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Food speed dating: Italian dinner with Pastificio dei Campi (part 2)

Missed Part 1? Wondering what this whole “speed dating food” thing is? Read it here.

da massimo restaurant london

#1: Orecchiette with Poesto, Green Beans and Caramelized Potatoes

The first encounter was also, for me, the best one.  Orecchiette were sublime. Tasty and subtle at the same time, with a wonderful bite and pleasant taste of wheat (good pasta has great taste on its own right- if yours doesn’t, you’re missing out big time). The sauce was miles away from the garlicky, oily and flavourless “so- called-pesto” you find slathered in obscene amounts on anything from chicken to pizza here in the UK. The chef explained that the secret is stirring some starchy water (from the boiling pasta pot) into the sauce/pasta mix when you’re sautéing at the end. Not so much of a secret to be honest- more like a basic trick to any decent cook-  but it sounded like the Graal to some dazzled observers and then hey, a bit of bluffing is an essential part of every first date. You’re there to impress.

I want the number of Mr. Orecchiette, I definitely want it.

#2: Maltagliati with Gurnard and Cherry Tomatoes

After such a sparkling start, the other two dates (you cannot call them courses if you’re only having pasta, right?) had to work very hard to please me.  The Maltagliati did manage to make me feel much closer to the sea than to the Thames, with their Mediterranean, summery touch. The chef revealed, and THIS was a real surprise to me, that he had added some grated orange zest in the sauce. The creaminess of the sauce, given by the starchy water, was a bit too much for me here as it risked overpowering the delicate texture of the fish.

#3: Vermicelli with lamb ragout

The last contender was a dish of Vermicelli with lamb ragu’ – promising to be articulate and rich (both rare and desirable qualities in a date, I’d say). Expectations were high, as making ragu’ “in bianco”, without tomatoes, is pretty hard and it takes hours of slow cooking to melt the lamb meat into this deliciously intense yet subtle concoction. However, at that point of the evening I was utterly fatigued- my senses were overpowered by too much tastes, colour, wine and heat and this fine gentleman of a dish probably did not get the attention it deserved. In fact, it was the only dish I didn’t have second helpings of.

My little speed dating carnet at the end of the evening had the following verdict: call back Mr. Orecchiette (hot! Hot! HOT!), a “funny and cute” for the Maltagliati, and a “maybe once” for Vermicelli.

In short, 3/3 offered a very pleasant experience, with potential for further interaction. Frankly, much better than any speed dating I have ever been in – with humans, I mean.

Thanks to the speed dating pasta tasting host Ristorante Massimo and to Pastificio dei Campi which sponsored the evening. On their blog you find info on how to join these dinners and other special events, as well as buying some seriously amazing pasta (you’ll never touch another pack of nondescript supermarket pasta again). 

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One Comment

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