All in good taste

Neil Littman sets out on a mission to sample some of Enfield’s best eateries as they try to recover their trade

La Rocca in Green Lanes, Winchmore Hill, has been running for 15 years
La Rocca in Green Lanes, Winchmore Hill, has been running for 15 years

The last year or so has been a steep learning curve for all of us; we have learned to appreciate what we have on our doorsteps and not take for granted the places where we go out to eat and socialise.

While most restaurants and cafes around Winchmore Hill where I live have survived, a few established places have not, and several have had to adapt and change their offers and be more flexible to meet demand. But home delivery is no substitute for being there and soaking up the atmosphere of a restaurant dining experience.

Some of those around the borough that didn’t make it through the pandemic include Beautiful South, in Windmill Hill, and Turkish restaurant Samdan Meze and Grill, in The Green. They will be missed. But, in the spirit of enterprise, new places have also opened, and it will be interesting to see how well they do and whether they succeed. One thing I have learned living in this area is that residents are very loyal to their chosen venues!

I like to experience an eclectic mix of venues, large and small, pubs and cafés, and even a few pop-ups – such as a greasy spoon ‘caff’ I went to recently that was offering new Asian dishes in addition to egg and chips and a mug of tea!

I have no special qualifications as a food writer, apart from wanting to bring these places to people’s attention. So with that in mind, during a break from work last month I ate at La Rocca, a little corner of Italy that first landed in Winchmore Hill Broadway (Green Lanes) in 2006. Family-run, it has changed hands once since then, but still remains authentically Italian.

I was told the interior was “imported directly from Florence” to maintain the authentic look of their gelateria. It occupies a long space with seating for around 30 and opens from morning until late afternoon. It’s a place to escape to and pretend I am on holiday in northern Italy. The ambience is helped by the conversations in Italian being overheard in the corner of the restaurant where the owners congregate.

The Google description is a “pizza and cake shop” which is a bit misleading since ice cream is one of their main offerings. They share a lot in common with Marine Ices in Chalk Farm, except they don’t have queues around the block here. The ice cream is homemade and I cannot think of anywhere else in the borough where you can have the same experience. It is also a very popular after-school and family party venue.

The food menu is straightforward; panini, pasta, pizza. I’ve eaten here several times and the experience is familiar and authentic. The pizzas are big and typically Italian with thin crusts and traditional toppings. Prices range from £7-£10. Pasta dishes cost about the same and they also serve risotto and chicken escalope. La Rocca also sells a vast range of cakes, including cannoli, which I try to restrict myself to purchasing about three times a year!

For more information about La Rocca, at 751 Green Lanes, N21 3SA: