Review – Amore


EDIT: Amore no longer exists and has been replaced by what looks like a Mexican restaurant (but as of 21/08/2012 that hasn’t opened either).

Amore is a newly-opened Italian restaurant in Dalston with puzzlingly few customers as they serve delicious and good value rustic Italian dishes. (Although, rumour of their dishes may have spread as I spied it almost full yesterday). As the name implies, and the website clearly states, the theme here is romantic – Eros Ramazotti in the speakers, roses on each table, candles lit, dark place. In fact the romance is so exaggerated it must be a little tongue in cheek.

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Puttanesca

Puttanesca is a loaded name for a fiery pasta dish (Meatball and Salted Cod reject imposing stigmas on innocent pasta so won’t develop it more here. But there’s always google…). It is garlicky and rich with anchovies and tomato and has a fiery kick of chili, which blends with saltiness from olives and capers. It was supposedly invented in Naples or Syracuse, and I’ve been told it is good with tuna. In any case it is delicious as it is, makes your kitchen smell like an Italian restaurant and requires very few ingredients (if you substitute the fresh chillies with dry crushed ones it doesn’t require anything fresh, so it’s a good SOS-dish when you’ve got very little at home but all the stores are closed/too far away/it’s raining/can’t afford a take-away/all the local take-aways are overpriced rubbish/don’t fancy another night with packet noodles). In short, it’s a winner. Did we mention it is cheap? It is also super-simple to make, so another recipe for the kitchen-phobes out there.

For 2 persons:

  • 4 heaped tablespoons of olives, roughly chopped (preferably greek calamata but cheaper stuff works too)
  • 2 tablespoons capers (more if you like it salty, less if you want it milder)
  • 1 can peeled plum tomatoes (chopped tomates are also good, but the peeled taste tomatoier)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 anchovies
  • 2 red chillies (or chili flakes to the strength you fancy)
  • Spaghetti or linguine

Start with slicing the garlic cloves thinly, and de-seed and chop your chillies. Fry this together with the anchovies in some oil for a few minutes until their flavours are released and the anchovies dissolve (it smells amazing together) and then add the can of peeled plum tomatoes. Make it simmer, then turn down the heat. Crush the tomatoes with a suitable utensil. After 10 minutes, start making your pasta. When the pasta is almost done, put the tablespoons of olives and capers into the sauce and let them heat up. Drain the pasta and mix it in with the sauce. Done!

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(If you are into your cooking programmes, Meatball and Salted cod can strongly recommend the BBC French food fetishism that is Raymond Blanc: The Very Hungry Frenchman; it goes as well with a large plate of puttanesca as a full-bodied bottle of Primitivo).


Blue cheese fettuccine with leek and walnuts

Blue cheese pasta is a slightly fancier student meal, but for its rich taste and fancy feel it does not cost a fortune to make (this recipe gives you food for 3 people, at £2 each. Although if you’re starving it’s perhaps more suitable for just two). A recommendation is to pick up St Agur when it’s on offer, because it lasts for ages in the fridge. This dish is super-easy to make and you simply cannot fail making it if you follow these instructions.
You’ll need:
  • 1 pack St. Agur blue cheese. Experimenting with other, cheaper blue cheeses is probably a good idea, however I’ve tried making this with english stilton and that was way too bitter.
  • 1/2 leek
  • Fettuccine (or any pasta you prefer, but the sauce works well with long, slingery things)
  • Half tub of creme fraiche
  • A few generous handfuls of walnut kernels
  • Spinach (optional)
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts in water, roughly chopped (optional)
  • Butter for frying
Put water in your kettle and prepare for boiling the pasta (the sauce takes no time to make). Get your guest to start breaking up the walnut kernels if you bought whole ones. Slice the leek and fry it in a knob of butter until it is soft. Add in some spinach (squeeze it if you’re adding frozen one, you don’t want all that water) and make that soft too on medium heat. Turn the heat down and add your creme fraiche until you have a sauce, and then add the roughly chopped cheese and make it melt into the pan. It is important it doesn’t boil, however it needs to melt enough to be smooth and creamy. Add salt to the sauce (remember it should taste a little bit too much when you taste it in the pan, for the pasta spreads it more thinly once it is served). If you fancy artichoke hearts, this is the time to add them into the sauce. Drain the spaghetti when it is done and mix it all together (serving spaghetti and sauce separately is a pet-hate of mine). Serve onto plates immediately and scatter the walnuts kernels on top. Eat!

Amy seemed pleased.


Franco’s – review

9 meatballs out of 10 possible. (9/10)

Might as well be honest from the start, this is an endorsement rather than a review. I first discovered Franco’s as a 19 year old confused intern lost in Shoreditch, falling into its welcoming spaghetti arms like a soft-boiled egg (pardon the food analogy). Back in 2007 interns were paid (shocking, eh?), so I used to get lunch from here as often as I could. Neither the menu nor the prices have changed since. The former is of course a sign of quality, the latter is just… lucky for us poor diners. Food is incredibly good value. If you stick to the pasta dishes and avoid going during their incredibly hectic lunch time, it’s worth the journey from other parts of London.

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On our last visit, I had vongole, which is spaghetti with a creamy sauce of baby clams, white wine, tomato, parsley and a bit of chili. Bathed in parmesan (you get a large bowl on the table) it is sublime. In fact, vongole is so moorish and creamy and baby-clammy that I’ve never ordered any other dish in Franco’s. Mr Meatball had arrabbiata, a tomato and chili sauce with penne. Whilst that sounds plain, its smokey, garlicky aftertaste and fiery kick makes it very tasty. The portions are massive (inducing severe food coma afterwards) and the chefs work behind the counter so you can see them make your food. With a drink each and proper coffee afterwards, the bill came to £13,80 which is very reasonable. Service is nice, and the atmosphere is friendly and unpretentious (a relief given the area). Really, you should go. Right away.

Franco’s, 67 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DU. Old Street or Shoreditch High Street are the closest tube stops.