Did you know that Italy currently produces more wine than any other country in the world?
According to the most recently available figures around 21% of the world’s wine exports originate in Italy, against 19% each for France and Spain, 8% for Australia and 6% each for Chile and the United States of America.
By a pleasant coincidence Italy also happens to be the home of the pizza. Despite the tenuous claims of various Mediterranean and Middle Eastern nations and the admittedly impressive volumes now consumed across the pond, pizza is as naturally associated with Italy as sauerkraut is with Germany or paella with Spain.
So it is natural to enjoy a pizza with a good wine.
Eco Restaurant is a popular Clapham restaurant that boasts not only the tastiest and healthiest pizzas for miles around but also some of the finest wines commonly available.
Whether your taste is for sparkling or still, red or white, sweet or dry, Italian or non-Italian – this finest of Clapham Old Town restaurants has something for you to enjoy alongside some of the most wonderful food that you will find anywhere in South London.
One of the particular favourites is a classic Pinot Grigio Principato 2008, a fresh Italian dry white with gentle floral and citrus aromas. This fine wine is available by the glass as well as by the bottle.
Another star turn is the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene NV, for that special occasion or even just for the sheer fun of it. Orignating from the Veneto region of northern Italy, this wonderfully fruity sparkling wine combines ripe pear aromas with crisp green apple flavours to provide a refreshing and lasting experience.
For those who like something different there is the Doricum Cattaratto, Santa Eufamia 2008 from Sicily, light and crisp with a flavour of orange and almond.
A pizza seems almost made to be partaken of with a good bottle of wine, although the range of beers, spirits, coffees and soft drinks available at Eco Restaurant in itself leaves one spoilt for choice.
It is the combination that makes the experience particularly special, and a pleasant and nourishing evening meal at Eco one that you will remember for a very long time.
It is perhaps a tad bizarre that no matter which culture we look to, almost anywhere in the world, the “starter” forms an integral part of the dining experience.
Of course when we eat at home, often with our plate on our laps and the television commanding our attention, we will content ourselves with a sole course of whatever it is we have cooked up. But in a restaurant, when we are enjoying a meal with family or with friends, the starter portion is somewhat obligatory.
In our cosmopolitan age the starter is known by many names. The hors d’oeuvre is the French version, although it can differ in the sense that it frequently includes the pre-meal nibble, such as the canapé, which can be taken standing up, alongside a drink and in conversation, or even instead of a main course of food.
In some other Western societies the starter is referred to as an entrée, although confusingly in some parts of North America the same term is in some cases used to describe the main meal. Where this is the case the starter is often called an “appetizer” in order to differentiate it from the main course entrée.
The Italian antipasto on the other hand has a much more precise and formal application. Usually comprising cured meats, cheeses and olives, antipasti (the plural of antipasto) represent the official beginning of the meal and are invariably served when one is seated at the table.
At Eco, one of the most respected Clapham North restaurants, a long and varied, not to mention impressive, list of antipasti have pride of place on the menu. Seafood, bruscetta, duck vermicelli and tortellini to name just a small few. Invariably they give us a tantalising hint of the high-quality cuisine that we can expect when the main course arrives.
As in all good restaurants in Clapham the diner can expect that every bit as much attention will be paid to the quality and presentation of the antipasti as will be to the scrumptious main course that every customer comes along to enjoy.
A good meal out should be a civilised, unhurried experience. With good wine and good company it can be an occasion to remember, in an atmosphere to savour.
Everybody knows what a pizza is. But mention the word “calzone” and expect dumb blank looks from all but the most dedicated aficionados of Italian cuisine.
Literally translated, calzone means “stocking” or “trouser”. But this is not a cause for undue concern, what a calzone really is is a folded pizza stuffed with all the ingredients more usually associated with the conventional item. The calzone is folded before it is cooked, encasing the goodness of the ingredients within.
Sometimes the calzone has its practical advantages. Italian street vendors sell them, often quite small in size, to be eaten by people on foot whilst walking or standing still.
