What is the true Italian taste? I was recently invited to attend a cooking masterclass at the newly opened Eataly store in London. Our contributor Elena was there to learn more about the True Italian Taste and get tips on how to buy authentic Italian products in the UK.
True Italian Taste
The taste of Italy is made of unique foods prepared with local recipes and traditions; fresh seasonal produce eaten in season; locally grown and packaged dairy products and meats, whose origin can be traced back to a specific geographical origin. It’s the taste of quality and traditions.
That’s why I always read the labels when food shopping and buy authentic “Made in Italy” products. DOP/IGP certifications tell us a story about these unique products, and are also a way to protect and support small Italian producers.
Choosing products with DOP/IGP certifications
Choosing products with the DOP/IGP certifications guarantees quality and authenticity – for example when buying mozzarella di bufala, Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, San Marzano tomatoes or olive oil. This way, you will know for sure that what you are eating are the best Italian products, and not an imitation produced elsewhere.
Eataly in London
Last Friday, I was invited to a cooking masterclass within the “True Italian Taste” project at Eataly. Finding authentic Italian products in the UK can be tricky. There’s plenty of “Italian sounding” fakes that can trick the customer into buying counterfeit Italian food. As a non-native Italian it has been very important to me to define my understanding of the cuisine as well as the tradition that goes into it.
Here in England, Italy and its food have never been closer since Eataly, the world’s largest Italian food market and restaurant concept, has opened its first store in the UK. I’ve had the pleasure to be one of its first visitors through this masterclass and I can genuinely testify that it is among the best places to buy authentic Italian products in London, eat Italian food and learn how to cook it.
Eataly is a 42,000 sq. ft Italian food haven located at Broadgate, next to Liverpool Street station. They offer over 5,000 local Italian food products spread over two floors. The enormous food hall at street level combines a space for the food market and a separate one for restaurants.
At Eataly London, you will find dedicated pizza and pasta bars; wine, beer and spirits stalls; an area devoted entirely to sweets and desserts, showcasing Italian cakes, pastry, cannoli and – obviously – gelato. There are counters to buy meals on-the-go and also a spacious terrace for the necessary Aperol Spritz-based aperitivo.
The first floor offers three restaurants and a huge retail area where one can find fruit and vegetables; wine, cheese and prosciutto at a dedicated counter, as well as butchers and fishmonger.
La Scuola at Eataly
Our masterclass was hosted by Eataly’s cookery school La Scuola located on the first floor. They offer classes for mastering classic dishes of Italian cuisine.
The house chef, Eliano Crespi guided us through the highly refined masterclass menu: cold soup with Mantuan melon IGP, basil and Mazara red prawns DOP tartare, rounded up by a generous plate of Paccheri Gragnano IGP pasta, San Marzano tomatoes and Stracciatella cheese.
Besides these excellent recipes, we learnt that Italian food certifications like DOP, IGP and DOC are used to denote the origin of a product and are often found on Italian foods and drinks. The labels pretty much act as “warranty seals” of the ancient traditions behind them, guaranteeing that the manufacturing process adheres to the right standards and guidelines of to the place or region of origin.
Ultimately, these labels certify that the products taste as they should, so look out for them if you’re after the good stuff: IGP stands for Indicazione Geografica Protetta (Indication of Geographic Protection); DOP for Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin) and DOC for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Designation of Controlled Origin). In other words, these labels mean that each step of the process, from production to packaging, is regulated.
Italian cooking class
While Eliano was disclosing his culinary secrets and we cooked along, we also enjoyed a glass of Prosecco and some appetizers: culatello di Zibello DOP, Prosciutto di Parma DOP, Parmigiano Reggiano. After the masterclass, we all sat down at the table to share the lunch together.
We ate our freshly made Italian dishes paired with some excellent wines: Fontana Fredda Gavi di Gavi and Fontana Fredda Barbera d’Alba. Finally, we we were treated to a delicious dessert: homemade lemon-Delizia from Eataly’s pastry counter.
Ultimately, Eataly London has delivered a memorable cooking experience based on an excellent selection of traditional – and more importantly original – Italian flavours. I highly recommend the class to anyone wanting to learn how to create regional Italian recipes and find out more about authentic food products made in Italy.
The “True Italian Taste” project aims to combat the diffusion of the “Italian-Sounding” phenomenon and encourage the conscious consumption of authentic Made in Italy products. The project is led by The Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the UK, together with other Italian Chambers of Commerce abroad and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Assocamerestero.
Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post in collaboration with The Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the UK. All opinions are my own.