Having left Italy for London nearly sixteen years ago, my time in London has partly been spent on a quest to find my favourite foods from when I lived there. And, over time, I had learned to say that London is special because it’s a cosmopolitan city that brings so many cultures and cuisines together that if you can think it, you can find it here… with few exceptions. For example, I thought my much-loved pomelo from my days living in Asia was impossible to find here (I still can’t get a pomelo salad in a Thai restaurant out here!) – until I colleague brought it to the office in January. I thought Roman suppli were impossible to find here – until I found them at the previously-reviewed Taverna Trastevere some months ago. The final hold-out has been Italian cornetti, which I’ve long missed and was convinced I’d never see in London as the market is more than dominated by French croissants… until now. I couldn’t believe my eyes or my taste buds, but I have found authentic Italian cornetti in London!
Before I continue, let me explain the difference between a French croissant and an Italian cornetto, and why I think the latter is so special. Unlike a French croissant, and Italian cornetto has far less butter: when you’ve held one in your hand, there is no greasy residue. The texture is less flaky, the fillings can be similar (plain, chocolate, jam) but can also vary significantly (cream, pistachio). For example, my favourite and most difficult to find variety is the cornetto integrale con miele: this is a cornetto that is made of whole wheat flour, and the inside filling is honey. When you can find one that’s served hot? Wow.
So, I had seen Saporita in Holborn preparing to open a few weeks in advance (I later learned they have a smaller branch near St. Paul’s), so I popped in mostly out of curiosity. I was pleased to see the minimalist, clean decor with little modern touches, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see all of my favourite Italian foods! They had arancini, suppli‘ (always a good sign when a business makes the important distinction between these two), sfogliatelle, and yes: Italian cornetti!
I cannot fully express the emotion I experienced upon seeing this – especially my favourite cornetto integrale con miele! I make no exaggeration when I say that upon tasting these flavours I have so longed for, I shed tears of joy. That warm, sweet taste of honey in that aromatic, warm cornetto, I was transported instantly back to my days living in Italy, that daily breakfast of cornetto e capuccino, or those late nights out in my younger days when I’d come home at 4 or 5 am and the bakeries were selling those first warm cornetti just out of the oven. And therein lies the magic of food, even in the most simple kinds: the pleasure and joy and the way it can transport you to entirely different places and times. It’s magical, really.
Now, once I realised what a special discovery I had made, I went to town and ordered a lot of treats – and there is lots to choose from, with beverages, breakfast, lunch and pastries to choose from:
Of course, I had coffee – how could I resist the appeal of a properly made, traditional Italian coffee? And naturally, it was just like back in Italy: so delicious that I had both an espresso as well as a cappuccino.
Beyond the cornetto, I enjoyed a mini sfogliatella, which was so aromatic that I could smell the fragrant oranges used in its making. As a proud Sicilian, I had to put the arancino to the test as well and chose the delightful, cone-shaped looking variety made with ragu‘ with peas… yes, this too was authentic and delicious. But how is this possible?
I was fortunately able to have a chat with one of the owners, and I learned that the reason that these foods taste just like they do in Italy is because they are actually made in Italy. Remember that amazing cornetto integrale I enjoyed? It was made in Naples. Same with the sfogliatella. They are using an innovative technology that allows them to ‘freeze’ these dishes when they are either part-way or completely cooked in Italy in a way that doesn’t allow the water particles to separate and affect the flavour.
I will certainly be coming back for more – it is my mission to try the full menu! I’m so grateful Saporita has opened that I’ll be sharing this place with all my Italian friends who will no doubt be as appreciative as I am for this discovery.
*Calories: The arancino was about 230 calories. Espresso is zero calories; cappuccino approximately 90-120. My variation of cornetto (integrale con miele) is about 180 calories. (Worth noting French croissants are typically over 300!)
Food taste: 4.5 / 5 (Authentic. Delicious. Magic in a bite. )
Food/table presentation: 3.5 / 5 (Bare, yet clean, minimalist. Nice little touches of Italian modern design, such as with the coffee spoons or sugar bowls.)
Service: 4 / 5 (Friendly Italians at the bar I could speak to in Italian, it was nearly like walking up to a coffee bar back in Italy.)
Atmosphere/decor: 3.5 / 5 (Average; the venue isn’t designed to host people to sit for the long term. It’s rather simple and again, fairly bare. In some respects it’s almost unfair to judge them on this as if they were a proper restaurant: this isn’t their business model, and I’ve compensated for it in the score.)
Value for money: 4.5 / 5 (A single espresso for 1.80 GBP and the same for a genuine Italian cornetto, here in London without needing a flight to Rome? Yeah, that’s pretty great value for money.)
Overall rating: 4 / 5