Considering my birthday isn’t actually until Wednesday, I’ve been making a great head start on celebrations from last weekend with the birthday lunch at Orso to lunch today at one of my very favourite haunts: Corto Italian Deli. Nicola and Rachael came down from the Midlands for the weekend and the family birthday lunch was set to be today. Timing was guided by Freddie’s change of nap time to after early lunch … which meant a late lunch at 2.30 for adults … and a second lunch for Freddie! Good planning, little one. I said I wanted to go to Corto. I like the informality, the friendliness of owners Marco and Romina, and the fabulous authentic Italian home cooked food. It’s all very simple but closer to the real feel of being in Italy than pretty much anywhere else I know in London.
I’d booked the table as sometimes Corto are so busy, it’s hard to get one, though easier at this late time. Everything was ready for us with a table for six prepared. They’d gone to so much trouble knowing it was my family birthday meal and I feel really touched by their kindness. Some complimentary prosecco came – and they always serve excellent wine at Corto. Freddie eyed it up expectantly but had to settle for water. The rest of us enjoyed this cool glass of fizz – served Italian style, not in a flute but white wine glass.
Another Italian touch was the way they suggested leaving it to them to bring a selection of foods. I love this when in Italy – sitting back and not having to make decisions but knowing wonderful food will be brought to you. And they were happy to adjust it slightly when we said Rachael was vegetarian. Baskets of breads were put at each end of the table: focaccia, ciabatta, tomato bread. Then this plate of wonderful filled flat bread, one filled with cooked chicory and cheese, the other with blue cheese and roasted tomatoes; a gorgeous burrata lay in the middle.
A plate of freshly sliced meats came too. I always go to Corto now to buy cold meats; I don’t know anywhere better.
A selection of Italian cheeses were served with a pot of honey flavoured with white truffle. The smell of the honey was amazing and a great treat with the cheese.
Bruschette were piled high with chopped tomato or stem broccoli.
The prosecco finished, we asked for white wine and this excellent one was recommended to match our food well.
There were warm dishes of a superb Melanzane Parmigiana. It’s one of my very favourite Italian dishes and this was one of the best I’ve ever had.
There was lasagna too …
… and little ramekin dishes filled with homemade minestrone.
It was all wonderful. Then empty plates were cleared away, new ones put before us, and the cake appeared.
It’s hard to say who was more impressed and excited by it – Freddie or me!
Made by Marco who always makes the most fabulous cakes, this chocolate and almond cake was surprisingly light and absolutely delicious. We had a slice each and the rest was packed up for me to bring home. What a truly fabulous birthday lunch and such a brilliant and lovely place to have it. Many thanks to everyone at Corto Deli and to my wonderful family for coming together and treating me.