Being invited to a vegan lunch at Casa Italia was unexpected, great fun and kept on delivering fresh surprises. We thought we might choose one or two items from the menu. We got to sample everything on the vegan menu, and finished it all off with a gorgeous tiramisu. Uriah Hamilton’s poem fits the mood. ‘And how divine to see Italian wine, Or recently baked apple pies, Sometimes I can’t believe my eyes, To be in such a beautiful place…’
WORDS: Jean Hill
We met Bettina Campolucci Bordi at lunch, and she was kind enough to give us a copy of her ‘7 Day Vegan Challenge’ cook-book. Bettina worked closely with Casa Italia’s chefs and helped create a full vegan menu last year. Bettina has now created a limited-edition dessert, tiramisu, which will be available throughout Veganuary. A vegetarian, she does not necessarily recommend a totally vegan diet. Vegans need to factor in B12 vitamin, (naturally found in meat, poultry and dairy, but not in plants). She recommends that we all ‘cook from scratch’ and ensure that we have a balanced, diverse diet. Her purpose is for people to eat more plant-based food, and enjoy the experience. It is soul food that is good for us and the planet.
We were placed on a long table, that reminded me of Italian family meals, filled with lively chatter and laughter. We began with antipasti: pizza bread with pesto, red onion, cherry tomato with rocket and olives. It was fresh, sharp with zingy flavours to wake up the taste buds. Penne pasta, with flamed courgettes, came with amatriciana sauce (usually involves garlic, black pepper and dried chillies). All were carefully chosen to release complementary spicy and herby flavours. It is the freshness and quality of the food that delivers the authentic taste of Italy.
There is a gluten free pizza base option. One of my favourite dishes was simplicity itself (or so it seemed). Oven roasted mushrooms (at high heat), with garlic oil and pesto drizzle deliver a powerful, succulent, concentrated funghi hit. They disappeared in seconds. The Piccante pizza came with vegan chorizo and cheese, with chilli flakes and red, yellow and green peppers artistically scattered on top. Perfectly balanced, pure pleasure; and the pizza base could be a meal in itself, substantial, strong on taste, but light, crusty, and finely baked. We enjoyed Ortolana, with tomato, cheese, olives, capers, and fresh basil. Loved the combination of olives and fresh basil. My companion who never eats olives, was devouring them, and that is impressive.
The tiramisu tasted rich and tipsy, and silken tofu makes a wonderfully light tasting, thick pouring cream, that I liked better than dairy because of the subtle flavour, without any cloying sweetness. We really enjoyed vegan, red wine, that I had never tried before.
I hope to work my way through the vegan cook book, and will enjoy learning new methods and using ingredients differently. Casa Italia remains in the same family: it is original, traditional and much loved in Liverpool. I used to meet a friend there regularly, back in the day. The vegan menu is an innovative departure, and the timing is perfect. People have begun to shift and alter their eating preferences. It is no longer all about the meat, though for some this could be a red (meat) line in the sand.
Bettina’s cook book can be found in large supermarkets, including Tesco. So look out for it. I plan to start with butternut, coconut and ginger soup: winter warming and comforting. And hopefully learn the art of the perfect pizza base. Or failing that, simply book a table for lunch or dinner (favourite option).
Casa Italia: Phone:0151 227 5774
Bettina Campolucci Bordi : www.Bettinaskitchen.com