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Interview with Alessandro Grano of La Fromagerie

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We a team of freelancers at Table. While we’d love for this magazine to be our full time job, we’re not there yet. As any freelancer can tell you, every time you come across the perfect cafe to work from you can’t help but get excited. La Fromagerie in Marylebone has always been one of those spots for us. The staff are always friendly, there’s a tangy smelly of cheese in the air, wafting over from the cheese room and their seasonal selection of food is always delicious.
That’s why when they opened their newest location in Bloomsbury we were so excited to experience a finer dining experience this time around. The Bloomsbury location still has the tell tale farm shop in the front, but the back of the premises is dedicated to restaurant seating and a few stools around the classically Italian style bar.
We were lucky enough to have photographer, Catherine Frawley meet up with Head Chef of all three la fromagerie locations, Alessandro Grano back in August where he shared some of his favourite items on the menu.

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1.  What recipe or food brings you back to your childhood?
When I was young, I used to go with my grandfather to local markets in my hometown where we would buy fresh, seasonal produce. My passion for cooking began watching him, as he was the house cook. I still remember one of his specialities, 'riso, patate e cozze' which is a typical dish from my city, made by layering rice, thinly sliced potatoes, mussels and pecorino, or a rich ragout meat sauce. He would simmer the dish for hours and then serve it with orecchiette (an ear-shaped pasta from Puglia) and a good amount of grated cacioricotta (a salted dry ricotta) on top.

2.  What brought you to La Fromagerie?
I came to La Fromagerie because I was looking for a job where I could carry on my passion for cheese. I'm also lucky because we have some really lovely varieties of fruit and vegetables that change with the season, as well as a great range of larder items. In this way, I always have fresh seasonal produce at my fingertips, and when I plan a dish, I try to use the best product at the moment. My aim is to always try to showcase the products by keeping the dish simple and honest.

3. Name three ingredients that are always in your kitchen.
In my kitchen I always rely on a good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh tomatoes, and then whatever else I use usually changes with the season.  

4. With an ever changing list of ingredients explain your process when creating the menu.
At La Fromagerie after launching our weekend brunch and introducing fondue to our menu, the next project I started was to organise a range of take away dishes, so our customers could have a taste of La Fromagerie at home. We're a shop first of all, not a restaurant, and I have to be creative with the limitations of the space (our Bloomsbury kitchen is especially small), but I always like to try to come up a new way to highlight our products.

5. Every month you hold ingredient focused cooking classes at your Bloomsbury shop what do you hope that people walk away with?
The aim of the cooking classes are first of all to showcase some of the seasonal products you can find in the shop, but they're also a way to show our guests how to use these products. We often have customers who look at some of our ingredients, like whole artichokes, and ask questions about how to prepare them. In these classes which last about 2 1/2 hours, we go through usually five dishes - it's a chance to enjoy a good meal, but also I hope it helps people see it's really not as difficult as they might think to cook something from scratch.

Fresh tagliatelle with girolles, guanciale and toasted hazelnut

Click here to get the recipe for Chef Alessandro’s tagliatelle.

6.  Name your two favourite restaurants in London.
My favourite restaurant in london are Clove Club & Bocca di Lupo. Meeting people through food is exciting to me, so I also like to go to supper clubs where there is a fun, communal atmosphere.

7.  With the entire Fromagerie cheese room at your disposal, what are three cheeses that you would recommend? 
About cheese, I love all of them! They change a lot throughout the seasons, and in Spring my favourites are young goat cheeses, such Florentine. Every year I look forward to October when we start to get Mont d’Or back in stock, and, of course, year-round I always enjoy burrata, from my beloved Puglia.

Photography by Catherine Frawley
Interview by Ariana Ruth