At The Echelon, there’s nothing we enjoy more on a warm Saturday afternoon than a unique culinary discovery in one of our favourite neighbourhoods in central London, especially when you can bask in the sun with a glass of fizz in hand. Our last trip to Bloomsbury was no exception.
On the corner of Museum Street and Bloomsbury Way, which is a stone’s throw from the British Museum, sits Pane Cunzato – a new Italian restaurant dedicated to introducing traditional dishes from the Aeolian Islands and Sicily to the ever-curious palates of London foodies.
Pane cunzato is a typical speciality from the islands of southern Italy. Consisting of a lightly toasted base that is then topped with fresh uncooked ingredients – it’s the new simple, yet hearty experience London has been longing for. It is also something that the owner hopes will one day be considered as a fresh alternative to the ubiquity of pizza in the capital.
After being warmly greeted by the owner, Fabrizio, we opted to sit in the few seats outside and started off the experience with a couple of cold glasses of prosecco. Which was seemingly very necessary, considering we were sitting comfortably two feet under the glorious sun.
Skipping the starter we went straight to the eponymous main dish – the pane cunzato. Served in two ways (warm and cold), it seemed only natural for my guest and me to try both. For the warm, we sampled the Sausage, a deliciously succulent sandwich-style concoction featuring sausages, onion, mozzarella and mushrooms. Reminiscent of a calzone, there was still a feeling of freshness with every bite, as each ingredient subtly complimented the other.
For the cold option, we decided to stick with the meat theme of our afternoon and ordered the Vulcano, a bread base with Porcino mushrooms, speck, smoked provola cheese, shavings of Grana, extra virgin olive oil, all piled on top. The bread was mouth-wateringly delectable, as you can tell that the flavoursome ingredients, as well as the oil, had been soaking deeply in the bread, giving it an all-together different texture that invites you to keep going for more.
It’s interesting to note that this particular dish has a history that is deeply rooted in the peasant culture of the islands. Once seen as a dish for the lower classes, it has since resurrected itself to become a sought-after delicacy in other parts of Europe for the ‘in-the-know’ culinary crowd. As it stands, this is the only place in London that does authentic pane cunzato. So if you’re keen to experience something new, this establishment comes highly recommended by yours truly.
We finished our meal with a cannoli – another Sicilian treat often associated with the street culture of the islands. A sweet and creamy, tube-shaped fried pastry dough; it was the perfect end to a satisfyingly ample lunch.
Pane Cunzato (the restaurant, not the dish) prides itself on a culture of good health, paying particular attention to the sourcing of its ingredients. From the wholegrain stone-ground wheat flour to their faithfulness to organic Sicilian produce, the taste of the food alone is a testament to their adherence to healthy eating.
Do us a favour, and don’t deprive yourself of the experience – finding out they do deliveries was enough to put Meditteranean-sized smiles on both our faces.
Pane Cunzato, 49 Museum St, London WC1A 1LY