It's easy to walk past Umberto Espresso Bar in High Street, but if you did, you'd miss the warm welcome from owner Marco Finanzio. His Calabrian father, Umberto, has lived in Thornbury for more than 50 years.
Past the espresso bar and hanging salumi (made by Umberto) is a courtyard. Here you'll join young families and old friends, the kind who have been around long enough to remember the days when Umberto would visit the local espresso bar - mini Marco in tow - and talk about his dream to open a little Italian restaurant.
This busy Italian restaurant is known for dishes such as Ragù di Vitello, a tomato-based veal sauce served on pasta. "There's no romantic story about the recipe being passed down to me," says Marco, "I just love a slow-cooked, really tender pasta sauce with meat and a tomato base." As a general rule, the longer you cook it for, the better it gets. Marco recommends leaving it an extra half an hour if you have time: "The results are always outstanding."
"We have people eating it on a 40-degree day and they're sweating over it!" he says.
Feeds up to 6
1kg veal shoulder, cut into 2cm dice
½ brown onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
½ red capsicum, finely chopped
¼ bunch of thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon tomato paste
100ml white wine
250g crushed tomatoes
100ml red wine
salt flakes and freshly-ground black pepper
750g spaccatelle or bucatini pasta
grated grana padano cheese, to serve (don't substitute with powdered parmesan, it will ruin all your hard work)
This recipe will need to be started the day before serving.
Add the veal, onion, carrot, capsicum, thyme, garlic and 100ml of oil to a large bowl. Toss to coat and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, heat a large saucepan over high heat and add the remaining oil. Add a handful of the marinated veal to the hot pan and cook until golden brown. Remove and repeat for the remaining veal.
Add the tomato paste to the pan and deglaze with the white wine. Add the veal back to the pan with the tomatoes and red wine. Season and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 2 hours until the meat is falling apart.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and add the pasta back to the saucepan, tip in the ragu and stir through.
Serve the pasta with a generous amount of grana padano on the side.
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