From Partnership Magazine – Spring issue 2016 – Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the UK
By Amy Lee
The restaurant featuring in this edition takes us on a journey of discovery, from Covent Garden to Italy’s little-known region of Le Marche, located on the eastern side of central Italy stretching between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. Rossodisera is tucked away in a cosy corner of London’s theatrical quarter, perfectly situated for a pre-show meal. Opened in 2007 with the intention to promote the land and products of Le Marche, Rossodisera is able to boast the title of the only fully Marche restaurant in all of the UK. The premises are small and intimate, and the rustic, warm terracotta colours of the interior are irresistible on a chilly January evening. The ground floor serves as a delicatessen and cafe in the daytime, with a small bar and preparation area for pastries. Upon arrival we are led downstairs to the main dining room, complete with its very own wine cellar through a stone archway at the back. Under the ground, surrounded by the bare brickwork and modest decoration, the hustle and bustle of London is left behind for a rural, provincial setting. Owner Igor Iacopini joins us at the table, and tells us the restaurant is decorated using the actual stone, beams and wooden benches from his father’s country house. The room is made even more distinctive and personal by the artwork for sale displayed on the walls, painted by Igor’s best friend from home. The immediate feeling is of authenticity and comfort, the natural family atmosphere reflected in the way the staff interact with one another and the customers. It’s clear that tonight is all about Le Marche, a region that is not often spoken about or considered a part of Italy’s cultural arsenal. Everything included on Rossodisera’s menu is exclusively ‘marchigiano’, made with ingredients sourced from small companies based within the region itself and according to original Marche recipes. Every member of staff at Rossodisera is from Le Marche; they are fiercely proud to be local and strive to keep this exclusivity. Head chef since 2014, Leonardo Gualtieri, naturally a ‘marchigiano’ himself, learnt the basics from his grandmother before spending many years refining his technique working in various professional environments. This dedication to the land and regional history gives Rossodisera a truly individual character.
The meal begins with a classic antipasto platter with a selection of no less than 3 cheeses and 6 cured meats. These are served with homemade focaccia, along with honey and jam – just enough to balance the flavour of the cheese but not overwhelm it. My favourite ‘salumi’ are one made with liver and the ‘lonzino’ in the Marche dialect, more often known as ‘capocollo’. We then sample the ‘galantina di pollo’, a sliced cold cut of chicken, turkey, vegetables, olives and herbs and the ‘olive all’ascolana e cremini fritti’ (fried stuffed olives and custard cubes), handmade by the staff and served with vegetables in vinegar. The cremini were Igor’s favourite when he was young, and come pretty high up on my list, too; it seems almost criminal to begin a meal with something so sweet and delicious! The antipasto is accompanied by a craft beer ‘Birra Cereale’, brewed by Igor’s cousin’s own microbrewery ‘Laboratorio della Birra’. Igor tells us that Italians approach a meal with an ‘eating plan’, from the salty antipasto the primo follows naturally. Not wanting to upset the natural flow of things, we select a classic pasta dish, ‘fettuccine con ragù di coniglio’ (fettuccine with rabbit ragù). My dining partner’s reaction to this dish tells it all; he doesn’t come up for air until the plate is clean. The rabbit is so tender and delicate, no hint of toughness that is often associated with game. The faultless execution of this simple combination proves that there is no need to overcomplicate food when products are of such high quality. For this course we move from beer on to wine; Igor advises a wonderfully balanced Rosso Conero ‘Dorico’ from Cantina Moroder. Customers will be impressed by Rossodisera’s extensive wine list, perhaps even surprised by the countless offerings of this small territory. Igor and his staff have an exceptional passion for their region, and it is their sincere aim to make Le Marche known in the best way possible. In order to taste the best of Marche cuisine, sharing two secondi seems inevitable…
The first, ‘agnello al forno con carciofi’ (roast lamb with artichokes) is cooked to perfection; the meat falls off the bone and is naturally so full of flavour that it needs no sauce or relish. Next up is ‘coscia d’oca con schiacciata di patate e senape’ (goose thigh with mashed potatoes and mustard). The earthy, natural flavours of the artichokes and potatoes combine perfectly with the tender meat in these typical dishes. It seems impossible that the culinary traditions of this region are almost completely over-looked by many who claim to know Italian cuisine. A testimony to the quality of the food at Rossodisera is the Marchio Ospitalita’ Italiana award – a demonstration for British customers of the restaurant’s top-quality status and a proof of genuineness. On top of this, Rossodisera has also been awarded the Slow Food award from Britain and the Le Marche local authorities. As the meal draws to a close, there is really no need for a dessert; swapping stories over a coffee would be enough to finish off an evening of exquisite food and great company. Despite being sufficiently full from the previous courses and wine, we give in and try a selection of pastries: ‘biscotti secchi al sale’ (crunchy biscuits with salt), ‘crostata con pere e noci’ (pear and hazelnut tart) and ‘ciambellone’, a marbled sponge ring, all handmade ‘in casa’. These small samples alone are enough to solidify my resolve to return at a later date, and after knocking back an Amaro Sibilla we bid the wonderful staff ‘buonanotte’.
The flawless service and warm, inviting air of Rossodisera make it clear to see why regular customers are happy to keep coming back, and the reasons for the positive feedback from international clients, not just British and Italian. Restaurant director Igor generously gives up his evening to accommodate us, taking part in the meal, talking us through each dish. With plans to open a second restaurant in London, Igor intends to develop the distribution of Marche products, an activity which he began 3 years ago. It is important that people know Italy is much more than pizza, pasta and the common tourist destinations. At the moment Le Marche is a region basically untouched by tourism, but hopefully, with the work of people like Igor, it will become more widely known for its wealth of outstanding offerings. The staff at Rossodisera are the most dedicated of ambassadors for their region, who do everything they can to make the experience genuine. Here there is a real sense of home, and pride for one’s native land and origins, communicated through the excellence of the food and the snug, satisfying atmosphere.