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.IT – Wine Bar & Cafe, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1

February 8, 2014

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It’s been a week of Italian food and adventure for me in London from meeting friends in a pizzeria in central London on Sunday evening, Cafe Murano with Annie on Thursday, a spontaneous visit to the lovely A Cena yesterday with my son for their Express Lunch just before he set off for a skiing holiday in France and then a truly fabulous visit to an exciting wine bar in Clerkenwell organised by my friend Lucia last night.

Rosebery Avenue, sweeping up from London’s Holborn through Clerkenwell, passing Sadler’s Wells en route to the Angel Islington isn’t a road I’d immediately associate with high-end Italian design. It was a bus route home in the far off days when I worked just off Fleet Street and lived in Islington, at the time most memorable for Mount Pleasant post office and Sadler’s Wells – which in location, always seemed a bit out of place for a theatre that was, at the time, home to some of the country’s leading ballet dancers. The area is changing and, of course, the buzzing food destiny of Exmouth Market with the fabulous Moro and other good restaurants is nearby. So perhaps it wasn’t so surprising after all to find this brilliant and unique fusion of wonderful Italian furniture design matched with gloriously delicious Italian food and wine housed in one building.

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The .IT All About Design concept brings together a store selling furniture from some of the best Italian design companies with a Design Hotel and a Wine Bar-Cafe. Danieli Bedini and Roger Walters wanted to bring the best of Italian lifestyle design into one place. I’ve always loved Italian furniture and design and it was wonderful to be shown around the store by the wine bar manager, Silvano Bavia, when I was talking to him at the end of the evening. The idea is that people can shop there – business people, architects, contractors and private clients – and see what’s on offer and then go into the wine bar & cafe to talk things over. There’s even a hotel if you want to stay! Apart from wonderful furniture from companies like Edra and some brilliant ceramics by artists like Paolo Staccioni (which I loved but couldn’t afford the price tag!) there were gadgets with stunning designs, glassware, lamps and kitchenware.

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Great as this all was, my main interest lay in the food and wine of course!! Now, Lucia had invited me and other friends to an ‘aperitivo evening’ and thus I was expecting some finger food to go with my wine. Aperitivo is a wonderful Italian concept of going to a bar early evening and some small finger food coming – gratis – with the drink. I first discovered this in Rome when there with friend Kate a few years ago. We’d gone to a bar for a drink before going to a concert. I left her ordering prosecco while I went in search of the loo and came back to find a plate of food on the table. Did you order something to eat, I asked. No, they just brought it, she told me. We found the same experience other evenings. With the right planning we could have avoided having to pay for food in the evening if we’d wanted to! The quality of the snacks varied of course and the best we had were in a design shop (much like .IT!) near the Spanish Steps. These were fine dining canapés!! Back in London, I had gorgeous cicheti – canapés – at Shot Espresso in Fulham last summer and in Twickenham, Corso Deli serve cicheti with aperitivo early evening – perhaps lovely little bruschette topped with chopped fresh tomato and basil. What I found at .IT last night was a display of truly glorious salads, homemade pizza and chicken liver pate on toast. It was a meal! There were even plates and forks so you could help yourself and then find a seat.

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When Lucia introduced me to Silvano he explained this was ‘farmer’s food’ – the kind of food cooked at home. He told me he came from Salerno, just south of Naples, and so it wasn’t surprising that a fiery tomato dish with black chillies was something his mother made a lot.

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Silvano had also made the pizza, which was cut into bite-sized pieces and easy to eat.

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There was a fabulous caponata.

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One bowl contained a lovely courgette salad. Silvano explained that the chopped courgettes were cooked in oil – but it was important they retained their al dente bite! – dressed with lemon and fresh mint and then chilled. There was a delicious butternut squash salad, a wild rice salad and one of roasted peppers (all can be seen in photos above). I had a wonderful plate of food to eat with my glass of wine. I bought a 175ml glass of excellent Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for £6.50 but that’s all I had to pay. (It was an organised event though so I don’t think you’d get all this for a normal ‘aperitivo’!! But there is a menu for you to choose some of Silvano’s wonderful food – or maybe you too would like to organise an event or party there).

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Later Silvano brought round a plate with homemade chicken liver pate on toast – they went so quickly I couldn’t take a photo before most disappeared!

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Silvano and his team cook all the food themselves. You could taste the freshness in everything. This really was homemade. Apart from the delicious food the surroundings themselves were an experience of Italian design. Sleek sofas and chairs and tables; stunning lights hanging from the ceiling; shelves housing fabulous home and kitchenware …

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and a stunning wall sculpture.

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Silvano told me everything was for sale. If you liked the chair you were sitting on you could buy it!

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The bar was packed with everyone having a lovely time and eating the most gorgeous food. This was Italian food at its best: simple cooking but using the best of ingredients. The Single Gourmet Traveller was in gastronomic heaven. If I lived or worked nearby (rather than right across the other side of London), I’d be there every day! From coffee in the morning to an aperitivo early evening. I think should book to see some dance at Sadler’s Wells so I have the perfect excuse to go back soon!

If you want to find out more about .IT, check out their website: www.puntoit.co.uk

9 Comments
  1. Amazing blog, next time I will be there to meet you. Thanks a lot
    Daniele
    .IT Art Director

  2. Susi Mariotti permalink

    Hi guys I’m Susi the Silvano’s helper i want just let you know that we have the Apericena every Thursday evening from 6 pm until 8 pm

  3. Kay from what I see and read I missed some interesting bites, what about catching up next thursday at the same place?

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