I received an invitation to this year’s Gusto Italia show via my friend Antonella Sciortino (click here for more info). The show is a chance for Italian food and wine producers to showcase their products. It’s put on for caterers and food shops and aims to make sure the best Italian food and wine reaches UK. At a Gala Dinner on the final night, attended by celebrity Italian chefs and sommeliers, awards are given to Italians of excellence working in the UK food and drink industry.
Due to a busy morning, I didn’t arrive at the show until about 3.00, which was a pity, because I should have arrived at lunchtime, ready to make the most of all the gorgeous food on offer. Downstairs in the ballroom at the Grand Sheraton Hotel in Piccadilly, the room was packed with people and stands displaying all kinds of Italian products: olive oil, pasta, hams, cheese and wine.
As I went round, I soon discovered that almost no one spoke English, so in my best Italian I explained that I was a blogger and wrote about food and travel – especially Italian food and travel. Of course, I was surrounded by people tasting and considering buying for their hotels, restaurants or delis, but everyone was happy to give this blogger a taste too. It was just a shame I couldn’t buy!
These lovely boxes of fresh Sicilian fruit and vegetables you can, however, order from Vita.
I couldn’t possibly try everything on offer and certainly didn’t want to drink too much wine at 3.00 in the afternoon, but I did try some delicious things and so this post is about the highlights of what I found – but there was so much more, and everyone was so kind and friendly. Another time I’ll go very hungry!
Unfortunately I didn’t get a taste of these taralli, which are my family’s favourite snack! I’ve never been a sweet biscuit fan but often tuck into a taralli with an afternoon cup of tea, as well as for aperitivo.
One table had lots of different pasta shapes laid out. The Italians are very particular about the shape and size of their pasta, which must match the sauce they are to be served with. That’s why Italians are horrified when Brits serve ragù with spaghetti – it just isn’t right and tagliatelle is the correct pasta because the sauce clings to the flatter pasta better. These were from a company called Divine Creazioni.
A little further along, some ragù and pasta was being kept warm and ready to try from Gourmio.
Gourmio sell boxes of food ready to cook. Everything you need is included and weighed out, so you can produce an authentic Italian meal at home. Boxes come direct from Italy and will be delivered within 24 hours. The pasta dish was very delicious. I have to confess the idea isn’t one that appeals to me personally, as I’m happy buying my own ingredients and working from home makes it easy to cook in the evening. But for people out at work all day, or anyone just wanting an easy supper (all meals are for two) that’s a lot better than a supermarket ready made meal, then this is great for something a bit more special. These kind of boxes are becoming popular and Jamie Oliver is connected to the HelloFresh brand.
Food was being prepared, ready for tasting everywhere.
There was cheese from the Dolomites.
I saw the wonderful sausages from Siena that I buy in my local Italian deli – Corto Italian Deli – which are another family favourite.
At the Etna Coffee stall, serving Sicilian street food, I saw cannoli being piped and filled. There’s a branch in Victoria with another about to open in Baker Street.
I saw the Rummo make of pasta which I bought at Mercato Metropolitano a few weeks ago.
At the Grottone stall, I found cheese from the south of Italy. This is a semi-hard cheese with an aroma of hazelnuts. It was very good.
There were wheels of Pecorino.
At the Cibo Deli counter I tasted the most glorious extra creamy Gorgonzola – best eaten with a spoon!
The extra virgin olive oil from Sicily at the Vasadonna stand was delicious. I was told the preparation from picking to the pressing of the oil happens in just a day.
The Risoristano stand was great, selling rice from Sardinia and saffron.
They kindly gave me a packet of rice to bring home and a crocus bulb from which I can grow my own saffron!
I tasted hams, saw amazing huge round aubergines – that you’d never find in a UK supermarket – and lovely green tomatoes.
It was a fun outing with lovely food; I saw chefs wandering around trying things and there were cookery demonstrations at various times of the day. I can see this is a great event for anyone serving or selling Italian food in UK and wanting the authentic products. Tonight I’m invited to the Gala dinner so have more Italian food to look forward to!