow underground that can last for days and days, rather sad-looking greens. I make a point of avoiding supermarkets in Italy but of course when I was visiting London, I really didn’t have too much of a choice. And Waitrose is where I went to most often. I thought fresh fish was very expensive in Italy compared with that sold at Waitrose … until I discovered that actually it wasn’t fresh as such, it had been left to ‘defrost’. So, it turns out that fresh fish is very expensive in England too. Meat is also incredibly more expensive in the UK compared with Italy. For the rest, however, as supermarkets go … I would say that Waitrose ticks a very long list of boxes. Sainsbury too, and is cheaper. ASDA I refuse, because it’s owned by Walmart. All this to say that, except for certain kinds of vegetables, one can eat really well in London and that it’s all there to be had at the swipe of a credit card.
Anyway … back to the theme of small, family run shops that are lamentably getting scarcer and scarcer, I was very surprised to chance upon an Italian Deli in York Way, when I was over in London earlier this Spring. My son was sharing accommodation with a few other students close by and as I was doing the Italian Mamma thing and making sure he was well fed under the duresse of cramming for finals and finishing his disseration paper. So, one day, I wandered off lonely as a cloud along York Way, that eventually turns into Brecknock Road, and came upon quite a few small shops!
Come with me, you’ll be surprised.
Okay, so this is not a food shop. So what, it’s still small. And ever so intriguing too. Paul has quite the range in antique-y and ‘old’ as opposed to antique wares and definitely warrants a brief encounter.
I can resist everything but temptation and so I made off with this set of silver (plus another 6 spoons that are not in the photo) for less than 30 pounds. Have you tried buying cutlery at IKEA recently? This is so much cheaper … and silver too. So, quite the bargain, huh? Thank you Paul!
I don’t know how they manage to pack the shop with so much stuff … but I was glad they did! A little further down and on the opposite side of the road … wines and drinks. I loved the vibrance of this door’s colour … The greengrocer … sold flowers too. There was a butcher’s after him, and please don’t ask me why I don’t have a photo of that shop. Probably because he was shut. He kept rather strange working hours. Whimsical even. And much further down the road … the shop we all need to dive into at some time as its title so eloquently attests. What? here? Organic food store(s) ? Yes, actually. Just so you realise, this is no longer York Way but Brecknock Road now. (http://www.bumblebeenaturalfoods.co.uk/ This is a shop that sells ethically sourced materials for its clothes. I like the name of this road. And here is Salvino’s. I window-shopped for two minutes and then went in. Can you believe this? The Martelli pasta brand — considered one of the very best in Italy! Even in Rome, you’d have a hard time finding it! (Read what Gustiamo’s Beatrice Ughi has to say: https://www.gustiamo.com/martelli-pasta-gustiamo/)
Garofalo! Not toooooo shabby, eh! This is the famous egg-pasta from the Marche … from Campofilone, which is about half an hour’s drive away from where my parents-in-law have a holiday home, where my children spent every summer growing up! Do try it if you can, it is just gorgeous and cooks in no time. Franchi seeds! The only other place I had spotted them was at Harvey Nichols a few years ago …. And how is that for a ‘bancone’ (ban-coe-nay) to house cured meats and other goodies and delicatessen? They had mozzarella and it turns out that they also have burrata some days of the week. Their selection of Italian wines at an affordable price is very good too. Look! They even stock the Sardinian “pane carassau” ! As well as Illy Caffé (see left). The proprietors were kind enough to offer me a freshly made cup of coffee (espresso). I explained to them what I was doing, speaking in Italian, naturally. And they were solicitous and charming and hard-working. And I just wish them all the best — they run a great store which more people should know about, and their prices are not at all outrageous. Here they all are, running the family business and smiling as they pose for me!A great find, indeed. I was very very happy … and so was my son naturally!
The Salvino brothers have run the deli for 32 years.
Their background is Sicilian, a town called Agrigento famous for the Temples.
Antonio, born in Sicily took the business over from his uncle Salvo, whilst he was still a teenager. His brother Stefano joined him a few years later.
Food is a passion shared by the whole family along with the high quality products they sell.
The deli was originally a cash and carry, supplying many restaurants and cafes.
But Antonio and Stefano had the vision to transform it into a specialised friendly, welcoming deli, Providing some Italian culture to Camden, attracting a different clientele, interested in exciting traditional family recipes, who would appreciate the hand picked italian produce.
Along with the excellent food their other speciality is Italian wine with over 50 varieties on offer from all the regions of Italy.
Saturday is a busy day for them, there is a family atmosphere in the shop, when traditional home cooked food is available, such as hand made ravioli and pasta, prepared on the premises every weekend along with home made sausages: garlic, wild boar and mild chilli varieties.Fresh pizzas, sweet and savoury pastries, italian canola, arancini and spinach mozzarella parcels.
You can check out some of the excellent reviews on Yelp
Telephone : 0207 267 5305
– See more at: http://www.salvino.co.uk/about/#sthash.IgxrBqYA.dpuf