Aperitivo con Stuzzichini Night at Veneticus, Clerkenwell
I was out with the London Italian Language Meetup Group last night and you may be gathering by now that my attendance at the outings organised by this great group of Italian speakers … or those of us trying to speak Italian! … and including many Italians living in London … is governed to a large extent by whether there’s a food or wine theme! Last night was the Festa Nataliza – our Christmas party – and we gathered at Veneticus, a cafe/bar in Clerkenwell, to enjoy stuzzichini - little appetizers – with prosecco and wine. The term is derived from the verb, stuzzicare, meaning ‘to pick at’ or ‘to whet the appetite’. While you will find cicchetti in Venice, stuzzichini are found in Southern Italy and are usually served early evening with aperitifs.
Fausto, who organised the evening, introduced me to Oscar, owner of the cafe, who gave me a little tour. First of all he took me to their ice cream fridge and told me it’s all made onsite using fresh ingredients.
He gave me little tastes – cherry, chocolate, rum + raisin. They were all delicious. Then we looked at the counter where all the small cakes were kept, which Oscar told me were also made in their kitchen downstairs.
Over the other side of the cafe there was a deli counter with cold meats and some small peppers were being filled with tuna for us to eat. Everywhere there were different kinds of panettone and pandoro ready to buy and celebrate Christmas the Italian way.
During the day you can come for morning coffee or to eat lunch. Now all the tables were put together in the middle and a fabulous array of food was brought for us to help ourselves. At just £10 for the evening, which included a drink (I had a glass of prosecco) and the buffet, it was a great deal. There was plenty of food and it was delicious and more wine or prosecco could be bought by the glass at £3.50.
There were little foccacia rolls, gorgeous Sicilian arancini – rice balls filled with mozzarella and other flavours – and little prawn cocktails. There were wonderful large dishes of grilled vegetables: aubergines, tomatoes, courgettes and peppers.
Then hot dishes came out: lasagne and the classic Puglian orecchiette all Pugliese con cime di rapa and a large plate of wonderful, tender roast pork.
To finish came plates of sliced panettone and little choux pastries filled with custard. They were going so quickly as everyone tucked in, I couldn’t photograph a full plate!
It was fun evening with fifty of us enjoying the festive celebrations and some wonderful Italian food. Nicola, who is half Italian, told me she worked nearby and came to the cafe for coffee in the morning. What a wonderful place to have near where you work! However, if you don’t work or live nearby, you can order some things from Veneticus online, so just visit their website: http://www.veneticus.co.uk