|Cecconi's first introduced cicheti to London|
While some mass-market fashion brands tread a very thin line between ‘referencing’ big-name designers and flagrantly copying them, it’s an accepted principle that trends eventually filter down from haute couture to the high street.
But when the huge Italian restaurant chain Zizzi announced recently that it was introducing a cicheti menu, it was the first time, to my knowledge, that the equivalent had happened in food: a trend transitioning from the capital’s chicest tables to some of its cheapest.
Although any dish smaller than a traditional starter is nowadays erroneously and annoyingly described as ‘tapas’, cicheti actually are Italy’s, or more specifically Venice’s, answer to Iberia’s beloved bar snacks. Served in backstreet bàcari for around €1 apiece, cicheti are small savoury mouthfuls intended to be ordered one-by-one, either by pointing at the desired item in a glass cabinet on the bar or by helping oneself from a tray passed around by the owner.
Cicheti were introduced to London by Cecconi’s, the venerable and perennially fashionable Italian restaurant in Mayfair, and for many years this was the only place they could be enjoyed in the capital. Here, still the most elegant location in which to sample cicheti, a traditional selection - chicken liver crostini, meatballs in tomato sauce - is served in grand surroundings at far-from-traditional prices ranging from £3-£8 per portion.