Al Saggio deli counter – how to eat well while working from home

Image above: Fabio Settembre with a tray of Porchetta (roast pork)

Working from home has changed the restaurant trade in Chiswick. Restaurants which relied on a crowd of office workers coming in for lunch together have felt their absence but for Fabio Settembre at Al Saggio bistro, the increase in people working from home has not stopped them dropping in, just changed what they want to buy.

“People working at home don’t have time to cook” he told The Chiswick Calendar. “They want to come in and get something nice which they can take back and eat and get on with their work.”

He has expanded the choice at his deli counter, offering a special fresh pasta of the day as well as a range of Italian cheeses and meat, pastries and dry goods.

“I want to do the basics very well” he says, producing a tray of Porchetta from the kitchen below – slowly roasted pork with Mediterranean herbs – for sandwiches.

The fresh pasta special of the day when I called in was Tonnarelli – large spaghetti, fresh egg pasta with classic sep mushrooms and parmesan. For the next day he was preparing Linguine with Burrata and tomato cream and Parmesan blended with basil. Another regular on the menu is Tagliatelle Bolognese.

Fabio is nothing if not flexible. You can eat in, take food away as a ready prepared meal or buy pasta, Parmesan and a jar of home-made sauce and make it yourself.

Image above: Courgette pesto with almonds; Bolognese sauce; Guanciale; Pecorino cheese

When he came to England in 2008 Fabio was surprised how difficult it was to find Guanciale – cured pork cheek. For a proper Carbonara you need cured pork, not smoked, Pecorino (sheep’s) cheese, eggs and black pepper.

As if to underline the point Ben and Massiel came in to the shop (cafe-restaurant-deli – all of the above) looking for Italian ingredients they could not find elsewhere. An Italian and an Ecuadorean living in London, they read about Al Saggio in The Chiswick Calendar newsletter and came and sought out Fabio in search of some home comforts.

They buy the Guanciale and Pecorino for Carbonara, but also they come for the “good Italian coffee and the good customer service – friendly and welcoming” Massiel told me.

(They can’t have been stooges because Fabio didn’t know when I would be popping in!)

Image above: Ben and Massiel 

Among the other Italian delicacies behind the counter you will find Mozzarella from Puglia, Scamorza affumicata (a stretched curd cheese), Pecorino with truffle and Bresaola Carpaccio (strips of extra lean beef rump).

I hadn’t realised Nutella was Italian. (A moment’s thought and an experimental go at pronouncing it with an Italian accent should have been enough, without Googling it). We must be ahead of the curve in our house as we have been happy to spread it on anything that will sit still, for years, but apparently Nutella biscuits are a new thing, brought out last year and not available in supermarkets.

Images above: Nutella biscuits, tinned artichoke hearts, Italian cheeses and Napolitan Sfogliatine

They feature on the grocery shelves, along with wholemeal black rice, particularly suited to seafood, with a lightly nutty texture, and tinned artichoke hearts.

Fabio also makes a range of desserts – home-made Tiramisu to eat in or take away and the little Italian pastries – Napolitan Sfogliatine (filo pastry crescents filled with Ricotta cheese) and Piedmontese Gianduja (filled with a chocolate/hazelnut cream).

Al Saggio is, of course, a member of The Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme and if you wave your card at Fabio, he will give you 10% off, whether you eat in or take food away.

You will find Al Saggio at 130 Chiswick High Rd, Chiswick, W4 1PU

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