11 February 2014

A New Take on Italian

Written by Published in Food

Hidden away in Cloth Fair, an ancient street in the City of London with a colourful history in the textile trade, lies the first vegetarian and organic Italian restaurant in town

Amico Bio brings texture to the dining tapestry of London with new possibilities for vegetarians and carnivores alike. The idea behind this pioneering concept is to transform traditional Italian dishes into vegetarian, vegan and even gluten-free versions. As owner Pasquale Amico, points out: ‘Italian cuisine may not be thought of that way, but many dishes are already vegetarian.’ His vision to take things a step further is, in his opinion, simply extending the notion of Italian cuisine.

owners amicoThere are four Amico Bio restaurants, two in London and two in Italy. All of them draw their inspiration from the fresh, organic ingredients grown at the Amico family farm in Capua, Italy. Family portraits on the walls and a rustic atmosphere make the restaurant feel like an authentic trattoria and with a little imagination you can convince yourself that outside the door there is the allure of an Italian town rather than the cityscape of London.

The menu changes daily to reflect the seasonal changes in vegetables and fruits. ‘I never know in advance what will turn up in the delivery from Italy,’ says Pasquale – and his challenge is to tailor the menu to the ingredients he receives. The food on offer is always different and creativity is a constant in his kitchen, keeping things compelling for customers, many of whom come back time and time again.

We tried a variety of dishes effortlessly matched with wine chosen by the waiters. The warm olives to start were a winner and I bet even the most avid meat-eater would have been happy with the delicious smoked cheese ravioli with sundried and cherry tomatoes in a basil sauce. An interesting gluten-free beetroot and cucumber salad was topped off with rice milk mozzarella, an impressive simulation of the dairy version.

interior amicoThe onion soup was full of flavour, accompanied by gluten-free crackers that were surprisingly crunchy yet perhaps the biggest wonder was Seitan. Closely mimicking the texture and taste of meat it has been dubbed mock-pork and mock-chicken. In fact some vegetarians avoid it as it reminds them too much of meat. Made from the protein part of wheat, it is the anti-dote to gluten-free but if you’re not intolerant it is the closest meat substitute I have ever encountered. On this occasion it was served in a wrap with vegetables and a yoghurt and cucumber dip in what made for a substantial and satisfying dish.

So who comes to Amico Bio? Pasquale reflects: ‘In the Barbican we have a lot of meat eaters looking for a different and maybe lighter option. In Holborn many are tourists, walk-ins, who perhaps don’t realise it is a vegetarian restaurant, yet leave very happy.’ This blends in seamlessly with Pasquale’s view that you don’t have to be vegetarian to eat vegetarian food.

If you’re looking for somewhere out of ordinary with healthy and wholesome food, Amico Bio is definitely worth a try. Also check out their Valentine’s Menu.


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