Although strictly Italian in origin, different nationalities have produced their own variations upon the theme. In the United States the emphasis is very much on cheese as the primary or even the sole ingredient, and any sauce is provided on the side as a dip.
In Scotland calzone is sold in kebab shops filled with doner or shish meat, usually accompanied by a generous helping of onions. Legend has it that it is sometimes flambéed with a dash of Scotch whisky.
When it comes to ingredients, pretty much anything goes. Anything, at least, that one might associate with the more conventional flat open pizza. At Eco restaurant, home of the Clapham pizza, calzone is available with chicken and green chilli, goat’s cheese and zucchini, and aubergine and red pepper, as well as in the traditional ham and mozzarella form with mushrooms and garlic.
Also available from this noted Clapham pizza restaurant is the simple folded pizza, available in delicious chicken and ham, mozzarella and avocado, or ham and mozzarella.
As the world becomes a smaller place and we all become increasingly familiar with the subtleties of world cuisine, it is reassuring, not to mention very convenient, to be able to find that world on our doorstep and to enjoy all that it offers us.
Imagine a drink – an innocent, non-alcoholic beverage – the impact of which on society was so potent that its consumption was banned by a once-mighty empire in the hope that insurrection and revolution could thereby be avoided.
Murad IV was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire between the years 1623 and 1640. He was, by all accounts, something of a worrier. Today we would probably describe him as seriously paranoid.
Legend has it that he was oft given to patrolling his realm in disguise, so that he could overhear what members of the public were saying about him. It is said that on one occasion he wandered into a tavern and observed his subjects as they sang and were merry as they became progressively more intoxicated.
He then happened upon a coffee house, where he overheard the sober citizenry therein complaining about life in the Empire and indeed about Murad IV.
The solution suggested itself to him in a blinding flash. He would ban coffee. The coffee houses of Istanbul were closed down and those discovered consuming it in defiance of his orders would be beaten. Anybody unwise enough to offend a second time would be sewn into a leather bag and thrown into the Bosphorous. Which seems fair enough, bearing in mind they had already been warned.
Today we take a slightly more relaxed view about the whole thing, and coffee is enjoyed as a stimulant and in its own right as a good-tasting, refreshing drink.
Although it has its roots in Ethiopia coffee found its way into Europe via Italy. This is why wherever in Europe we happen to be most of the options available in coffee houses and restaurants have a revealingly Mediterranean sound to them – mocha, americano, latte, macchiato, cappuccino, motta and expresso to name a few.
The Eco Restaurant in Clapham Common is a place where a nice cup of coffee is always to be found, along with a selection of teas, wines, spirits, soft drinks and liqueurs – including, of course, some of the finest liqueur coffees.
They can all be enjoyed without fear of drowning.
Most people would agree that the explosive growth of ethnic cuisine in the United Kingdom over the past four decades has altered the British culinary experience beyond recognition.
It was within the lifetimes of many of us who are still around today that restaurants invariably served only domestic fare. Without wishing to decry British cooking (a well-cooked roast with all the trimmings can still be a surprisingly enjoyable experience), the lack of variety that was on offer must have been quite depressing for those given to eating out on anything like a regular basis.
One of the first ethnic options to become widely available to diners in the UK was of course Italian. The arrival of ristorantes and trattorias presented Italian food as the Italians prepare it to an audience whose only previous encounter with the genre will often have been with a tin of spaghetti with cheese and tomato sauce from the local convenience store.
Italian cuisine in the UK does actually date back much further than most of us would probably appreciate. The first Italian restaurant was in fact opened by one Joseph Moretti, a Venetian by birth, off London’s Leicester Square in around 1803.
An early café restaurant going by the name of Salvo Jure was opened near Spitalfield Market in 1859, and Bertorelli’s came to Charlotte Street in 1912.
But the real period of growth began in the 1970s, and by 1998 there were around 5,000 Italian restaurants in the United Kingdom, of which some 2,900 were pizza or pasta establishments.
One of the better known eateries in the capital is the Eco Restaurant, one of the fashionable Clapham Old Town restaurants in a desirable part of South London.
