A taste of La Dolce Vita

cheeses-at-sapori-di-sole-deli-mosely

If Italian cuisine is one of your favourites, then head over to the Birmingham suburbs Moseley and Kings Heath for a taste of la dolce vita. The Southern regions of Gargano and Puglia are being celebrated in a new deli and limited edition dinner pop-up by chefs from those regions.

sapori-di-sole-italian-deli-moseley

In Moseley a new deli Sapori di Sole Italian for ‘flavours of the sun’ brings delicious produce from the Gargano region of Southern Italy, where owner Antonello Turco (of Byzantium restaurant in Kings Heath) is from.

Fill up your larder with artisan cheese, raw honey, extra virgin oils, hams, handmade chocolates, almond biscuits and olives as well as savouring the homemade Italian dishes, including the paposcia to take away.

cooks-in-case-pics

At the end of the month is a three night Puglian feast is taking place at the Kitchen Garden Café in Kings Heath. This pop-up is produced and presented by Cooks in case and promises a sensory experience of traditional Italian home cooking.

There are two menus to tempt the taste buds: Terra featuring vegetarian and meat options (Thursday 30th March and Saturday 1st April) and Terra e Mare featuring seafood, meat and vegetarian options (Friday 31st March).

Dishes include tender slow-cooked octopus served with the queen of Italian cheeses burrata; meatballs in a slow-cooked tomato sauce with rosemary potatoes, as well as homemade desserts such as tiramisù and an orange, almond and walnut cake.

The new venture is a collaboration between Birmingham arts producer Judy Owen and her partners Monica Contini and Valentina Comunale based in Italy. Monica said: “We love to cook for people and we can’t wait to bring our Puglian cuisine to the Kitchen Garden Café in Birmingham, including our famous burrata cheese! It will be very informal and relaxed and will allow people to discover some of the special dishes that have made our region famous for its gastronomy.”

The Italian Job

Last night my partner and I were guests of Alex and Sara Chambers, the Italophile couple in Warwickshire behind Squisito deli. After a cocktail in The Jekyll and Hyde bar we moved upstairs to the Gin Palace, where the Italian Job was silently playing.

The Jekyll and Hyde Gin Parlour

A friendly crowd were looking forward to the Squisito pop-up. 34 people in the room made it sociable but a bit of a squash – especially for my 6ft 4 boyfriend, whose arms and legs looked giant sized in the dinky Victoriana chairs. Our fellow diners included some Jekyll & Hyde regulars, foodies who had enjoyed Alex’s sausages at local farmers markets and one lady who had heard Squisito mentioned on Radio 4’s Food programme!

As we were seated, two long thin wooden boards were placed at the centre of the table and slices of salumi and prosciuttio were placed. On hand were Lucky 13 Bakehouse dinner rolls, with Calabrian olive oil and Puglian green olives. Nobody could name them, but the moreish peppery biscuit-like snacks also rapidly disappeared.

Squisito salumi

Our antipasti selection was a burst of vibrant colour and flavours – courgette carpacccio, rocket and pecorino cheese, tomato and basil on pane carasau (that looked like a poppadom) chicken liver crostini, ricotta drizzled with chestnut honey and Alex’s salsiccia.

Squisito pop-up

Even with a menu, there was still a sense of excitement as to what was coming next and the convivial sharing and passing plates of food around the table made it feel like a family feast, rather than a group of strangers in a restaurant.

Half an hour between the antipasti and the primi courses perturbed some people, but it was worth the wait for the pappardelle pasta with black truffle butter, chives and Grana Padano cheese. As a recent convert to truffle oil, I wasn’t surprised when my boyfriend accepted seconds from Fee’s giant saucepan that was ladled out at the table.

Squisito Fosse Meadow chicken

The basil and lemon salmoriglio gave a playful zing to the chunk of rolled Fosse Meadow chicken. With marrow, chard and rosemary roast potatoes I liked being able to taste all of the summery ingredients without the meat being drowned in sauce.

My favourite course formaggi was coming up and the boards were back out for us to try slivers of gorgonzola, taleggio and Sardinian pecorino with pink peppercorns and Worcestershire honey. One of the cheeses had an almost black rind with a smokey flavour that I forgot to ask what it was called.

Squisito formaggi and dolci

Due to the train timetable we unfortunately missed the Plymouth gin and tonic sorbet, raspberry gin and Autumn bliss, raspberry semifreddo and dark chocolate studded with toasted almonds. I hope that photo gives you an idea of how light and refreshing the closing course was.

During the night Alex served and chatted to guests while Sarah was upstairs in the kitchen, so we didn’t get a chance to see (and thank) her for a lovely meal until the end of the evening.

Alex and Sara Chambers

On the back of Alex’s t-shirt is the phrase ‘Provenance is knowing the person who made your dinner by first name’. By the end of the evening my boyfriend had paraphrased it as ‘Provenance is knowing who made your tummy happy’ ©Ross Martin 2013.

You can catch Squisito at the next Brumyumyum in Kings Heath on Saturday 14 September and details of their supper clubs are on their website.