La Polenteria will officially open on Old Compton Street next Friday (20 December) after its founder, London-based European entrepreneur Cristina Sparcaci, identified a gap in the market for restaurants serving dishes based on the store cupboard staple, also known as cornmeal.
“During market research we did appreciate that this soft style of polenta is not a taste the London public is overly familiar with,” said Sparcaci. “They may have tasted it as a firm, fried or grilled slice as an accompaniment to a main course, but we believe we can challenge peoples’ tastes.
“Just like pasta used to come out of a tin before starting to being freshly cooked al dente, this trend is bound to catch on.”
Polenta is served as a substitute for bread, pasta, rice or potatoes, but it is a grain naturally gluten-free. Sparcaci therefore believes her new restaurant will be able to capitalise on the gluten-free market, which grew by more than 15 per cent last year.
She added: “We are promoting and recreating polenta as an exciting, healthy, tasty, high quality dish loved by all, and presented in a modern and contemporary style.
“We are a mainstream restaurant, but because polenta is naturally gluten-free, it offers a great dining out option for those who are gluten intolerant. What’s more, some of our dishes are suitable for vegans and vegetarians, so we are also capturing a share of that market.”
The small, 20-cover restaurant will offer breakfast items such as polenta muffins and creamy polenta with blueberry & maple Syrup; and lunch and dinner dishes consisting of polenta with Sicilian caponata and Tuscan sausages with borlotti beans, with an average spend of £15-£20 per head.
As an aside, La Polenteria will have a bespoke selection of paninis and salads and among the beverages is a gluten-free Golden Ale produced by Green's Gluten-Free beers .
The fun and casual, laid-back atmosphere of a ‘polenta party’ – when families gather around the table to share a freshly made polenta with a range of accompaniments, will be recreated at La Polenteria every day. The walls will display the polenta-making process, from grinding the corn to the right coarseness to making polenta the traditional way.
Sparcaci concluded that she has ‘prepared for the challenge’ of opening her first restaurant in such a competitive London location.
“We are starting as a family business and we will be hands-on at La Polenteria, striking a rapport with our guests and gaining precious feedback,” she said. “Whilst it is easy to be driven by passion alone, we know there is a market out there ready to welcome a new addition to the many tastes that make up the London dining scene.”
La Polenteria will officially open at 64 Old Compton Street, Soho, on 20 December.