Ask most people what Italians eat for Christmas, and they’ll almost always say panettone; it’s one of the few specialities that have started to influence Christmas celebrations in other cultures. Unsurprisingly for a country with such rich culinary traditions, there are dozens of delicacies which are all but unheard of abroad. So I headed to Italian restaurant Union Street Café in Southwark, London, to talk to the chefs there and find out about some of the dishes they cook for Christmas when they go home.
Head chef Davide Degiovanni hails from Piedmont, a northern, mountainous region known for hearty, meaty, warming dishes which fend off the cold, winter months, while his sous chef, Stefano Decostanzo, was born and raised in Puglia – a southern coastal area known for its brilliant seafood and olive oil.
The restaurant itself serves a Christmas menu which combines the north and south of Italy, full of seasonal ingredients such as chestnuts (which are found roasting across the country throughout winter), orecchiette with turnip tops and slow-cooked coffee meringues, but a lot of the festive dishes enjoyed in Italian homes aren’t suitable for high-end restaurants; they’re simply made with love and care, designed around getting the whole family together.