The story of Tuscanic is the story of merende. From the Latin for ‘light snack’, merende connotes an early evening graze and get together; a social reconnaissance before the night sets in or domestic duties call.
Established less than two years ago, Tuscanic sits across the street from that Soho Italian stalwart I Camisa – a traditional deli with plenty of personality and polenta to spare. But Tuscanic offers a different palpation altogether. Bright, buzzy and replete with regional imports – the food, the furniture, the wood counters and marble floors – there’s nothing here that hasn’t been touched by the Tuscan sun. Offering a combination of rustic charm and Florentine sophistication, owners and childhood friends Leonardo Cecchi, Giacomo Fantini and Francesca Pecci have brought to London the best that their beloved Italian province has to offer. "Savour. Appreciate your wine and food," says Cecchi as he explains both merende and the approach at Tuscanic. "It’s something peculiar to the Tuscan tradition. We’re not quite a restaurant or deli or cafeteria, we’re something unique." And they certainly offer a strong case in favour of doing away with ordinary dinner.
"It’s something peculiar to the Tuscan tradition. We’re not quite a restaurant or deli or cafeteria, we’re something unique" — Leonardo Cecchi
While travelling thousands of miles around Tuscany, Cecchi and co found some of the finest meats, cheeses, oils, jams, breads and wines from small (and incredibly small) producers, who were making things in the traditional way. Cecchi, who lives in Prato, north of Florence – home to the slow food movement and birthplace of cantucci biscotti – describes the seaside to the south where they get much of their produce as "even more blessed by God than the other parts of Tuscany". What a thought.The first thing worth noticing at Tuscanic is that the place is full of Italians. They account for around 40% of the restaurant’s customers, says Cecchi. It’s a good sign, and one that bears out as the meal progresses. Rather than traditional courses, as an experience in merende you order sharing platters of cured meats (the slow-food mortadella is unparalleled) or Tuscan cheeses, or large sandwiches piled high on exceptional focaccia. Traditional cucina povera soups that are more than the sum of their parts – papa al pomodoro (tomatoes and bread), or ribollita (slow-cooked vegetables and bread) – are there to accompany, and if you’re lucky you’ll visit when they’re serving steak tartare, made from the region’s famous white chiannini cows – it’s a taste that is acres above any alternatives. Each moment spent by the fastidious growers and farmers ("they are beyond organic" says Cecchi’) is discernible in the offerings across the sparse yet satisfying menu. Meanwhile the dining room shelves are brimming with take-home produce, including wines you are unlikely to find anywhere outside of Tuscany (try the Fossilia I.G.T.), a plum jam of unusual equilibrium and deliciously grassy olive oil – to name but a few of the specialties you won’t want to resist.
For something different: If you find yourself in Battersea then don’t miss the opportunity to visit San Gennaro, a family-run Italian restaurant specialising in cuisine from Naples. With a wood-fired pizza oven, a dough recipe that is most certainly guarded, and the best homemade raviolis you’re likely to get outside of nonna’s kitchen, the place is overrun with Italians and Brits in the know, all of whom are out to enjoy this uncommonly authentic Italian experience.
Tuscanic is at 72 Old Compton St, W1D 4UN. San Gennaro is at 22 Battersea Park Rd, SW11 4HY
Text by Ananda Pellerin