The jewel in the crown that is mediterranean food, Italian cuisine is characterised by flavour, resourcefulness and carbs. As a country which has brought us some incredible bread products – think pizza, focaccia and bruschetta – it is in danger of being typecast.
However, there is far more to Italian food than this. So with that in mind, I visited Diciannove in London’s Blackfriars. Located in the Crowne Plaza hotel, Diciannove enjoys a sophisticated setting. Inside, wooden flooring and leather furnishings give a sense of elegance while yellow details and a large, wooden chandelier suggest a more playful side to the restaurant.
The menu features a separate column explaining which of the 20 regions of Italy the dish comes from. Rather than aim for a carb free-meal, I thought I would at least try a famously flour-focussed dish to start (when in Rome, after all). The spaghettini with fresh crab, chilli, garlic and parsley originates from Liguria – the northwest coast which curves round towards Monaco. A small portion with mild flavours, it made for a great antipasti.
Across the table: Puglia’s finest – the burrata. Geographically speaking, Puglia is the heel of the boot of Italy. A four day walk from Rome, this region was once considered uncultured compared to the north. However, it’s from here that burrata cheese originates. Made with mozzarella and cream, it sat atop aubergine with tomato coulis, alongside carasau bread chips. Soft, light and almost fluffy, it went well with the more rubbery texture and earthen flavours of the aubergine.
Approximately 80 per cent of Italy’s border is coast, so it’s no surprise that they know a thing or two about fish. With this in mind, I ordered the sea bream with sauteed asparagus, shallot butter and basil sauce. The dish is from Veneto – the northeastern corner of Italy which of course plays host to the famously aquatic city of Venice. The shallot and basil flavours could perhaps have been stronger but the fish was nicely cooked, as was the asparagus.
Sticking with the theme, my guest went for the pan-fried lemon sole with broad beans, pecorino sauce and steamed green beans. It was less flaky than the sea bream but boasted a creamy sauce and beautifully crispy skin. Again, this dish is from Puglia in the south.
To finish, we shared a deliciously soft and spongy tiramisu which, like the sea bream in basil sauce, is from the Veneto region. Two starters, two mains, five drinks and a dessert cost £140 ($190). While perhaps lacking a certain wow factor, Diciannove had certainly shown that there’s more to Italian food than carbs.