Sunday, September 12, 2010

Petersham Nurseries and Tipico Lodigiano

A few months ago I visited the Petersham Nurseries for the first time... and it was wonderful!

The cafe is the handy work of Australian Chef, Skye Gyngell, the backdrop of which is a fully functioning nursery that features all the things you would expect from a nursery - gardening tools, wellington boots, fresh herbs and potted plants, along side a vast range of the unexpected - luxury bath and body products and decadent scented candles!  

The meal we ate was superb. It started with a glass of Petersham rose petal prosecco, featured favorites like osso bucco and pan fried sea bass, was accompanied with a delicate Rose and a full bodied red, and ended triumphantly with deliciously unique range of desserts and cheese.

We were talking about the cheese plate for days after. The cheese was called Tipico Lodigiano, described as a young Parmesan, and was served with something called Mustard fruits. It sparked my interest so much that I goggled it, and found my way to La Ludesana and a meeting with Attilio (Tito) Bergamaschi.

La Ludesana is run by Tito and his wife Helen. They import a select variety of cheese and wine from the Lombardy region of Italy and the Tipico is from a little town called Lodi (which is the town  Tito is from). Tipico Lodigiano actually means 'typical from Lodi'.

After an exchange of emails I purchased a great big wedge of this cheese to share with the friends who had accompanied me to Petersham. Graciously, Tito trekked all the way to North West London to deliver it to me and to chat to me about La Ludesana. 

Tito and Helen are passionate and knowledgeable about their products and the food and wine industry. It's with good reason too, as they both have impressive food CVs. Both  previously worked at La Fromaggerie London, and Tito is now a chef at the Petersham Nurseries. Helen grew up on a farm in New Zealand and her Father was a cheese maker. She previously worked at Jamie Oliver's restaurant Fifteen (it was here that she learned the magic of pairing food with the perfect wine) and she has also worked at the River Cafe.  

Tito described Helens prowess in the cheese arena in detail, attributing her skills to the years of tasting and working with cheese at the above mentioned restaurants and their various trips to Italian farms and vineyards. They have both become adept in identifying the region (and in some cases the particular farm) a cheese comes from, just from the initial taste! Impressive indeed!

We spoke at length about the importance of food seasonality and regionality (i.e. eating locally produced food that is in season). This is something I have come across on many trips to Italy, especially in villages without supermarkets where, if you want to eat, you have to eat whatever is available according to the month you are visiting. Tito and I agreed this was the ideal, however not always practical or convenient in the modern world and in our busy city.  

Despite Tito's expertise and his familiarity with some of London's most respected food establishments, one of his most appealing qualities was his love of simple food - pasta, risotto, bruschetta. In my humble opinion that is the mark of a true foodie - someone who is surrounded by wonderful foods and ingredients and in possession of exceptional food related skills - but who still chooses the simple pleasure of a home cooked pasta and an ice cold glass of beer on a hot day!

I asked Tito a few International Foodie questions and here's how he answered:

IF: 3 things always in your shopping trolley
T: Pasta, Tomato, Garlic (and fresh Herbs)

IF: Signature dish
T: Risotto with Grappa and peas or a courgette bruschetta

IF: Red or white wine
T: Red at the moment

IF: Last supper
T: Pasta with fresh tomatoes, capers and garlic

IF: Starter or dessert
T: Definitely dessert (im a real sweet tooth)

IF: Most important cooking tip?
T: Always make sure food is properly seasoned using salt, pepper, herbs (mostly fresh) and lemon

IF:  Any other food tips?
T: Keep an eye out for Southern Italian wines - especially Sicilian and Sicilian olive oil 

IF: Best way to serve the Tipico Lodigiano?
T: Crumble some of the cheese into chunks and shave some of it as well. It makes for a more pleasant experience when you create a variety of textures. Leave it in the fridge for about 10 minutes just before serving and pair it with green tomato mostarda, or fresh ripe pears or simply with a glass of Prosecco. (NOT crackers!)

It was a thoroughly pleasant meeting that ended with me walking away with the largest, most impressive wedge of cheese you've ever seen! A few weeks later my sister arrived in London for a holiday and to celebrate I took Tito's advice - I crumbled and shaved pieces of the Tipico and served it with a bottle of Scandolera Brut Prosecco. The only bad thing was that it was the beginning of the end of that wonderful wedge of cheese that is 'Typical from Lodi'!

For more information on La Ludesana and their products see or email