Where the Italian’s Eat in Islington: Egro
Nestled amongst the Islington townhouses lies a bustling epicurean treasure chest.
Egro is a 21st-century delicatessen with its roots in artisan food production. It overflows with Italian delicacies, from rich truffles to creamy cannoli, exquisite wines to zingy pecorino. All flavour of goodies line the shelves: sample some freshly baked focaccia with smoked burrata, huge Camone tomatoes, bright green basil and Sicilian extra virgin olive oil. Indulge in a fresh pastiera – a candied orange and ricotta cake from Naples – unlike anything achievable at home.
Focussing primarily on sustainability, co-founders Allessandro Corti and Selena Pellegrini, are passionate about farm-to-table food. Their transparency is refreshing in an industry so often shrouded in secrecy. For those looking to stock their pantry with high-quality Italian ingredients concocted by artisans, Egro is the place to go.
Their transparency is refreshing in an industry so often shrouded in secrecy.
‘For our charcuterie and cheese, we try to just work with farm-to-table producers.’ Allessandro explains. ‘For example, our bresaola has no nitrates and no preservatives, just meat and spices. The taste is completely different.’ Allessandro and Selena are animated when discussing their passion for food. Their energy radiates throughout the shop. They are bursting with knowledge and always willing to share it. ‘Right now we also have a blue cheese with honey and hazelnut on top, made by our amazing cheesemaker!’ Selena exclaims.
After graduating with his engineering degree, Alessandro initially wanted to work in renewable energy. ‘I realised food is the first source of energy. If there isn’t food in the world, nobody wakes up and gets out of bed. I also realised there was a huge gap in what can be found outside Italy. Italy has a strong culture of food being connected to the farm.’
If there isn’t food in the world, nobody wakes up and gets out of bed.
Allessandro met his business partner Selena thanks to a couple of producers in the food industry. ‘Selena was already working in London, travelling up and down from Rome. She had almost 200 companies do pop-ups in London, also in the food sector. A lot of them in Mercato Metropolitano, a large indoor food market in Newington Causeway. From there I did a bit of digital branding, and she organized a pop-up. So we said let’s put this stuff together. We started setting up pop-ups for olive oil producers, which led to us specialising in extra virgin olive oil.’‘
Initially selling their produce in markets, Allessandro and Selena were able to focus on opening their delicatessen when the markets shut during lockdown. ‘We said let’s make this a one-stop-shop. You’re going to find the pasta, the sauces, the truffle, the wine, the bread, the cheese…’
Deciding on Islington for its stunning architecture and well-travelled locals, Egro caters to the discerning customer. ‘In Italy there is a real focus on quality. Islington is the perfect place for us as it has an international community of people who are looking for high-quality products.’
‘Islington is the perfect place for us as it has an international community of people who are looking for high-quality products.’
Egro feeds both the visual and the physical senses. The shop, bursting with flavours and ideas, encourages you to taste olive oil and talk to the staff about food pairings and recipes. This is supported by Egro’s digital storytelling platform, which allows you to explore the history behind ingredients and regions. Learn about Caciocavallo, a tasty hard cheese from Abruzzo and Molise known for its protected regional status and edible rind. Find out about Egro’s exclusively imported delicacies by Azienda Agricola Colle di Seta. This is a sustainable farm based in Puglia close to the national park of Alta Murgia. The soils and micro-climate produce vegetables with concentrated flavours, creating their rich tomato sauces, pestos and intense jams. Discover Sicilian street food: arancini made with squid and salmon, sausage and gorgonzola, ‘nduja and mozzarella, and nutty, delicious, cannoli.
Providing freshly baked goods as well as dried, Egro only sources stock from the most legitimate and longstanding suppliers. Their cannoli comes from Palermo, Sicily, and uses only the freshest Sicilian ricotta, canditi, and pistachio. Their olive oil suppliers have been producing for over 200 years. This family business uses their own estate olives to make extra virgin olive oil rather than buying from other producers. The same goes for the pasta: the suppliers have produced and harvested their own grain and wheat for more than a century. This is what makes Ergo special. Their holistic attitude towards sourcing artisanal ingredients means that the carbon footprint is lower, and the quality is higher.
Egro will soon be available for purchases online. Or if you are adventuring in Islington, drop in the shop to try a few samples, hear a few stories, and carry home a loot of pistachio cannoli.