Now, I certainly don’t want to encourage emotional eating but I’m also not self-righteous enough to condemn it when the stress levels hit boiling point. We’ve all had those days: friends that pester, colleagues who whinge, clients who complain, or heck, even just random strangers who lack those common social etiquettes can drive me bonkers. All those things make me shamefully inhale that packet of crisps at 11am or that Snickers bar at 3pm. If that still doesn’t help, I go for the big guns – a big ol’ bowl of noodles or pasta.
I’m not fussy about which of those carb-heavy comforts rush to my rescue, as long as one is in front of me at dinner time, I’ll survive. So after a particularly long and arduous day in the office, no one was happier to walk through the recently refurbished doors of Venerdi than I was, especially when smacked in the olfactics with such sublime aromas! I won’t lie, a double dose of Aperols (joys of the Happy Hour) arriving within minutes of me sitting down, perked me right up too.
My mood improved even more with the arrival of calamari fritti, zucchini fritti, and a plate of buttery scallops. The latter was definitely the more sophisticated of the dishes, and I liked the contrast it provided. Plump scallops bathing in a butter sauce and topped with sage is neither new nor complicated but therein lies its beauty. I would have liked a little more caramelisation on the scallops themselves but otherwise they were great in this tried and tested combination.
Fried goods are also high on my list of comfort foods, could you tell? Of the two fritti, I preferred the calamari. The batter was light and crisp, while the squid itself remained tender which is exactly the balance you want. The zucchini started off well but as we made our way towards the bottom of the bowl, I started to notice a lingering greasy taste, which is exactly what you don’t want. Part of my problem was probably the fact they were so bloody moreish; I’m inspired to whip out my spiralizer and make my own batch to nibble on next time I need to self-medicate with fried foods.
As can so commonly happen at Italian restaurants, we were inundated with main options at Venerdi. I was perversely relieved that I arrived with the need to emotional-eat and a hankering for pasta because that saved us from negotiating the mammoth range of pizzas, proper secondi dishes such as the grilled lemon sole or pan roasted duck breast, as well as the myriad of pastas. Although, narrowing it down to two dishes was still a challenge and we were grateful our exceptionally helpful waitress chimed in with a couple of her favourites.
We finally settled on one of her suggestions, the linguine pescatore and one that we both agreed sounded unctuous and tasty, the wild boar tagliatelle. This was exactly the kind of thing that replenishes one’s meat-loving soul; a straight up serving of pasta coated in a hearty sauce and nothing else. The thought of eating wild boar shouldn’t put anyone off, and when combined with all the usual suspects like celery, carrots, tomatoes and red wine, their sweetness injects life to this rich, nutty meat. If I were serving this at home, I might have felt the need to serve extra vegetables alongside it but in a restaurant, that seemed an insult to the Italian way.
That was a splendid dish but the linguine pescatore just had a little more pep and freshness to it, and was undoubtedly our favourite. Being adorned with a succulent assortment of seafood definitely helped get it over the line too. I have a slight aversion and intolerance to mussels but even I couldn’t resist one that had been soaked in that tomato sauce, and I naturally couldn’t stop myself from devouring the clams, king prawns, and langoustine. The further in we dived, the more I found myself imagining I was somewhere on the Italian coast and definitely not smack bang in the middle of Chatsworth Road in Hackney!
By this point in our evening, Venerdi was absolutely full to the brim and so were we but there would always be room for dessert. We shared a chocolate fondant which was sadly not quite as gooey in the centre as we would have hoped but still all the decadence we expected – a solid end to the meal. Between the deep fried delights, the humungous helpings of pasta, and the final sweet treat, all my frustrations from the day disappeared and instead I was left wishing I lived a little closer or had a Venerdi in my neighbourhood. It would certainly come in handy for all those days when a good bowl of pasta is just what the doctor would prescribe!
What’s your favourite comfort food?
Thank you to Venerdi for saving my day with a big ol’ bowl of comforting pasta, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!
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