Leggero – An Evening of Light & Laughter

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Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of accompanying my lovely friend Leila, her equally lovely sister Sasha and the wonderful Catrina to the re-launch of a gluten-free Italian restaurant in Soho.

Formerly La Polenteria, Leggero serves delicious and innovative gluten-free Italian food. Italy, with all its pasta, pizza and bread, is pretty much synonymous with gluten, as owner Gabriele Vitali – an Italian with an obvious passion for what he does – joked. Seeing the gap in the market for catering to pasta-loving, gluten-avoiding individuals, the team embarked on a mission to create high quality Italian food for all to enjoy. This idea has gone beyond offering coeliacs an enjoyable dining experience, by making the kitchen and menu accommodating to people with various allergies and special dietary requirements. The fact that, minutes before his talk, we were enthusing about how refreshing it was to have such a restaurant where everyone could find something exciting on the menu and not have to worry about “being complicated”, is surely a testament to the success of Leggero’s mission.

While you certainly can find everything from unrefined sugar-free raw vegan to a meat eater’s paradise in London, it’s harder to find a restaurant where there is common ground for people with different preferences and requirements, i.e. where the carefree omnivore can enjoy, let’s say, lamb meatballs with mint and grilled butternut squash (as was served last night), while the gluten-free vegan can tuck into the courgette burger with mixed vegetables and homemade hemp bread muffin – and all from the same menu. This seems to me more important than ever in this age of ultra-individualism, where you can find all kinds of specific needs catered to, but, in the world of food at least, not necessarily at the same table.

At Leggero last night, we ended up with gluten-free Leila insouciantly dipping handmade artichoke, tomato and olive focaccia into oil and balsamic vinegar, dairy-intolerant Catrina having her (almond and orange) cake and eating it too, my plant-based self delighting in handmade sorghum and hemp tagliatelle (the culinary highlight of the evening for me!) and the omnivorous Sasha being in the happy position of sampling all the delightful dishes.

All this ties in perfectly with the restaurant’s new name – leggero, or light, as it means in English. Gabriele explained that the concept embodies not just “light” food, that makes us feel good, but also a light and happy way of life – something that couldn’t have come across any better in the wonderfully bright, intimate space, filled with the sounds of live music and laughter.

Let me conclude by once again thanking Leila for inviting me along and the lovely people at Leggero for having us. I can’t wait to go back for a big plate of delicious pasta!

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(This was the sorghum hemp tagliatelle – absolutely divine!)

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