On my first trip to Tuscany to visit a friend on their home turf, I spent what felt like hours squished into the back of an overcrowded Fiat full of his – let’s say passionate – friends. Winding through the hills at a suitably Italian breakneck speed, my tentative suggestions that we might like to stop at panetteria [bakery] after trattoria [casual restaurant] were laughed out of the car. “Ksshhh, no, no, no – we’re taking you for some good, Italian coffee/pizza/ravioli/panzanella. That place is terrible, awful, crap. Like something you get in London.”
That, as we found out at the launch of Italian food brand Vallebona’s new London deli, is an image that can be thoroughly discarded. If you’re willing to venture to their warehouse space in the wilds of a Wimbledon industrial estate (quite a trek for a pair of east Londoners), you’ll find heaps of carefully-sourced produce – from smoky charcuterie and peppery oils to the chewiest nougats and marmalades that taste like an Amalfi lemon grove smells.
We were treated to some of the canapés designed by the brand’s cheffy pals (a smoked tuna and orange zest number went down especially well), as well as piles of produce from across Italy. The highlight was slow roast pork, sourced from Yorkshire and coated in ground fennel flowers before being cooked for 12 hours straight. It was delicately fennel-y and inimitably Tuscan. We had not just seconds, but thirds.
White truffle honey glopped over chunks of bread and runny gorgonzola was another new taste experience that had us moaning strange noises of delight. All this washed down with wines from Liberty, Astrum and Bibendum meant we toddled off into the night very satisfied.
As well as buying the produce at Vallebona, you can book to attend one of their pop up events, or ask the team to cater to a dinner party, event or buffet. They also do regular Saturday morning tasting sessions, which would show any dubious Italian Londoner that you can get plenty of top notch food from their homeland – and just where they’d least expect it to be found.