When I plan meals for the week ahead, I often go by cuisine. It’s a sure fire way to save money by purchasing ingredients that will stretch across a number of meals. This week happened to be Italian week, a cuisine easily in my top three favourites. Where is the best place to find Italian ingredients? A delicatessen of course.
I had searched through Google for top delicatessens in the Leicestershire area. A lot of the results turned up the predictable names like Carluccio’s or the names of local supermarkets. In amongst them was a standout deli specialising in exactly the kind of Italian food I was after. Just So Italian in Market Harborough.
A short drive out of Leicester, Market Harborough is a pretty town often associated with commuters on the main train line down to London. This is in fact a smart area of Leicestershire which boasts the picturesque Foxton Locks nearby. Walking through town on a Sunday, we ended up heading right through a festival with live bands and street performers.
Just So Italian is situated on Adam and Eve Street. Alfresco seating is available outside in short supply but most welcome on a sunny day like this particular Sunday. We decided to head inside and check out the menu, as rumour had it they serve large boards of antipasto here.
The shop is just like stepping into a delicatessen anywhere in Italy. Seating is fairly minimal with around 8-10 tables plus stools and bar seating in the shop window. Above the seating area you can find shelves groaning with Italian delicacies – pasta, dried mushrooms, sauces and wines plus loads more.
A huge counter showcases meats and cheeses plus sweet cakes and even Sicilian arancini. A main menu stands at the end of the shop for the food offerings along with a menu on each table. Interestingly in addition to hot drinks the cafe also serves alcohol such as wine, beer and the famous Aperol Spritz.
One thing that we really enjoyed about the experience was the relaxed continental attitude and friendliness of the staff. “You pay at the end” said the lady at the counter when placing my order. This is perfect as it saves you going up to the counter multiple times, as the chances are that you won’t be leaving without purchasing a gift to take home.
Coffee is something that the Italians do very well. In this case, my mocha was spot on. A lot smoother than many that I have had before and very well made. Equally so, the hot chocolate is of superb quality. At £2.95 and £2.85 respectively, we were impressed.
We were both in the mood for an easy lunch and lunch doesn’t come easier than an antipasto board. A selection of salami, hams and cheeses from the deli counter garnished with focaccia, olives, sun dried tomatoes, crackers, red onion jam and rocket. A stacked board fit for two hungry people at just £15.25.
Sampling our way through the delights before us, the quality became apparent. Forget your supermarket Parma ham and pecorino, this is the premier league. The gooey Taleggio cheese was a real standout and went perfectly slathered over the salt and rosemary focaccia. The pecorino wasn’t left in the shade either, this had a wonderfully salty flavour. Heavenly with the red onion jam.
The Parma ham here is so different to the commercial offerings. You can really taste a far fresher and more in-depth flavour than something that has come out of a plastic wallet. The spicy salami and salami with fennel were equally as fresh in taste. If ever there was a good alternative to taking a flight over to Italy, this was it.
After we had finished munching our way through the board, we did a little shopping. How can you not? This is a true treasure trove for anyone with even a passing interest in Italian cuisine. We got 100g of pecorino sardo to use in a cacio e pepe plus some dried spaghetti. We weren’t quite finished there though….
I added to our growing bill by purchasing giant penne, dried porcini mushrooms, a few slices of Parma ham, some fiery Calabrian nduja and a couple of cannoli’s for the road. Total money spent, including the meal and coffee – £47.
The service is something that really sets Just So Italian apart. The ladies here are so nice and know their stuff when it comes to food. This is a massive help when it comes to choosing the correct ingredient for what you are making. For example, from the two types of Parma ham available I was advised that one is better for cooking and the other to eat as antipasto.
To not have to trek all the way down to London for a quality Italian experience complete with shopping is something that we are incredibly grateful for. We are extremely lucky to have Just So Italian on our doorstep and even more lucky to have discovered it. Buonissimo!
Opening Times: Monday – Thursday 0900-1500, Friday 0900-1600, Saturday 0900-1700, Sunday 1000-1600
Nearest Train Station: Market Harborough