Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Italian fiesta at Presto

Before we move on the culinary highlights of my recent trip to Greece and Albania, let's make a quick stop in Italy in the form of Festa di Ferragosto I was invited to join last week at restaurant Presto in Helsinki.

Ferragosta is a celebration based on sharing love and food. While many restaurants in Helsinki have, in recent years, built their menus around "plates to share", not many actually have enough on them to share. No such worries here!

Good Italian restaurants are hard to find in Helsinki - much like the Chinese (for my pick, please see here!) and I'm not ashamed to admit my skepticism. Remember The Italian I introduced to you on the blog at last year's crayfish extravaganza? So was he. So I took him with me give his professional verdict on the authenticity. 

Location is spot on, smack in the middle of the city.

We kicked off the Italian fiesta with antipasti platter (mozzarella, coppa ham, Barolo salami, marinated olives and artichokes and bocconcini with a dreamily rich pesto Trapanese). Sharing is caring - including of your wallet. With 4 persons sharing this, it's only €10 a head. Worth every last cent of it, I'll tell you.

Essentially Italian food is rather simple, really showcasing the quality of the ingredients, which is evident here. They import their own charcuterie and one day even hope to make their own mozzarella. Oh, and if mozzarella is your thing, you should check out their mozzarella bar where you can sample different kinds of mozzarellas with variety of sides (marinated anchovies? Prawns? Air-cured Northern Italian beef?)

So, what did The Italian have to say? "Ooh". And "aah". And "this is Italia, no doubt about it!"

They do have some pizzas on the menu, too (as that's just what you have to do in Finland...) but that will never be their emphasis, we were told. They're genuinely passionate about Italian food - the man behind their kitchen is a life-long Italy fan and the author of a sold out book on it. 

Next we feasted on pasta and risotto.

Guanciale al'Amatriciana (guanciale bacon, tomato sauce and fresh Casarecce pasta) was every bit as comforting as you'd think. And helloooo, guanciale? The star ingredient of any proper Carbonara? Yess.

Our favourite (hardly surprising remembering my obsession with seafood...) was Spaghetti al Crostacei, black spaghetti with seafood in a tomato sauce spiked with red chillies. At this point the "aahs" and "oohs" were all mine. 

Risotto ai Funghi & pesto di pistacchi was intensely fragrant. The wild mushrooms all locally sourced, too. They really don't do short cuts over here: mushroom stock, the base of the risotto, is being simmered for 26 hours at 60. The earthiness of the pistacchio pesto complimented the flavours of the risotto so very nicely. However, it was also the weakest link of the dinner: for our taste it was simply too dense. Reason for that, though, is the need to accommodate the tastes of Finnish diners: they simply won't go for the creamily loose Italian style of serving risotto. 

While we definitely weren't hungry, we couldn't pass on their home-made gelatos either. Pistacchio and black currant- both sublimely rich. Dolce vita, peeps. Dolce vita.

Emphasis of the wine list is in the Northern part of Italy. Majority of them are available by the glass and the recommendations are amusingly classified under the categories "the good stuff" and "the slightly better stuff". 

Evening was a hit. Delicious food, good wine... based on the laughter (ok, there were some tears too, but hey, that's life!), lively conversation, sharing of our favourite memories of Italy (and some risotto tips!)... you wold have been forgiven for thinking we were actually in Italy  ♥  

For more restaurants worth visiting in Helsinki, just see here!

* The dinner and the photos were provided by Restaurant Presto





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