Friday, 23 February 2018

AUTHENTIC ITALIAN CUISINE AT LA SALUMERIA

By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 23 February 2018)

Nairobi has got a number of Italian restaurants. But none offers quite the same authentic Italian experience as La Salumeria (situated just behind Valley Arcade in the Dhanjay Flats). There everything from the wines and cheeses to the cured meats and porcini mushrooms are regularly flown in from that high-heel shoe-shaped country.
“Even our olive oil comes from Tuscany, our Balsamic vinegar’s from Modena and our salt from Sicily,” says Stephano Rusticali, the proud owner of La Salumeria.
“Of course, we get our fish flown in from the Kenya coast and our vegetables come in every week from one farm in Limuru,” adds Stephano who has only owned the restaurant since 2016.
But ever since he came to Kenya in 2013 and opened his first restaurant, the Geko Resort, he’s made it his mission “to bring the original authentic Italian dishes” to the country.
It isn’t only the vast array of pizzas, pastas and pesto that Stephano serves fresh at La Salumeria that makes his menu authentic. It’s also that his Top Chef Murielle Minchella has trained all the kitchen staff in the finer points of Italian cooking.
What’s more, just last month Stephano flew in a Top Chef from Sicily to help him launch his new Sicilian Special menu, featuring several new fish and pasta recipes.
“He even taught our pastry chef Margaret [Kasude] how to make a Caprese cake with chocolate and almonds which also come from Italy,” says Stephano who insists we try a bit of everything on the menu.
I was tempted to try either the vegetarian lasagna, parmigiana (made with eggplant) or lobster Spaghetti.
Then again, the range of pizza made my head spin. There was the classic Margherita (with tomato, mozzarella and oregano), Capricciosa (with mushrooms, artichokes and parma ham added), Bresaola, Funghi, Formaggi and Diavola to name a few more.
                                                    Shadrack serves my friend Robert his Chicken scaloppina

But ultimately, I settled for a delicious grilled red snapper garnished with a garden-full of fresh vegetables. My friend Robert had the Chicken scaloppina (chicken breast sauted in lemon sauce) although he too was tempted to be more adventurous and try either the beef Tangliata, grilled lamb chops with honey or mixed seafood platter, including crab, calamari, prawns and fish fillet.
                                                   My grilled red snapper served with fresh veggies from Limuru

Stephano himself had a sumptuous serving of fresh Burrata cheese dressed with leafy lettuce and tomatoes. “Our cheeses are flown in every fortnight. They arrive from Milan on Saturday and we serve them from Sunday through Friday. By then, there usually all gone; otherwise, since we add no preservatives, they’re only served that week,” says this cheese connoisseur.
After that, he has a platter-full of assorted salamis, which again are another Italian delicacy. The bread, accompanied by whipped garlic butter, is made fresh every day, says Stephano, who explains it’s the same delicious dough used to make their pizza.
An etching of St. Marco in Venice, one of many Italian images on Stephano's wall.
Wines are also flown in from his mother land. “It was actually my friend Flavio who has a home in Watamu and also a wine shop next door to the restaurant, who told me about the owner’s plan of retiring,” says Stephano whose Italian wine list is extensive.
But wine is not my weakness. Chocolate is. So when he tempted me with tiramisu, chocolate mousse or gelato, I didn’t hesitate to comply: mousse was my favorite. Meanwhile, my friend tried both the tiramisu and the hazelnut parfait which are both Margaret’s specialties.
And as no Italian meal is complete without an espresso, macchiato or cappuccino, I was happy to have a macchiato freshly made with Stephano’s Buscaguone espresso-making machine.
But there was one more surprise that our host wanted us to try before we left. He called it Limoncello, which sounded innocent enough for a teetotaler like me, especially when Stephano explained it was made with lemon rind imported from you know where.
Like an espresso, a sip or two of limoncello at the end of every meal is the test of its truly Italian authenticity. So I took a sip of this delicious liqueur which he served in a short-stemmed goblet. And our meal was complete.
Did I mention that throughout our meal, the Italian tenors, Il Volo gently crooned in the background? Or that on every wall hung a painting or print by an Italian artist, be he Leonardo di Vinci or Gian Paolo Tomasi whose art is currently being featured in Stephano’s Artistest Gallery, just next to La Salumeria which itself has its own intimate, artistic ambience.



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