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Tealight visited L’Anima, one of London's best southern Italian restaurants across two dates, with us lucky enough to spend a few hours with Lello and Adriano, enjoying flowing conversation over lunch (pasta of course) and a second visit for tasting various dishes and photographs.
We hope our article and pictures show you the fantastic foodie journey we were taken on by Lello & the L'Anima team.
Antonio Favuzzi or better known as “Lello” was originally born in Sardinia and has been in London for 14 years. His diners are lucky enough to benefit from his 3 influential regions of Southern Italy in his childhood and cooking: born in Sardinia, Mum from Sicily and Dad from Puglia.
From a very young age, Lello fell in love with food and cooking, whether it was with the culinary school or at home he was really into cooking. Spending his weekends at his family’s farm making pizzas, bread, this is where his passion started, with his family members all sharing the same passion for food.
A man of Lello’s awareness of ingredients doesn’t just focus on that, he incorporates produce from North such as Truffles, and in his own words, “being Italian means he has to be able to use and cook from any part of Italy, but of course favours Southern Italy”. What became clear was how nice it must be to work with Lello, talking over a bowl of pasta, he explained he’s bought truffles from San Pietro a Pettine, Umbria, Northern Italy for the last 10 years and has a great relationship.
During our time together Lello produced 5 dishes of sensational food with incredible ingredients and nod to his desire to incorporate the UK’s great seasonal produce into his menus, using local fish, vegetables, berries whatever is in season.
What stood out was how passionate Lello & Adriano were about sourcing food and drink ingredients to avoid the overused. For example, removing Burrata from L’Anima’s menu and opting to use Stracciatella (the inside of the Burrata) instead to sourcing Pure Sardinia’s Wild Mirto and Wild Gin instead of just opting for just another well known Gin brand.
But all through talking of the UK’s ingredients, sourcing methods we never stray too far from his roots. We talk about the dish on his menu that summaries the 3 Southern Italy regions which influenced him most. “The dish on our menu to summarise where I’m from is Gnocchetti Sardi Malloreddus, this covers 3 regions, Sardinia, Sicily and Puglia”
“The shapes and gnocchi are really famous, they were born in Sardinia. And bottarga, that’s the fish. For the pasta sauce, I put Mazzara prawns from Sicily, and then I have Granoarso which is a flower, famous in Puglia”.
I asked Lello about one of his and the Team’s favourite dishes at the restaurant, one that he really cherishes and it’s his Lobster broth. It’s been a dish, even MasterChef really want, because it’s very complicated, but the contestants succeeded cooking it, every chef is proud to do that dish. It takes 2 days, you need to do the broth, then clarify, then achieve the balance between the lemon and the chilli, and then on top you need to do the eggless pasta, with the stuffing inside, this particular shape almost Asian style, so it’s quite new, its modern, all the Chefs are really into it. They want to succeed but it’s very easy to screw up. It’s one of the best sellers, it became an icon of this restaurant.
We spoke about where Lello likes to eat on days off and how Japanese and Chinese cuisines follow Italian very closely. For a real taste of authentic culture he’d rather go to local type restaurants, which are not very well known, rather than going to a place to be seen, opting for a decent pizza in his neighbourhood. As Adriano reminds us perfectly why we're here - it’s a question about going out to eat due to the love of food, not to be seen somewhere.
Talking of being seen, you may have seen Lello on Masterchef. He was so very well received by the press and the general public, the interested generated so much traffic that L’Anima’s website apparently crashed.
You have to spend just a few moments with Adriano and Lello to understand why they are so likeable. Everything is about the food and everything is about passion.
L’Anima, Soul in Italian, opened in June 2008 after an Italian-American Mr. Murano had the idea to bring high-quality Italian cuisine to the heart of London’s financial district. Boasting the same Architects as Armani’s shops and Princi’s four bakeries, three in Milan, one in London (go, if you haven’t been already), L’Anima is a great place to go on a food adventure.
Lello recalls a City where there were very few restaurants 8 years ago, no Sushi samba, no Galvin, name anyone, there was no big restaurant players here, Lello repeats. In the first two years of opening L’Anima were so busy, they had to increase capacity by 30%. One of the first restaurants to follow suit was Galvin, who L’Anima have a very strong relationship with - perhaps through mutual objectives of trying to bring fine cuisine from respective nations to London? Lello then explains more big hitters arriving, Dan Doherty in Sushi Samba, Hawksmoor and more restaurants, but he proudly remembers being one of the first, if not the first pioneers of fine dining in the City.
Throughout the first few years L’Anima trialled opening times, but L’Anima soon realised opening at weekendsin the City was not sustainable. And, for the benefit of Londoners, Lello now offers his Saturday mornings up to host L’Anima’s cooking classes on Italian Cuisine, which have been sell-out success since he started them. Fully booked for the rest of the year Lello and Adriano nod proudly.
Lello now offers his Saturday mornings up to host L’Anima’s cooking classes on Italian Cuisine, which have been sell-out success since he started them.
With Lello and Adrianno at the helm, you can see why L’Anima’s cooking classes work so well. Lello tells me he keeps it fun, “go on twitter, you’ll see the picture of cooking class, they come back to us and they did something that we explained, and they say look, that’s quite cool. Next week they tweet us something they learned at L’Anima’s cooking classes”.
Having dined at L’Anima as a paying customer a few months previous, I’m asking questions by this point I know the answers to.
I asked Adriano how he’d describe the service style; Probably fine dining but he is quick to comment. If you look at Restaurants over the last 10yrs, service has changed. You had fine dining which was a stiff service, minimal communication with the guests but today Michelin stars have been awarded to more relaxed atmospheres.
Today’s customers, even if spending large amounts, don’t necessarily expect stiff service, they want a more friendly service. As with any self-respecting restaurant, L’Anima are able to deliver both adjusting to the type of customer that happens to walk through the door. Typical clientele ranges from busy and rushed City workers who are in and out in under 1.5hrs to the evening guest enjoying L’Anima as a destination restaurant with people celebrating special occasions.
Adriano and his team’s service begins as you enter the stylish front door, conversing with the waiting staff and management, with a visit from Adriano and/or Lello if you are lucky enough.
What really caught my attention about L’Anima’s approach was the core team they have in place. Adriano and Lello know they can rely on people in their team to maintain the standards in their absence. They talk freely about switching service styles based on hints dropped from guests mirroring such hints in the service style. L’Anima’s team really is the heart of the operation and we have been welcomed right into it across our two visits.
The conversation circles back to how L’Anima has been successful because of the close working of these teams, creating a fun and happy place to be for the staff which translates into happy customers. It’s becoming more common, but Lello reiterates how he asks his Sous Chef to visit the tables and speak to customers to learn their feedback and make them feel part of the operation. After all, there are few better ways for people who care about food as much as you and I to finish a meal and discuss cooking techniques, ingredients and the meal with people as talented as Lello and his team in the kitchen.
I have just booked to take a colleague to L’Anima for the first time, and I’m not sure who is more excited, me, as I know what to expect, or him, as he has no idea.
This place is a favourite of ours in London and will remain so for a long time.
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L'Anima Restaurant Website