Like all good restaurants in Clapham Eco has worked hard to build a reputation for excellence and a growing following of loyal patrons who return frequently to get some more of the sublime Italian cooking that is always on offer.
Eco’s pizzas are specially made with the nutritional health and well-being of the customer always in mind. Only the finest and freshest ingredients are sourced and the final product is always a nutritious and balanced meal.
Eco Restaurant continues in the proud tradition of the pioneers of domestic Italian cuisine in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Now, as then, the aim is always to produce the finest and most wholesome food in a form that is forever an enjoyable and pleasant experience to eat.
There is an old saying about “When In Rome…”, which roughly translated means that one should adapt one’s mannerisms and general behaviour according to the accepted norms of the people into whose natural habitat one happens to have intruded.
The eternal conundrum though is, when in a Clapham pizza restaurant, is one in Rome or in London? Culturally speaking, I mean.
Specifically, if one happens to be somewhere inside the Eco Restaurant, general held to be one of the finest restaurants in Clapham Common, at breakfast time, does one opt for the English or the continental?
The difference could not be more pronounced. The former is a typically generous platter of sausages, bacon, eggs, tomato and mushrooms, with optional ketchup or brown source and often accompanied by a mug of hot tea or coffee.
The latter, on the other hand, is a comparatively light combination of croissants with sundry jams, marmalades and spreads combined with thinly-sliced offerings of meat.
Unbeknown to some, there are further options available with which to satisfy the particularly discerning morning palette. One that particularly catches the eye is called the “pink prosecco breakfast”, which combines a choice of eggs benedict, smoked salmon with scrambled egg or a Full English with a glass of pink prosecco – a refreshing pink sparkling wine.
What the reader may not be aware of is that Eco’s extensive breakfast menu offers all three, and constituent parts thereof, as well as kippers, bruscettas, fruit salads, breads and pastries.
Eco may be a pizza restaurant, but it is so much more than just a pizza restaurant.
So when you are in Clapham, in an Italian restaurant, do you go English or continental? Fried slice or pancetta? Sausage or salami?
Actually, it’s your choice.
Everybody knows that pizza is essentially an Italian dish, notwithstanding the fact that other Mediterranean nations have at various points in time and history produced flatbreads of their own which may have borne a tentative resemblance.
And yet how many people know that several nations have paid the dish the ultimate compliment by inventing their own unique versions and derivatives?
The Australian pizza, otherwise known as the Australiana (yes it’s true!) is usually made by adding bacon and egg to the traditional Margherita, but for those whose wish to go completely ethnic it can sometimes also feature kangaroo, crocodile and emu meats.
In Brazil a version is offered as a dessert which can include banana, pineapple or even chocolate.
The Indian pizza may opt for paneer in place of the conventional Italian mozzarella, and is also available in a tandoori chicken topping.
In Israel a meat-free kosher version is available for those who follow religious dietary observance that forbids the mixing of meat and dairy produce. Some Middle Eastern spices are also added to give the pizza a particularly local flavour.
Local toppings in South Korea can include Bulgogi (a marinated barbecue beef) or Dak galbi (marinated chicken mixed with stir-fry vegetables in a chilli pepper paste).
Spicy chicken and sausage based pizzas are very popular in the eastern regions of Pakistan, although the dish is still relatively unheard of in the west of the country.
Meanwhile in the United States the presence of large Italian and Greek communities has ensured that pizza is a mainstream and popular food, though many local and regional versions have emerged with their own special character.
At Eco Restaurant in Clapham Common meanwhile, traditional Italian pizza remains the order of the day, although pasta, risotto, salads and a whole lot more also adorn the enticing menu. An extensive range of foods and wines are available to a wonderful traditional and cultural experience for all to enjoy.
Clapham is a district of South London, in the London Borough of Lambeth. It is best known for its very large Common (shared with the London Borough of Wandsworth), its lively high street and its historic Old Town.
Clapham appears in the Doomsday Book (as Clopeham) and dates back to Anglo Saxon times. The name is thought to derive from the Old English “clopp” combined with “hamm”, meaning a homestead/enclosure near a hill, and it was originally a small cluster of cottages in what was then a part of Surrey.
