Ladies & Gentleman: il Cudega

An interesting emporium with Lombardy gastronomy (and more) wins over the East End of London

11-01-2016

Luca Gaggioli and Giovanni Brighi, opened Il Cudega last September in London Fields, Hackney, address Arch 358-Westgate street, "a deli, wine bar and restaurant of Lombardy cuisine", (telephone  +44.(0)20.72416599, open tuesday to sunday 9-18h). The name comes from the colourful Milanese dialect expression  which means 'pork scratching' (photo Anteater PR)

Years ago the East End of London was not exactly a destination of interest, let alone for food related reasons. Fast forward to today and things have changed a fair bit. Around the green area of London Fields, not far from the picturesque Columbia Road Flower market, Broadway and Netil markets every Saturday attract tourist and locals alike with street food and independent boutiques. It is here that Giovanni Brighi, born and bred in Lombardy, has lived for 20 years and has seen first-hand what people lament as the gentrification of the area.

35 diners inside and up to 50 outside in a courtyard and private events space

35 diners inside and up to 50 outside in a courtyard and private events space

Yet a positive aspect of such process is the recent opening (end of September) of il Cudega, a Lombard gourmet shop. Housed in one of the railway arches, the vast space has been cleverly utilised to host what is part deli, part bistro, where is possible to enjoy a glass of good wine as well as pick up some quality groceries and taste an authentic risotto. Did London really need another Italian restaurant? We believe so, as Lombardy cuisine is less known perhaps than some of its more famous peers (Apulia’s food for example has become very popular in the last year or so).

This is the perfect chance to get to know more about the regional food heritage here in London. Cheeses and charcuterie at il Cudega are chosen carefully, mostly from organic and Slow Food farms, and all from areas such as Lodigiano (the robiola we tried was fantastic) and usually small producers; the same goes for the wines and bubbles on their drinks’ list. However, the extra virgin olive oil is from Liguria, the pasta is from Gragnano, the coffee is from Verona, to testify that to pick the best they are happy to go to the rest of Italy’s regional heritage. The focaccia is freshly baked and so fragrant, and served with enthusiasm by the young chef Paolo Elesbani; chatting to him, we found out that some of the cheese come from his family’s farm.

Carpaccio celtico at Il Cudega

Carpaccio celtico at Il Cudega

There’s a great, warm atmosphere at il Cudega, and it’s immediately obvious that Giovanni, Luca and the rest of the team really care for their food and their products and are keen on everyone appreciating them as best possible. And they rightly take pride in their offering. Giovanni worked in the city for years then gave it up to do something different, more creative perhaps, and with long standing friend Luca jumped into this new adventure. Without forgetting the area they belong to: 10% of profits will go towards local community’s projects. 

Having ‘met’ them on Instagram (bricks, paint and nails since the beginning, taking shape little by little), it is surprising to hear from Giovanni that he was never interested in social media, but while waiting for the licences, he got into it to kill time. And we’re glad he did, as by the time they finally opened, there was quite a crowd wanting to try this corner of Lombardy in the East End.


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