Cocomero is a new catering service run by me, Silvana Gambini, specialising in Italian food – well known classics alongside lesser known regional specialities. All food is authentic, made from quality ingredients and homemade – or to use the correct lingo ‘casareccia‘!
Cocomero is the Italian word for ‘watermelon’ which is a fruit that coincidentally contains all the colours of the Italian flag – the green of the outer skin, the white of the inner rind and the red of the ripe, juicy flesh. Let’s just take a moment to learn how to pronounce it correctly – it’s Co-co-me-ro NOT Cocoa-Meer-Oh said like an extra from ‘The Only Way Is Essex’! (No offence to TOWIE!). Anyway this is how you say it….
At the risk of sounding like an X Factor wannabe, part of what has inspired me to start this business is in order to honour my mother, Rosina Gambini, née Colavecchio.
Here she is in her youth, before she came to England in 1948. She was an excellent home cook and baker, creating great dishes from what she could get in the shops in Derby during the Sixties and Seventies, topped up by the weekly visit from the Italian grocery van – an Aladdin’s Cave of fragrant foods imported from the homeland!
Although she made me watch her as she cooked so she could pass on her skills and knowledge, she regularly despaired that I never seemed particularly interested in following in her footsteps, as I always had my head in a book. It was only when she died when I was 23, and I realised I’d never taste her food again, that I really started getting into cooking in order to recreate both her wonderful dishes and the love and warmth people felt when they gathered round her table to eat.
So how do I know I’ve cracked it and become a good cook?
Obvious answer – people tell me so! I like to entertain and people are happy and eager to be invited to my table. But last June I put it to the test by running three drop -in pop-up Saturday afternoon cafés in my home as part of the month-long Appetite Food Festival in Waltham Forest. They were really successful with repeat trade and the second & third ones were sell outs. My biggest buzz came from meeting Gennaro Contaldo, Jamie Oliver’s mentor and co-star of BBC2’s ‘Two Greedy Italians’. He officially opened the Appetite Festival where we had a table set out with my food as part of a dining flash mob event. I invited him over for some photographs and he sat down, praised the spread, exclaimed ‘che buon odore!’ – ‘what a great aroma!’ – and promptly started munching on my focaccia filled with porchetta (aromatic Italian roast pork). His verdict? “The best porchetta this side of Rome!”