The Common contains three ponds and a modern paddling pool. Eagle Pond was refurbished around eight years ago when it was drained, landscaped and replanted. Long Pond has a century old tradition of use for model boating. Both Eagle Pond and Mount Pond are used predominantly for angling and contain a wide variety of popular species.
But to the keen student of history Clapham is about far more than simply a few historic buildings, a vast expanse of grass with some ponds, and some shops. It was in fact the home of the Clapham Sect, led by William Wilberforce, who successfully campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade in the early nineteenth century.
Just around the corner from the Old Town is of course Clapham High Street, a thriving hub of bars, eateries and places to socialise and enjoy refreshments or indeed a more substantial meal. It is here that one will find Eco Restaurant, one of the most popular restaurants in Clapham High Street.
Well known for its innovative pizza school and its support for local schools projects as well as for its healthy, nourishing and delicious food, Eco Restaurant continues to blaze a trail amongst restaurant goers in South London and beyond, and is universally acclaimed as one of the very best Italian restaurants in Clapham.
A canapé is defined by The Free Dictionary as “an appetizer consisting usually of a thin slice of bread or toast spread with caviar or cheese or other savoury food”.
In environments in which alcohol is being dispensed it is often the case that a canapé will be salty or spicy in order to encourage partakers to drink more. It is frequently referred to as a finger food, but although all canapés are finger foods not all finger foods can be called canapés.
The bread used is usually deep fried, sautéed or toasted in order to ensure that it becomes rigid in texture, and toppings can include meat, fish, caviar, cheese, prawns, foie gras, vegetables or indeed almost anything one can think of. The topping in effect forms a “canopy”, hence the name.
There are many derivatives of the canapé with which diners will be familiar. One is the vol-au-vent, a small, circular canapé with a pastry rather than toasted base and delicately filled as opposed to topped with any of the ingredients mentioned. Also of French origin is the amuse-gueule, which translates literally as “gob amuser” but is usually more sensitively referred to as a “palate pleaser”.
The Swedish smorgasbord and the Russian zakuski are said to have been responsible for the addition of many of the less traditional toppings to the array of available canapé options.
A popular form of canapé, though often slightly larger, is the crostini. Crostinis are, literally, “little toasts”, usually slices of French-style bread again topped with vegetables, meats, fish or other such offerings.
It is the crostini in which Eco Restaurant, described by many as the best restaurant in Clapham, specialises. Eco produces a huge range of crostinis including humous and mint, babaganoug (blended aubergine with Tahini and spices), guacamole, spicy red pesto, tuna tartare, beef carpaccio and blue cheese, as well as a disarming selection of wraps and picks. All these are available for collection or delivery.
Eco is more than just a Clapham pizza restaurant. It is truly an entire culinary experience all of its own.
Think of pizza and what ingredients spring immediately to mind?
Of course there are hundreds, possibly even thousands, of additions, toppings and general embellishments that one can use on a pizza to give it a unique appearance and taste.
It has to be said that to the purists there are only two “proper” pizzas – the margherita and the marinara, and the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoltana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association) indeed recognises only these two. The former of course consists of tomato and mozzarella and the latter tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil.
But go to any pizza restaurant today and the choice available will invariably be from a far broader range than the two “original” pizzas about which the anoraks would appear to be so precious.
At the Eco Restaurant – undisputedly one of the best Italian restaurants in Clapham – for example, the menu caters for those who like it hot, those who prefer the taste of fish over meat, or indeed those who are vegetarians. Many of the ingredients used, such as salami, funghi (mushrooms), anchovies and olives, have themselves become established pizza ingredients at more or less any restaurant.
One pizza that has achieved growing popularity is the quattro formaggi (four cheeses). At Eco this is a much ordered dish comprising fontina, bel paese, dolcelatte and mozzarella and finished in a tomato sauce with garlic and olive oil. With more people choosing to adopt a vegetarian diet this is inevitably a combination that is in real demand amongst many customers.
One can rely on the chefs at this prestigious and popular Clapham restaurant to blend the flavours of these unique cheeses to create a taste that is truly to savour.