Spear’s investigated some of London’s loveliest Italian delis for the perfect picnic spread
I’m a huge fan of a deli. We even had one where I grew up in the depths of Somerset and moreover they used to have sugar mice hidden among the charcuterie. I liked that a lot. Sugar mice still have their appeal but these days I’m more interested in the salami. So in that spirit I have been investigating some of London’s loveliest Italian delis for this week’s special. I’ve also popped one wine stockist in there because, well, why not and it is Friday.
Gianni at the pasta counter at Lina stores
This deli is a gorgeous, pistachio-striped wonder. Floor to ceiling shelves creaking with store-cupboard classics sit opposite the wonderful fresh counters where you can pick up everything from sausages and cheese to tubs of vivid green pesto and deep red sauces.
However, I will keep coming back here for the fresh pasta. Fresh pasta has been made on site everyday for the past 40 years so you know that your gnocchi, linguine, lasagne or tagliatelle has been made both expertly and on the day you buy it.
I recently took a little semolina dusted box of speck and taleggio ravioli home (they are renowned for their ravioli), it was a new filling only started two days before and it was sublime: generously filled, flavoursome and not in any way watery or limp in the way that shop bought ravioli is. They now cook their pasta on site at lunchtimes too – perfect for summer lunchtimes (if they ever appear).
Brewer Street, Soho
Tuscanic is more a gastronomia than a deli but you can buy brilliant meats, cheeses, sauces and produce shipped in directly from Tuscany here so I feel it worthy of inclusion. Everything here is authentic from the flooring to the tables (built using oak from wine barrels) and that includes the staff too.
Talking to Leonardo, one of the owners and a lawyer by trade, I was fully educated on the ways of the merende (afternoon snack to you and I) and he told me that some of their suppliers are so small they don’t sell their produce outside of their own villages, with the exception of Tuscanic. This is a very friendly little place that champions small, artisanal, Tuscan suppliers.
The tomato and bread soup is also delicious with the deep flavour of good olive oil as the base of every mouthful. A good little bolt hole for a glass of wine and a nibble after work before heading home with a bag full of authentic goodies.
Old Compton Street, Soho
According to their website, Terroni is London’s oldest Italian deli. Set up in 1878, it sits on the Clerkenwell Road looking down over Hatton Garden. I’ve had many a lunch here: you can make up your own sandwich from the fresh deli counter while spying on the passers by outside and in the summer you can sit outside on the street to enjoy your espresso. They stock premium Italian brands and claim to have a selection of some of Italy’s rarest wines.
I Camisa & Sons
Winner of London’s Best Little Shop Award a few years back, this is a little treasure trove of a place. In the heart of Soho on Old Compton Street you can find all of ingredients you could hope for. It is exactly as you remember the little shops in Italy, small and full to bursting with biscuits, cakes, bread and essentially everything you would need for the most fantastic spread at lunch. Along with Lina Stores, it is one of the Italian suppliers recommended by Polpo’s Russell Norman.
Old Compton Street, Soho
Finally, a little note on wine. Opened up by a group of friends (Italian entrepreneurs and professionals, or so I’m told), they stock over 500 wines, around 200 of which are directly imported. The idea is that you will be able to find something regardless of your budget and moreover you can go to the store to learn more about the wines they stock.
They host regular tasting events to help you understand what it is you are buying and therefore hopefully make you buy better wine. If you can’t get to one of the evenings you don’t have to panic as the store is staffed by experience sommeliers. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Old Brompton Road, South Kensington