This week we visited the crowd funded Italian restaurant and wine bar opened by two childhood friends. Giovanni and Luca have been friends since they were 8 and decided to open Il Cudega together, a lovely little restaurant and deli in one of London’s Fields railway arches. Serving the best organically-produced cheese, meats and wines from their home district of Lombardy in Northern Italy, the menu focuses on traditional dishes like Cotoletta and Risotto alla Milanese. You can also buy charcuterie, cheese, pasta and olive oil from the deli.
The produce served is made by followers of Italy’s ‘slow food’ movement – a grassroots movement founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986 which has since spread worldwide, promoted as an alternative to fast food. It strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages the farming of plants, seeds, and livestock typical of the local ecosystem. It’s also about the rediscovery of the food they used to eat as children. I spoke to Giovanni about the East End and the challenges that come with running a restaurant and having a family.
Tell me about how it all started
“I was working in the city until 2012 and always had the idea of opening a restaurant. But I wanted to do it with somebody who is in the business otherwise it’s really hard. And just by chance Luca, my childhood friend, was thinking of opening something similar in Switzerland. So when he told me about it, we said let’s do it together. And he came to London, which he’d never been to and really liked it so we decided to do it here.”
Why East London?
“Because I live in East London! I moved to Shoreditch like 20 years ago and I like it a lot!”
What’s your favourite thing about this area?
“Just the diversity, it’s a very mixed group of people and also I like the East Ender type of life, which is kind of disappearing but you can still find it, for me that’s the real London. So it’s a mixture of the real London and foreigners from all over the world who come to be here and mix up, so it’s quite interesting.”
What does local mean to you?
“Well when I think of local, I think of community – people you can relate to and you’ve known for a long time and they introduce you to other people…it’s like the network of the community. It’s also the suppliers and things like the East London Pound – all the small businesses that come together and try to make a difference and defend themselves and things like that.”
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
“[Laughs] There are many! Probably the biggest one is time – you never have enough time, it’s quite intense! Also because we do different things, besides the restaurant we also do catering – so tonight the restaurant is hired for a book launch. And sometimes we do catering for a gallery, so we’re always doing many things at the same time. It’s hard to manage everything and have the time to make sure everything runs well, you know. And also I have children so family and work…it’s very difficult.”
What are your plans for the future?
“We’re not the kind of business who want to expand and open a chain, we like what we’re doing now so. We want to do the same thing but better, that’s our ambition.”
Il Cudega have just started serving dinner, so now you have twice as much choice as to when to try their delicious food!
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