28 The Diamond,
028 7141 3232
“So no-one told you it was going to be this way
Demands for cappuccinos just get in the way...”
Something along those lines anyway.
I guess, no matter how much research, planning, and preparation you put into a new business, it’s only when you actually start trading that you get an idea of how things will go.
Salumeria Mariuccia (Cute Little Mary’s Cured Meat Shop and Deli, if Google translate is to be believed) opened only a very short while ago.
I called in to have a look, when it was maybe a day or so old, and the owner told me they were so flat out serving meals that they didn’t have time for the deli side of things; if I wanted any meats or cheeses, I should leave my order and come back just before closing time.
Things have probably settled a little since then, but it’s clear that, whatever the original intentions, the deli side of Salumeria Mariuccia is going to be little brother to its café operation. When my little brother and I called in for lunch, on a rainy Thursday lunchtime, we did well to get a table. There was the odd customer at the deli counter, but the vast majority were there to eat.
Tucked into the corner of the Diamond, between a charity shop and the old Austin’s building, the café is not short of competition, there being at least seven others within a couple of minutes’ walk, and they’re all good.
It does, however, offer something different, specialising as it does in authentic Italian produce and flavours. The lunchtime menu consists mainly of sandwiches, and it’s pretty much all in Italian, which meant delaying our choice until the waiter translated the whole thing for us.
Ultimately, we each chose one of the two specials. I really enjoyed mine, packed as it was with goodness – tender pork, salty pancetta, creamy cheese, vibrant tomatoes, sweet and sharp cranberries, and a lovely, light pesto.
As tasty as that was, by far the best thing about the sandwich was the bread. I’m not the world’s biggest focaccia fan, but this was delicious. Gently warmed and topped with a crisp crust, the bread was beautifully soft and sweet.
My brother’s choice was, perhaps, a touch more sophisticated – a plate of bresaola beef, sliced wafer thin, rich and full of flavour provided by the marbling of fat, on top of which were shavings of salty parmesan, drizzled with olive oil and a squeeze of sharp lemon. Light, savoury, and lovely.
We took home a portion of one of the three salads on offer, which we had for tea. Again, a good dish, with a terrific variety of carefully selected vegetables – sweet, sharp, soft, crunchy; a great blend of flavours and textures.
There was only tiramisu available. Mind you, if you’re only going to have one dessert, then you might as well make it this tiramisu. It was just gorgeous...
I was surprised by the lack of pastries and desserts. I should imagine that might well be something that’ll be rectified as the café continues to find its feet.
As it was, apart from some boxes of biscuits on the shelves, there was only tiramisu available. Mind you, if you’re only going to have one dessert, then you might as well make it this tiramisu. It was just gorgeous, with soft, soaked sponge and the lightest of creams, all held together by the just the right amount of coffee and maybe a hint of chocolate.
We also grabbed a box of chocolate cookies – perfectly nice, but nothing to write home about – and a chunk of pandorino, which was quite terrific, soft and light, with maybe a little touch of something alcoholic.
Open from Thursday to Sunday, with breakfast served until 11am, and closing at 3.30pm, the café isn’t what you’d call cosy. The décor is sharp, crisp, and smart, the layout functional, well-suited to the space.
And you sense that they’re all still getting used to things, finding what works. It is, though, definitely worth going to, a central perk in the heart of Derry.