Italy played Scotland in Bari on Wednesday. With a couple of a dodgy results over the course of this European Championship qualification the Italians pretty much had to win to stay on track to get to the finals. The Scots were looking to get anything they could out the encounter with the World Champions. I was looking for good pasta in Soho. As the crowds gathered outside Bar Italia to watch the game I was pondering my dinner.
Actually, I knew exactly where to go for good fresh egg pasta in Soho. It’s Camisa and Son on Old Compton Street. They have a nice little selection of handmade pastas and more dried pasta than you can shake a wooden spoon at. They also have the best tomatoes anywhere in the city. Sicilian tomatoes that taste of sunshine, even in winter. I have a soft spot for Camisa, over say Lina Stores round the corner on Berwick Street, I’ve been going there since I was small and the surrounding area was full of melancholy looking strip clubs. It’s unashamedly old school with the over laden counter on one side and the glass fronted drawers full of dried pasta on the other. Above the serving counter herbs, spices and dried mushrooms hang in clear plastic and you can barely see the staff if the place is full of people. Which it often is.
I was looking for pasta, sausage with fennel and any dinky italo treats that caught my eye. Some egg tagliarine, 6 Sicilian sausages (especially flown in from Palermo along with the tomatoes, bugger the food miles) and a few sweet Easter goodies later, I was set. I always get coy in Italian delis. My Italian is pretty good and the staff are generally babbling away happily but there’s something that always stops me from launching into full stream, I guess I’m just shy or probably more fearful that my mothers Neapolitan accent will give me away and the Sicilians will stop dead in their tracks and stare, in an American Werewolf in London type way. My mumbled “Grazie” and “Arrivederci” held up in the end and there were no eerie silences. Not that there would be, as the fine folk in Camisa would probably never notice, being a bit too busy with the hundreds of other Italians bustling through the shop.
I have to comment here on the outlandish behaviour of the Italians at Easter. Not in terms of good old fashioned Catholicism but in terms of sheer size of the Easter eggs. In this country, you get an Easter egg and it’s a smallish thing made of milk chocolate and full of chocolate buttons or mini Mars bars. The Italians create these huge, freakish looking eggs wrapped in yards of shiny paper and a million ribbons. The really big ones, some seven kilos of chocolate, go for about a hundred quid a pop and would probably kill anyone attempting to eat the whole egg and seem roomy enough for a couple of Fiat Cinquecentos to sit inside . I marvel at the scores of these things that festoon the average Italian deli every year and wonder who the hell buys them. The ones in the East Dulwich Deli were 25% off the other day, so I guess no one does.
Oh yeah, the Italians won 2 - 0 and I made it home to catch the second half.Camisa and Son: 61 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 6HS