Strada’s new Italian menu lacks Italian soul
By Katy Taylor
With 70 UK branches, Strada is well represented in most major towns, taking its place alongside other familiar pizza/pasta places. Perhaps for this reason it is ignored by many customers in search of what they regard as a more authentic slice of Italian life.
Not so fast, says Maurice Maffeo, head development chef, who’s keen to encourage customers to look again. Strada is, after all, an Italian company, with Italian owners and chefs, and thus specialists in authentic Italian food which they’d like to show you with their new menu.
Large, Scicilian meaty green Castelyetrano olives set the scene. Top quality, juniper flavoured Parma ham, certified melt-in-the-mouth buffalo cheese and olive tapenade, prepared daily, all feature in the starters.
At their showcase event I also tasted strips of tender beef, and pan fried, cheese-crumbed chicken breast, served with an unfortunately bland tomato sauce.
Mains included pasta with aubergine, olive and peppers (in a similarly bland tomato sauce); twisted Stozzapreti pasta, luganica sausage, pancetta, lifted by red chilli; green bean, pea and asparagus risotto which tasted bright and fresh, despite being out of season, although lacked seasoning and a good dose of hard cheese.
It was all very nice but it didn’t quite tick the excellent box, nor convince me of anything I didn’t already suspect I knew about Strada: excellent ingredients mean the starters, served without much tampering, speak for themselves. The mains, although put together from the same good ingredients, lack heart and soul. I can’t taste the passion that they are promoting.
(In true Italian style though, ice-creams were to die for.)
It will take more verve to convince the sceptical about Strada’s to give them a go. That, and I’d suggest they need a more visible Italian face for people to reference the company by, one with whom they might develop a ‘relationship’.
Strada’s menu is fairly priced, and full of good produce but the way it’s thrown together lacks the heart of familial Italian hospitality. The riverside Strada, next to London’s City Hall, is worth eating in for the view alone. But if they are trying to remind customers their spiritual home lies among the Mediterranean mountains, their money making ventures still feel firmly set in the corporate world.
2 More London Place