La Salumeria Update

This time last year I was really worried about La Salumeria. The family-run business which seems to have been on Trafalgar Road since at least the Ark was up for sale and I had visions of it becoming yet another dodgy estate agent.

There are few things we have to thank the downturn in the economy for, but the family being unable to sell the business and choosing instead to refurbish and relaunch is something I’m frankly very pleased about, even if it does mean no retirement for the older guy in there.

It was a mildly anxious time while the delightfully crusty deli updated itself. In came new shiny metal bars in the ceiling – just check them out at the moment – they’re jostling with a mass of fancy boxes, cellophane and ribbon as the seasonal rush of panettone-chomping begins. In came new window displays and shelf-orders; out went that slightly grubby-looking chainlink curtain.

I’m very pleased to see that they haven’t gone down the route of modern delis which just display a few top-price boutique items in a ‘contemporary’ minimalist way. I want to walk into an Italian deli and see a riot of colour – of cans with strange designs, the contents of which I have no idea, but I’ll take a chance on just because I like the picture of the jolly peasants or the art-deco fish on the front. Of packets of dried things that may or may not be pasta. Of jars of paste and bags of vacuum-packed sausages. Of boxes of sweeties and tins of biscuits in papery cases you can roll up and set fire to after dinner for no other reason than it’s fun…

The last wraps to come down were at the back. Turning the shop into yet another cafe in Trafalgar Road is a gamble – but let’s face it, the back wasn’t doing much as it was – a few bottles of wine and extra packets of stuff that I never really got round to buying.

It’s now a simple, bright little area which serves very good (as one might expect from Italians) coffee, but I wanted to see what else they served.

I’m guessing that the same re-heating rules that cramp Royal Teas style also apply to La Salumeria, though I doubt there’d be any room for proper cooking anyway. They do soup and whatever pasta / main-course-y dishes they sell behind the counter, re-heated at the back.

Re-heated pasta isn’t always wildly successful, and I confess that my basic pasta shells-with-sauce were a bit rubbery. But my companion declared her lasagna to be very tasty, so perhaps the more elaborate the basic dish, the less you notice the bits that don’t reheat too well. I noticed (too late for that particular lunch) that they do paninis, so I’ll give them a go next time.

But La Salumeria had an ace up its sleeve.

Tiramisu.

Yes – that stalwart of 1980s dinner parties, turned by non-Italians into a sad, dry little sponge-and-cream apology with a spot of brandy waved over the top if you were lucky, never actually went ‘out’ in classic Italian cookery, and the one they serve at La Salumeria is really very good indeed. Lots of everything – coffee, custardy-cream, spongey bits and Marsala, splodgy and sloppy – and absolutely delicious.

As a lunchtime caff, I’d say that it’s not the best in the street. But as a place for coffee and a bowl of naughty Italian pud, it’s unbeatable. If you can’t stop to eat in, you can also buy the Tiramisu to take away.


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