A new Italian kid on the block in London

Most of you know the much loved Senzanome in Brussels for some time now, it opened 20 years ago and unsurprisingly just won the ‘World’s 50 Best’ 2011 Birra Morretti Best Authentic Italian Restaurant Award in Europe for its classic but refined dishes with the feeling of a family run business. What really caught my eye was that the Runner Up to the award was Zucca which recently opened on Bermondsey Street.

Zucca’s chef Sam Harris comes from the River Café which produced notable chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Sam Clark of Moro lore. The restaurant is based in Bermondsey, an easy walk from the City across London or Tower Bridge and seems to be attracting new restaurants on a monthly basis, I saw a new tapas bar had opened and I love the Vietnamese coffee shop a few numbers down…
I was introduced to Zucca by my wine merchant contacts who all seem to congregate around the best high quality / value eateries like, well, bees around a honey pot. I have been three times now and I still have not walked away without having been dazzled by the quality of food and the authenticity of the dishes, and it goes without saying that the wine list  – mostly Italian – is phenomenal.
Sam’s signature dish is Zucca Fritti in a light tempura like batter. Last time I had lunch there, we had the wonderful Eel Bruschetta and White Polenta starters. We devoured the slow cooked rabbit all washed down with a pleasant Capellano Gabutti 1996, a legendary Barolo made by Teobaldo Capellano, a wine artist/philosopher and former president of the True Wine group, Vini Veri. This ties in quite well with Zucca’s philosophy and happens to be a member of Slow Food’s Chef Alliance.
Capellano usually only made 800 cases of biodynamic wine  per vintage on the long ribbon of vines on the Serralunga, reminding me of the effort winemakers in Burgundy put in their wines. Teobaldo, who passed away in 2009, was a traditionalist and made very classic wines. I found rose petals and hints of truffle, a bit of lovely decay in our bottle. The Gabutti name has remained and Teobaldo’s son Augusto now makes a Barolo Gabutti Pie Franco – made from ungrafted vines from the ’80s anda  Barolo Gabutti Rupestris – from 65 year old vines.
We finished off lunch with a cherry and almond tart and blissfully wandered down the buzzing Bermondsey Street. Whilst I walked home to burn down the excesses I reminisced on how lucky London was to have so many top Italians Locanda Locatelli and the River Café came to mind. I would hot foot it to Zucca before it gets bestowed with its first Michelin Star and prices start to rise..!
Karel Röell

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