Three years ago, my then-fiancee and I had the enjoyable task of choosing a sunny spot for our summer honeymoon. Despite a World of possibilities, one destination was always at the top of our list: Italy. It checked all the boxes – the weather, the landscapes, the food and the culture. The only question was where in Italy. In the end, we spent an incredible 10 days on the enchanting island of Sicily – that oddly shaped ball on the map being toe-poked out to sea by the high-heeled boot of the Italian mainland.
I travelled to Italy once growing up, and my love for its food deepened through years of dining out at Nairobi’s many Italian restaurants. The rich Italian culture of our capital (and of the coast) is worth celebrating – and that’s exactly what The Artcaffé Market is doing for the entire month of May.
They’ve partnered with the Italian Embassy to create ‘Italian Month’, with a calendar full of tastings and events, exclusively at the new Artcaffé Market at Rhapta Square. I passed by the branch earlier this week to find out more, where I met Ginevra, the event’s coordinator, and Sylvia, the Artcaffé Market Brand Manager.
‘The concept’, Ginevra explained, ‘is to give attention to products from different cultures, starting with Italy. So, we have transformed the market into an Italian wonderland.’ We spoke beside a gleaming white tuk-tuk, also known as an Apecar, created by the Italian company, Piaggio, in the aftermath of the Second World War. A range of fine Italian products were stacked in its open cargo bed, against an artwork backdrop of Sicilian tiles.
Behind the tuk-tuk, the space had been laid out to resemble a street market of southern Italy. Beneath a ceiling decked with red, white and green bunting, the shelves were lined with more Italian products, from delicate pastries and high-quality pastas, to olive oils and cheeses. I couldn’t resist sampling their arancini (stuffed rice balls), and another Sicilian classic, cannoli (flaky tube-shaped pastries filled with sweet, creamy ricotta). I was also treated to segments of a variety of cheeses, including a heavenly fusion of Dutch gouda and basil pesto.
Ginevra talked about how central education was to the Italian Month concept – to encourage people to learn about Italian products, recipes and culture more broadly. On the Artcaffé Market website you can browse a range of Italian pasta and cocktail recipes, using products sold on the site and in store. There is also a blog section elaborating on famous elements of Italian culture, such as the meaning of the phrase La dolce vita (‘the sweet life’), and the origin of the aperitivo.
On their website, too, and across the Artcaffé Market social media, you can find a calendar of themes, tastings and events throughout May. In the weeks that have already past, themes have included Italian street food, pasta and prosecco, and the Art of Aperitivo Week. As you read this now, it’s the pizza and beer weekend, and the theme for early next week is La Merenda – a traditional afternoon snack that many Italians associate with coming home from school as a child. While the beginning of next week is dedicated to kids, the last weekend of the Italian Month is all about cheese and wine, with tastings in The Market Cellar at Rhapta Square.
So, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy the very best of Italy at The Artcaffé Market. For tasting reservations and recipes, or to learn more about the concept or shop for products online, head to http://www.artcaffemarket.co.ke, or follow @artcaffemarket on Instagram. Keep your eyes peeled for news of future themed events as well.
Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation