The best food and wine from Italy – in Primrose Hill…
Antonio Cerilli, the manager of Differenza, is passionate about sourcing the best possible ingredients. The restaurant’s meat is sourced from an organic farm near Stonehenge, the fish comes fresh from Billingsgate market and the pasta is made with organic flour and Italian eggs. The lentils are from Umbria and the desserts are all home-made. When I showed up for lunch, Antonio was excited to have just received a batch of fresh pesto from Italy.
Lunch is an à la carte menu from which you can eat amazing foods for a very good price. I tried a starter of buffalo mozzarella (which was the best I’ve tasted in a while), some small plum tomatoes from Italy with a plate of pane carasau, a warm crispbread from Sardinia. The recently arrived pesto was served with pasta and left a clean, elegant taste. Antonio recommended a Gavi to accompany it. The ragu was perfect, especially with a softly spiced red such as Primitivo from Puglio, and I had just enough room for a melt in the mouth tart cooked by chef Mario Bruno.
Wine is Antonio’s other passion; he was once a professional sommelier
Antonio grew up on a farm outside Rome. His mother still makes bread with a thick crust which retains its freshness, and the restaurant will soon be introducing bread ovens. He believes in healthy eating, that is eating to feel good and not just to fill ourselves, and he’s a big campaigner for preserving the environment and helping artisans. His philosophy is to use only simple ingredients, but of the best quality possible. The aim is to have 70‒80% of their food sourced organically. Wine is Antonio’s other passion; he was once a professional sommelier.
Every month the restaurant holds a wine dinner consisting of four courses. January’s dinner paired wines with calamari stuffed with artichoke, cod served with polenta, home-made ravioli filled with beef and truffle sauce and braised Dexter ribs. There were five white wines to sample, and two red, and all went perfectly with the food. It is taste-bud heaven with the added advantage of no hangover as the wines are of such good quality.
The wines are all from Italy and tend to be from age-old vineyards. Antonio finds that organic wines without chemicals help the flavour to open out. He sources wines from an ancient vineyard near Mount Etna, and another where vines grow around Umbrian trees.
Future plans for the restaurant include opening for breakfast and providing a takeaway menu. They are already very community-minded and have donated food to the homeless sleeping in the cold weather shelter across the road in St Mary’s Church.
They are already very community-minded and have donated food to the homeless sleeping in the cold weather shelter across the road in St Mary’s Church.
Antonio told me he has always been fascinated by science, and this is evident in the way he pairs his food and wine. “That is when food becomes art,” he tells me.
Be grateful, as it seems we have some genuine Italian alchemy right on our doorstep.
Find out more at differenzakitchen.com
Article by Maggie Chambers
Photography by Marc Mordanat (www.marcmphotos.com)