Named after the famous Italian salt cod, Baccalà brings a new Italian dining experience to London focusing on the finest in seafood, wine and olive oil. We spoke to with Fabio De Nicola and Moreno Polverini all about their brilliant concept.
How did it all start?
We were the two Italians living in Istanbul at the same time and found each other on a gastronomical trip to Italy while we were working for the same restaurant group. Our mutual passion for food and wine as well as our philosophy of life brought us and our families around a dinner table.
The four of us have been enjoying long hours around this table for many years now, cooking and serving each other, friends, and family. Inspired by these long hours, we believed it was time to realize our mutual dream and share our passion for food and wine. We now welcome new friends and family at Baccalà, Bermondsey Street, London, so that many more can enjoy being around our dinner table in a relaxed but still vibrant atmosphere: Baccalà, fun to watch, delicious to eat, offers genuine Italian seafood dishes prepared within your eyesight using local, seasonal, and fresh produce from the sea and the garden.
Why did you decide to focus on seafood Italian style?
It was mainly because of our roots and culture. Growing up in the Marche region along the Adriatic coast of central Italy, in a small town by the sea, Moreno was inspired by the food and wine culture of the locals with a strong emphasis on the sea and the fisherman’s life as well as the tradition of spending long hours with friends and family around a dinner table. Although he experienced every kind of cooking, culture, and ingredients in several parts of the world, his favourite food to prepare is seafood.
Today all our guests represent the friends and family around the dinner table of our youth. His objective is to share and pass on his passion and knowledge hands on to his team to have his friends and family around this table all the time.
Fabio is from Rome with a lifelong interest in the quality food and hospitality industry. He is obsessed with food, wine and culinary arts and engages himself in food, wine, and spirits events in various countries in different continents to be a part of the latest trends in hospitality and to get inspired.
Since his first job in a small independent restaurant in his own town, he realised his passion in serving and entertaining guests. His love for wine made him become a sommelier. After uncorking wines of many different areas, he was impressed by the richness of his roots and decided to share this abundance with his guests who he, like Moreno, cherishes as friends and family. Baccalà was born with the intent of proposing what we like to eat when dining in and out.
Tell us about the special olive oils you use in the restaurant.
Extra virgin olive oil has been a fundamental ingredient in Italian cooking since ancient times. Both of us grew up with parents and relatives who produced evoo for home consumption and each year was a festive period to taste and compare the different products from each family.
Going deeper into it, we realised that there is a huge world to discover when tasting evoo and therefore decided to go and meet people that make artisanal evoo with passion and extremely high care.
Baccalà introduces the EVOO of selected Italian artisanal producers, mostly produced from indigenous olive varieties, often monocultivar (made purely from a single type of olive) to really understand the organoleptic characteristics of each variety and with the aim of pairing them with the food we cook and to enhance the culinary experience.
What is Piccolo Baccalà and how is it different to the dinner experience?
Piccolo Baccalà is our daytime experience on Bermondsey Street serving a selection of small plates and wines, perfect for sharing with friends or colleagues. Baccalà’s casual wine bar ambience, homestyle food, and warm service makes it an ideal place to spend a quiet lunch break, work meeting, or a spot to relax with friends on a late afternoon.
Guests can expect delicious seafood dishes on the menu, which is written on a blackboard, such as: baccalà mantecato (extra virgin olive oil whipped salted cod) served on polenta; tuna tartare with radicchio and balsamic; roasted octopus with baby potatoes and olives; and daily selection of local premium oysters.
When joining us for dinner, you will be introduced to a menu highlighting the same signature dishes as well as other creative seafood options. The main emphasis is still to enhance the true flavour of each ingredient, but we also focus on more elaborated presentation for a refined dining experience.
Your wines are brilliant. Tell us about how you choose the wines for Baccalà?
The journey through all twenty regions of Italy is the core of Baccalà wine, taking you from Valle d’Aosta to Calabria then moving on to the Islands. The wines are selected mostly from small, independent wine producers, who respect and love their territory and share their values of taste, quality, and sustainability. Wine is something that belongs to our culture, and we consider it necessary to complete the dining experience, fulfilling the palate and warming the heart.
At Baccalà our aim with our wine selection is to make our guests discover new varieties and extend their knowledge while enjoying the flavours and relax. Therefore we always research unique wines from small producers, indigenous, unknown varieties, something that first we love to discover ourselves, then pass it on to our guests. Sharing our passion and knowledge for wine is something that our guests love and appreciate, as it is guaranteed that they will always find unique wine for a unique experience.
What wines best pair with your salt cod signature dish?
Pairing wine and food is important to create balance between flavours. This can be done by contrasting tastes and flavors or by amplifying flavour compounds.
Baccalà Fritto is our main signature dish and it’s the trickiest one to pair as it has lots of contrasting flavours. I find it interesting to pair it with one of our newest wines, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Andrea Felici, 2020.
Its hints of stone fruit will balance with the saltiness of the baccalà, and its freshness and minerality with the sweetness of the datterino giallo and the escarole.
How important is sustainability when it comes to the provenance of ingredients?
Seasonality is something we grew up with since we were kids. Parents used to take us to shop at the local market where the products are grown by the local farmers respecting the seasonality. This ideal always stays with us and it is fundamental to the project of Baccalà.
Most of the ingredients we use including 80% of the seafood come from the British coasts. We search and receive all the other ingredients which are not available in the UK: EVOO, wines, dry pasta, specific vegetables and fruit, from Italy. But it is extremely important for us that all the products are produced and grown in as sustainable, natural, and ethical way as possible.
Top three favourite restaurants in London?
Noble Rot, St. John and Towpath.
What is next for Baccalà?
To fully establish our brand name, be recognised as one of the top destination seafood restaurants in the city and most important of all, make our extended friends and family enjoy every moment when they are at Baccalà.
To discover more, visit: baccalalondon.co.uk
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All imagery courtesy of Baccalà.