This week is Coeliac Awareness Week in UK, an initiative to raise awareness of the disease. I am lucky that I can eat anything I want, as I am sure it’s a challenge to eat out (especially when travelling abroad) when you have a serious food intolerance. I know in London there are many restaurants offering gluten free dishes, but not many which are 1005 gluten free. If you are coeliac and love Italian food, you will be happy to know about the new Leggero restaurant in Soho, the only Italian entirely gluten free restaurant accredited by Coeliac UK Association.
Leggero is located on Old Compton Street in Soho and provides an authentic Italian menu suitable for coeliacs and generally for people with food intolerances. The all-day eatery serves healthy and homemade Italian dishes with a twist.
The restaurant was originally founded by Italian entrepreneur Gabriele Vitali with the name La Polenteria. Following feedback from customers who were looking for a restaurant that was 100% gluten free, Vitali decided to change the menu and change the name to Leggero – literally “light” in Italian – to reflect the new identity.
“We started seeing more and more people coming in asking for gluten-free food – I could really see in their eyes a kind of desperation mixed with hope at the idea of having found a place to eat freely” Gabriele Vitali
The majority of the menu was gluten free already anyway, as it was focused on polenta (cornmeal) dishes. Following changes to the kitchen and the menu, Vitali was able to get officially recognised by Coeliac UK as 100% gluten free.
I was recently invited by Peroni Nastro Azzurro to try Leggero’s new menu and take some photos that you can find in this post as well as the Peroni’s website, alongside an interview with Gabriele Vitali.
The food menu is divided into starters, salads, small plates to share and main courses. Many dishes are pasta, ravioli or polenta-based. All the pasta is homemade on site, so it’s fresh and delicious. What I loved about the menu is that there are many options for lactose-intolerants, vegetarians and vegans.
The dish that immediately caught my attention was one of the starters: Polenta with asparagus, egg, scamorza cheese and truffle oil. It’s served in a ceramic ramekin with a base of warm polenta topped with a poached egg, trimmed asparagus and truffle olive oil. It is delicious!
I also ordered some gluten free bread to see how it compares to traditional wheat bread. At Leggero, they bake mini bread muffins and serve them warm with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip on the side. I have tried gluten free bread many times before (from supermarkets or also in restaurants) and often found that it didn’t really taste of bread at all and had a very spongy texture. On the contrary, the bread at Leggero was fragrant, soft and really tasty. I had to stop myself from eating the whole roll and instead keep some space for the main course!
I ordered the gluten free and dairy free Sorghum tagliatelle with bolognese sauce as my main. I was also very tempted by the Black ink ravioli stuffed with salmon or by the Polenta gnocchi with porcini and truffle cheese. Pretty much any dish on the menu at Leggero sounds good and I am looking forward to trying each of them in the future.
The homemade tagliatelle dish was fantastic – and served as a generous portion too! I honestly couldn’t tell that the pasta was made with gluten free flour. It this had been a blind taste, I would have guessed that it was regular wheat tagliatelle. By going 100% gluten free, Leggero have not compromised on taste and texture. They deliver authentic Italian flavours, which I am sure is great news to all coeliacs in London.
I decided to skip dessert, but I treated myself to a gluten free Peroni Nastro Azzurro beer to go alongside this delicious Italian lunch. Peroni now offers a gluten free beer in the UK. The beer is brewed to the same recipe as the Nastro Azzurro lager and the gluten is removed at the end of the brewing process. In my opinion, this beer tasted very much like a traditional Peroni Nastro Azzurro I know and love, so you can go gluten free without missing out on taste.
Overall, I had a very nice experience at Leggero and I would recommend it to anyone with food intolerances and anyone who loves good, authentic Italian food.
Disclaimer: this post was written in collaboration with Peroni. All opinions are my own.