Life has been very busy lately here at Mondomulia, what with attending foodie events, visiting food markets, trying out London restaurants and cafés and testing out new recipes at home! Not to mention, organising two weddings, looking for a new home, participating in running races and, of course, having a full-time job as advertising account manager!
Oh well, I cannot complain, as this is a very exciting time of my life and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for me! Photographing and blogging are stimulating my creativity so much, as well as giving me the opportunity to meet many talented people!
One thing I discovered thanks to my blog, is the “underground world” of supper clubs! I wasn’t convinced at first, but I kept reading positive reviews and curiosity won me over. As you know, I attended Taste Mauritius Supper Club last month, which didn’t disappoint, and convinced me to attend other clubs!
On Twitter I came to know about the Back Door Kitchen, an Italian duo formed by Roberto (the chef) and Fabio (the photographer) organizing themed supper clubs every month. Among their past events there have been Spanish Tapas dinners and Italian food and wine tastings.
Their next event was a Roman Supper Club; one quick look at the menu and I decided to book the ticket! I was born in the “eternal city” and lived there for 25 years, yet I am not an expert of Roman cuisine. My mum is not originally from Rome and I grew up eating dishes from her hometown Trieste, so I was very curious to taste a Roman menu. Besides, at £25 for a starter, two first courses, three second courses and one dessert, this supper club was a great deal that I simply couldn’t miss!
My fiancé decided not to come, because most of the menu included meat or fish, but actually there was a vegetarian at the dinner, who had a special menu prepared for her – so if you are vegetarian or vegan and feel that this is precluding you from attending a supper club, it’s worth asking the chef first if they can adjust the menu for you! :)
Three of my Italian friends decided to join so it became even more of an Italian night! Fabio, Roberto and Assunta (who has been helping out the Back Door Kitchen team for a few months) greeted us at the door with a complimentary glass of Prosecco. All the other guests had already arrived, in true Italian style we were the last ones to arrive (and also bit late, ooops)!
We started with Carciofi alla Giudìa con crema Cacio e Pepe (deep-fried artichokes with a cream made from traditional Roman cheeses). The fried artichoke is one of the most famous dishes of the Roman Jewish cuisine, while “cacio e pepe” is traditionally a condiment for pasta made of Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. Roberto merged together the two recipes and added a “cacio e pepe” sauce to the artichokes, which worked out wonderfully.
We then tasted the 1st of the main courses – my favourite dish of the night – Gricia con cipolle caramellate. Roberto made the fettuccine and served them with “guanciale” (Roman pancetta), caramelised red onions and Pecorino Romano cheese. The pasta was cooked “al dente”, which is how the Romans like it! A simple dish without overpowering flavours: just a few good ingredients that work perfectly together.
The 2nd pasta was Gnocchi alla Carbonara di Zucchine (homemade potato and flour gnocchi with a courgette carbonara sauce and saffron). Again, carbonara is a typical dish of the Roman cuisine, which Roberto has re-invented with courgettes (replacing pancetta) and a hint of saffron. I was very impressed that he made the gnocchi, something I’ve only ever seen my grandma doing! Roberto’s gnocchi were big and he makes them this way to hold the cooking better and remain thick (and they don’t crumble in the boiling water).
Italian lunches have several courses and can go on for 4-5 hours, something that fills my Indian fiancé with dread every time! The Back Door Kitchen supper club was true to traditions and lasted more than 4 hours! This is because Roberto cooked everything on the night, to ensure the food was well cooked and hot. As the supper club started at 20:30, we only finished eating after midnight, with some of the guests having to leave for fear of missing the last train home.
As a second course, we had three tastings: Saltimbocca alla Romana; Seppioline ripiene di broccoli ripassati e crema al nero di seppia; Baccalà con crema di ceci, rosmarino e pancetta.
The “saltimbocca alla Romana” are chicken breasts cooked in a white wine sauce with Italian cured ham, mature cheddar and sage. They were my second favourite of the night: the ham wrapped around the chicken makes it very tasty, while the white wine, cheese and sage add extra flavours.
The second tasting was char-grilled squid stuffed with broccoli sautéed with garlic and chilli and a sprinkle of homemade squid ink sauce on top. I don’t like squid very much, but this combination which broccoli cooked with garlic and chilli, which I love, worked well. Another original and successful pairing was the salted cod with chickpea cream, rosemary emulsion, crispy pancetta and toasted bread. it made you want to dip the bread into the cream (aka. fare la scarpetta)!
As usual, I am not satisfied until I eat the dessert, so I was very happy when finally the time came to taste the Crostata con marmellata di arance e limoni, a tart of homemade orange and lemon marmalade. Sweet and sour flavours combined with a buttery and crunchy base, it was so good I helped myself to a second slice!
Such a long and filling meal called for espresso, never mind that it was almost 1am! A good caffè (and ammazzacaffè) is required at the end of a good dinner. And anyway, I needed it to stay awake during the long journey home on London’s night buses! It was a late night, but it was so worth it! I had amazing food, made new friends and, for one night, lived a true Roman experience!