Real Parmesan Is Back!

It’s been more than a year. As I turned the corner from Wardour into Old Compton I suddenly paniced: is it still there? Or has it gone with the Covid. Now that would be serious to us survivors. I. Camisa gone? The awning, the bicycle in front with the large delivery basket gone? Fresh pastas gone? Trays of tagliatelle, prosciutto stuffed ravioli gone? Those small anchovy packed olives, no more? The wall of dried pastas of all shapes and sizes, bags of caranoli rice, and the window of giant slabs of parmesano reggiano, replaced in the supermarkets by prepackaged triangles of who-knows-what. A tiny corner of what makes Soho, Soho and London London. More than a neighborhood but a key respository of weekend and holiday memories of family around the table, memories taken away. Prociuttto, cut skin thin, mortadella, fat sausages hanging from the ceiling (black pepper, fenobchio) no more? All that makes serving labor intensive and waiting long. All that differentiates it from supermarkets and pre-wrapped and impersonal “customer service”. There is no hurry, just hunger and the anxiety of wishes being fulfilled. But wait, there it is, the awning, the floor that would be saw-dusted in busy times. And no line! Behind the counter, Madame. Still in charge not just of the shop but of me, her customers and fulfilling a 50 year tradition. ( I have been a pilgrim there since 1966.0 Gruff, unsmiling but all forgiven, all OK. She recognized me. Civilization is saved for now. No speech of welcome in voice-raised Italian, but enough acknowledgement to prove to me Soho is still Soho. No more Lucien and Francis, but there is till Camisa. Bonjourno!

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