Peter Morrell lunches at this family run deli and restaurant which specialises in fine Italian food and wine
The choice of location for Valentina’s eighth outlet is the atmospheric Shad Thames, a narrow cobbled street running between warehouses right by London’s Tower Bridge. Occupying the ground floor of an old building the entrance to the restaurant is via the delicatessen which in itself is a gourmet’s cornucopia of 200 Italian wines and 1,500 products. There is a vast array of pastas by the door, a large selections of hams, sausages and cheeses in the chiller and rows of regional wines which all set the taste buds tingling before even sitting down to eat.
The dining space is bright and airy, complete with an Italian vintage delivery cart and motor bikes, and a quiet buzz from the other customers gave it a good ambience. My dining companion and I nibbled on a selection of artisan breads dipped in Valentina’s own olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sipped a glass of chilled prosecco as we perused the menu.
We were torn between the Assaggi D’Italia, the taste of Italy, six small sharing starters and a sharing main course, remarkable value at £16.95 per person or choosing from the extensive menu. This featured antipasti, salads, pizza, pasta, main and side dishes. We chose the latter but needed some guidance with the food and the wine. This was ably provided by the very friendly staff, who are all Italian and very knowledgeable about the cuisine.
We started with some plates from the Per Iniziare (To Start) section and the Antipasto della Casa. They featured olive oil marinated mushrooms, olives, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and artichokes, aged Parmesan and Provolo, and sliced ham and sausage. The ingredients came straight from the deli counter cut to order so they were ultra fresh, it was a great start to the meal.
My companion’s main was Fegato, calves liver pan fried and served with onion, white wine, polenta cake and cherry tomatoes. My choice was ravioli filled with ricotta in a white wine and chiodini mushroom sauce. They were both excellent, a mix of strong and subtle flavours, well cooked and beautifully presented.
There is an extensive wine list offering good examples from many of Italy’s regions. We chose one of the house reds, the La Fortezza Aglianico from Campania, it was dark in colour and had summer berries in the bouquet which developed into red stone fruit on the palate, the well structured tannins gave it a long and spicy finish.
The style of food, like our wine, is from the South of Italy, it’s fresh and upbeat and this is helped in no small part by head chef Vincenzo who comes from Sicily.
Desserts were almost beyond us even though the Panettone and Tiramisu were tempting. We did manage to share three scoops of Italian ice cream and Vincenzo magicked up some spun sugar and a red berry compote with fresh strawberries on the side to make it extra special.
Valentina Fine Foods was founded in 1991 and is jointly owned by the Zoccola and Arcari families both of whom originate from Sant’Elia Fiumerapido, a small village near Monte Cassino southeast of Rome. They have a real passion for delivering authentic Italian food and wine, in comfortable surroundings and at a reasonable price. Apart from Shad Thames they can also be found in Sheen, Putney, Sevenoaks, Notting Hill, Weybridge Reigate and Chiswick.
This was an excellent eating experience in every respect, the quality of the ingredients, the staff, the dining space, the cooking and the presentation, all at prices which make it accessible to everyone, be it for a quick lunch or a leisurely dinner. This was the real taste of Italy in London.
Valentina Fine Foods
31 Shad Thames
London SE1 2YR
0207 036 6028
For more information about menus and restaurant locations go to www.valentinafinefoods.com