I read with interest Paulo Tullio’s review of an Italian restaurant in Wexford in Saturday’s Independent, he basically talked about finding authentic Italian restaurants and how difficult it is to eat a meal in Ireland like you would in Italy. I completely agree with him on this point and we actually never eat in Italian restaurants in Ireland, he says that recipes have been bastardised – cream in carbonara, pine-apple on pizza, pesto on caprese etc. Now, in defense of restaurants or take-aways like ourselves, we have to give people what they want. He said that if restaurants offered authentic Italian food that people would eat it as most Irish people who have been to Italy loved the food.
There is some truth to this but the problem is there are only so many people who have been to Italy and who would appreciate “authentic” Italian food. Unfortunately the Irish palate is centred around rich creamy sauces and as many toppings as you can get on a pizza. I’ve mentioned before when we opened La Cucina first we focused on authentic Italian food and if we had kept doing this we would have went out of business. The most important thing in food business today is volume and turnover, the facts are overheads are just so high you have to get as many people through the door as possible, this is especially true for new businesses where rents are high and you don’t own the premises. In our case this meant altering the menu to suit everybody, our customer base is so mixed ranging from students – we’re beside UL and I don’t think they are looking for authentic Italian food, workers from the local Industrial Estate, local residents, passing traffic, old, young – you name it we get it!
We would love nothing more than to go into La Cucina everyday and make food that we eat ourselves at home, this is why we started the blog really because we often feel guilty that La Cucina is not 100% authentic Italian but realistically that is not possible. I was on pasta duty last week because one of the staff was on holidays – apologies to everyone who might have had to wait a little longer than normal, I was a little out of practice and although I’m a good cook I would never make a professional chef. Bruno can cook about 10 pastas at once, I’m lucky to have 3 going at once but it’s worth the wait:). That’s why I’m left on the counter to charm the public!!
Anyway our most popular pasta is “pasta pollo” – fettucine with cream sauce and chicken. Not Italian what so ever, it is still very tasty as we make each one fresh on the pan to order – fresh chicken breast pieces, white wine, cream, parmesan, seasoning and a little besciamella. Pasta Pomodoro (pasta with home-made tomato sauce – Mary T’s favourite) doesn’t even feature, maybe 1 or 2 a night if we are lucky and this would be the preferred pasta of choice by all Italians. Actually a certain memeber of the Munster Team, I’m mentioning no names told me one time when I made his Boscaiola without cream as a healthy option that it tasted like pasta with tomato ketchup!! I know in the Piccola they used to serve their carbonara without cream but customers kept requesting it so they now add a little cream and even then a lot of customers order it with extra cream because it is too dry.
My own father is guilty of this, he eats his carbonara with extra extra cream and prefers his garlic bread as a baguette with garlic butter when we make our own Italian bread and serve it the traditional way of just rubbing some garlic on it with a drizzle of olive oil – I ask you, if I can’t change my own father what hope do I have??? Believe me he is never left to eat in peace because I’m in his ear moaning about proper carbonara, he normally tells me where to go in not so polite terms. The poor man, he has a tough life with me, he says he’s whisking the princess off to the Gaeltacht as soon as she can talk just so she doesn’t turn into a complete Italian, I even have Italian baby cd’s!
I know in the UK they have just set up some organisation, I can’t remember the name in order to protect authentic Italian cooking whereby restaurants adhering to “authenticity” are listed – Giorgio Locatelli’s restaurant is listed of course, he’s a fabulous Italian chef and he’s in the centre of London with a huge population and probably an all Italian staff, I can’t see that happening in Ireland too soon but then it took a long time for Italian food to get where it is in the UK too and they still have a lot of bad Italian franchises and Italian restaurants.
Sometimes it drives Bru mad and I don’t help either, a couple of weeks ago a company I used to work for called in with samples of frozen cakes and I ordered a couple just to try them out. One of these was an Oreo Cookie Cake, as you can imagine it was the most heavy, decadent, calorie laden cake you have ever seen, Bruno was disgusted when he saw it and didn’t want to sell it as it was as far removed from Italian cakes that you can get but we put it out anyway. We put it in the counter at 3pm and by 8pm there was 2 slices left out of 16. We have never sold a cake that fast and customers came back to buy it again so what does one do I ask????
On that note here is an Italian pasta recipe from the Silver Spoon that does use cream but as you can see the sauce should just coat the pasta and not resemble a bowl of creamy soup with a bit of pasta thrown in as a second thought!!
WHAT YOU NEED:
- 50g margarine or unsalted butter
- 100g smoked salmon chopped
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 100ml double cream
- 3 tbsp whiskey
- tagliatelle – we used De Cecco(available in La Cucina)
- salt and pepper
WHAT TO DO:
– bring a pot of water to the boil, add salt and your pasta and cook till al dente.
– melt the butter in a pan, add the salmon, stir and sprinkle with the lemon juice.
– cook for a few minutes, add the cream and the whiskey and season with salt and pepper.
– cook over a low heat for 5 mins, if it dries out or gets too thick just add a little more cream, we did!
– drain your pasta, put back in the pot, add 3/4 of your sauce and toss together.
– serve and spoon the remaining sauce on top. I added the parsley for effect:)
– remember no parmesan with fish pasta!!!!
p.s. my posts are turning into novels these days, you’ll have to start calling me Ms Keyes!!:)