MUST DO: Apulia, Camden Road


Cosy Puglian cafe in what’s increasingly becoming Camden’s Italian quarter



Frisella topped with courgette, mint, caramelised hazelnuts and ricotta. Photo: SE
Round the corner from pioneering Royal College Street café-bar Casa Tua is a another teeny Italian joint. In fact, what with micro-chain Rullo’s, local trattoria Domo 94 and the superlative Pizzeria Di Camden a few minutes’ walk south, the Camden Road area is increasingly becoming something of a Little Italy.

Apulia is a celebration of all things – you guessed it – Puglia. So expect shelves heaving with sun-drenched wines, olive oil and dried pasta. There’s a small menu of lunchtime sandwiches with toppings like sweet peppers, aubergine and stringy smoky scamorza cheese. Specials include a variety of pastas, available in the evenings with an Aperol spritz or glass of Primitivo.

Shelves of produce and a dozen or so seats. Photo: Apulia
We popped by on one such evening and sat at the window-facing counter, as torrential rain caused rivers to stream down the kerb, with flipflop-wearing pedestrians hidden under dripping brollies.

Co-owner Valentina is on hand to explain what’s on the menu on any given night. We enjoyed a light-as-air starter of spinach soufflé, and shared a classic Puglian dish of orecchiette (the cute pasta-with-a-bite that’s shaped like a small ear), dressed in a well-balanced sauce of sun-dried tomatoes, grated hard ricotta and capers. “It’s what my mother would cook,” said Valentina, simply.

Most memorable are the sandwiches using frisella, the twice-baked ring-shaped bread that fishermen would take with them on sea trips, she explained. You can choose from a variety of toppings: ours was smothered in soft ricotta, curls of courgette, caramelised walnuts and the fresh hit of mint: almost dessert-like in its deliciousness.

Match it with one of the sunny southern reds on offer – say a Negramaro, or Nero di Troia – and this tiny cafe, with a counter or two and handful of tables, feels like a Mediterranean oasis, whatever the weather.

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Starters from £4, large pasta mains £9, frisella from £6.50. Apulia is open daily till 9pm. 126 Camden Road NW1

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