There are all sorts of good things to eat at the Mercato Metropolitano, the new, mostly Italian food market near London’s Elephant and Castle (map), from Neapolitan pizza to fried calamari, gelato to stracciatella cheese.
But the reason you must go immediately, if not sooner, is focaccia col formaggio. The speciality of Recco, in the Italian region of Liguria, was praised in “Recipes From Paradise“, Fred Plotkin‘s definitive cookbook on the food of the Italian Riviera, as “probably the most addictive food on the planet”.
The Manuelina Focacceria at the Mercato Metropolitano, like a similar bakery at the La Renascente shopping mall in Milan, owes its identify and bread to the beloved Ristorante Manuelina, which opened in Recco in 1885 and is famous for its focaccia col formaggio. This “focaccia with cheese” is not the thick, dimpled yeast bread most of us recognise as focaccia but rather a shallow, fragile, delectably crisp, divinely cheesy pie.
So is focaccia col formaggio still the most addictive food on the planet, as Plotkin proposed back in 1997 – years before the advent of crack pie, Korean fried chicken and the Cronut? To make your own determination you must try it hot. Wait, if you must, for a fresh pie to be pulled from the oven and cut into slices. When you watch the hot melted Stracchino spilling from the cut sides of each rectangular slice you can almost feel the effects. If it’s true that cheeses produce morphine-like opiate compounds, then I’d wager this wonderfully tangy variety yields a double dose. The focaccia col formaggio elicits uncontrollable craving even before you’ve taken a bite.
Like all the hottest temptations it was messy business: Easy to succumb to, impossible to manage.
Me, I loved the touch of Manuelina’s oozy, crunchy focaccia col formaggio as it broke apart in my fingers. Like all the hottest temptations, food or flesh, it was messy business: Easy to succumb to, impossible to manage. But after the last luscious mouthful melted away I experienced no euphoria, no high and, sorry, Fred Plotkin, no impending addiction. More than anything I felt anxiety tinged with fear – fear of making it through today, Monday, and all the Mondays to come: The Mercato Metropolitano and its foccacceria are closed on the first day of the work week.