Today I am taking you to “La Polenteria”, a small cozy and cool restaurant, for an experience of pure love.
Passion for good food, healthiness, a touch of tradition and the modern fusion cuisine are the main ingredients of La Polenteria, a 100% gluten free restaurant located in the heart of Soho.
I met Gabriele, the owner of the place and the one who, in 2014, has decided to start with this adventure. I asked him how he came up with the idea of opening a “Polenteria” in London and what it is all about.
“The idea of opening La Polenteria came to my mind in 2009, during a Sunday lunch with my family. I don’t know how, but I suddenly said: <I want to open a Polenteria in London!.
Polenta has not only been part of my diet but also of my culture, all my life. In fact, it is a very common and well-known dish, part of the tradition of where I am from, a town in the very North of Italy. Back in the days, Polenta, for us, meant friendship, family, hours spent together eating and chatting… And it is still like that.
I thought it would have been nice to bring this food to London, a city I have loved from day one, back in June 2001 when I moved here. When I met Silvio, my now business partner, we discovered we had the same aim and so, together, we built what is now La Polenteria. Combining tradition with such a cosmopolitan, culturally rich and modern city has been a dream come true experience”.
What’s the concept behind?
“Polenta was not a common dish in London, so given the traditional surrounding, I thought it could be a good idea to have it discovered and appreciated also here.
It is a very healthy food, which can be combined with literally everything, whether sweet and savoury. It is a very flexible food with endless possibilities.
We decided to be “100% gluten free food concept” and that has been a clear strategic decision to position ourselves in the healthy food category which shows a double-digit growth every year.
But this decision was not only driven by the business opportunity but mostly by our pleasure to combine the Italian tradition with healthy food. It has been a fantastic challenge to treat gluten free food, particularly gluten free flours to achieve the very good quality of both our pasta and ravioli.
Behind the concept there is lots of work, lots of trials and lots of passion and love for food with the aim to deliver a truly unique experience to our customers”.
“We aim to serve food to many categories of people. I have noticed that typically our age range is between 25-45 which I deem absolutely consistent with our concept. Women prevailing over men and again, I deem this consistent because, statistically wise, they are usually more aware of the importance of eating healthy.
Of course we see many gluten intolerants, some of them hardly believing we are 100% GF. I see they are relieved by the opportunity to eat everything without fearing cross contamination.
We also have many Vegan and Vegetarian customers since our menu has a wide range of options for them.
Talking other categories we welcome local business employees for a quick but tasty lunch or an afternoon break, pre and post theatre and of course all the “Londoners” who come every day to the lively and trendy quarter of Soho.
During the weekend then, the presence of tourist increases significantly”.
Why “eating healthy” seems to have become so important to people nowadays?
“Simply because people are becoming aware that our body needs to be treated respectfully. We need it to keep going for the duration of our life so better treat it well. Food is the main way to treat it well, to ensure it works properly”.
“As the owner of the Restaurant, I can say this is a tough question: to me, they are all good! I personally tasted and picked all of our dishes together with the head chef, selecting them amongst others as double as the once currently displayed in our menu.
All of our menu options follow some basic guidelines, combining tradition with a modern/fusion touch, good flavour without being too much or too spicy, healthy without renouncing to the taste. That has been more difficult for the vegan ones, but the result is very satisfying.
All of our dishes should bring a smile to every customers and leave a smile on them once they leave.
I may say, though, that my favourite dishes of the current menu are our home made ravioli and polenta with sausages. The latter is also amongst the most popular with our costumers.
Polenta gnocchi, our invention, is very well appreciated too”.
Why people should come to La Polenteria?
“There are really many reasons why people should come to have their dinner at La Polenteria. We have to say that not only we are the first place in London where polenta is the “protagonist” of the menu, but we are the first and only Italian restaurant that is 100% GF in London; we are also
accredited by the Coeliac UK association so in a way we have a strong bond and commitment towards our customers.
Commitment to deliver fresh, home made, traditional food. Commitment to be transparent and honest with ingredients, allergens, which are fully displayed on our menu.
In short, we are a unique place, able to welcome people wishing to try a food of the Italian tradition or people who have food intolerances.
Our aim, is also to raise awareness amongst people about how important it is living by healthy standards. We want people to understand that “free from gluten” or other allergens, doesn’t mean having to renounce to a good meal out with our loved one or having a different life style”.
64, Old Compton Street,
London, W1D 4UQ