Whether you are a regular visitor to Italy, or just have a passion for Italian food and cooking, it’s common knowledge what makes the famous cuisine so good is the quality of ingredients. Forget buying pasta from Sainsbury’s, if you can get the real deal why eat anything less superior? Make your food sing like a big-bellied Italian soprano by visiting Valentina Fine Foods, a family run Italian delicatessen and restaurant stocking a large range of pasta, fresh and cured meats, cheese, traditional antipasti, wine, olive oil and many more Italian favourites.
Valentina’s has been around since 1991, founded by the Zoccola and Arcari families who collaborated to bring their well-loved and trusted Italian traditions and ingredients to the UK. But it goes much further than just importing produce, family members return to Italy every year to harvest olives from their family grove, which then becomes Valentina’s own-label olive oil sold in store, sat grandly in a large aluminium barrel ready to be poured into 500ml or 1 litre bottles.
There are currently 4 branches of Valentina’s in London, Notting Hill, Putney, Sheen and Chiswick. One evening rushing home after a long day of work I popped into the Notting Hill branch and bought a lovely bottle of Tuscan red wine, a serving of Sicilian pesto from the deli, and some freshly made wild boar ravioli. It took me 10 minutes to prepare at home and was deliciously rich with flavour. If you’re going to eat fast food, this is the only way to do it.
A more recent visit to the newly opened Chiswick branch I discovered Valentina’s stocked a pasta I have searched for many times in London, but have failed to find easily, straccetti. A little like mini lasagne sheets, its thin sturdy bite makes it a great match for pesto’s, or other rich sauces such as porcini mushrooms and pancetta.
During this visit to the Chiswick branch I stopped long enough to sit down and eat in the restaurant. Set up like a sophisticated dining room with twinkling candles, generously wide tables and comfortable lush leather booths, the warm ambience is made all the more cosy by an open kitchen with visible flames from the pizza oven.
For starters, tender pork belly and beans came as a generous serving for the price. Amazing gooey melting fontina cheese doused in truffle oil with crusty bread was outstanding, and definitely the favourite dish of the evening. My original choice for the main was a delicious looking seafood linguine, however our kind waitress steered me away from this, and onto a rather spectacular dish from the specials board, half lobster in it’s shell accompanied by a clam and mussel linguine. My dining partner chose a flavoursome plate of swordfish with tomato and beans, a lovely simple dish you’re sure to find on an authentic Italian menu.
To finish off the Italian experience desert was torte della nonna (grandma’s cake), enhanced by an aperitif of Italian digestive liquor Fernet Branca. Well fed, we made our way out of the restaurant, but not before taking a 500ml bottle of Valentina’s own olive oil.
If your busy schedule or postcode prevents you from easily visiting a branch, its good to know that Valentina’s has an online shop and delivery service where you can order all the produce in store, as well as select from over 200 varieties of Italian wine. They also cater for business and events. So there it is, your answer to having your own Italian experience right here in London, on a regular basis. Molto buona!
Valentina Fine Foods – For store locations please visit the website:
Written by Justina Terese, Food Writer and Recipe Developer www.foodforaking.com