Adalberto Battaglia aka Adha is the mastermind behind Quinto/Quarto, a pop up dining experience happening on a regular basis through Grub Club, and selling out… fast. And with good reason. Adha is passionate about innovative Roman style cooking- reflected in several hearty game or fish courses, and with the night being titled ‘Nose to Tail’ he uses every part of the animal in creative and delicious ways. Of course, there is also some of his famous gnocchi thrown in for good measure. There are surprises too, like the unique “Panna Cotta Lasagne”, and if you haven’t tried one of Adha’s signature dishes, the “Pumpkin&Disaronno sorbet” (served as a side to main courses!), I suggest you sign up to the waiting list now! Matching his big portions is Adha’s big personality-his love of food spilling over on to the floor in his hosting skills. I am fortunate enough to work alongside Adha at his evenings (as a host, plus one eye opening experience by his side in the kitchen, but that’s another story!).
I wanted to chat to Adha about what led him to start up his new supper club venture, so armed with a note book, a camera, and a hunger that could only be satisfied by gnocchi I visited him on his Brick Lane market stall.
Adha’s adventure in Nose to Tail dining found its London home in a restaurant, Quinto/Quarto in St John Street. With Adha as owner and head chef, customers were treated to homely comfort food classics and Italian Sunday roasts. The restaurant soon gained great reviews and a full bookings diary. When it closed, Adha knew that there was still a place for this style of dining amongst the hungry Londoners. Adha’s earlier career includes working with Jamie Oliver, Stefano Cavallini and Marco Pierre White at the notorious Quo Vadis, plus cooking for musicians and movie stars in Soho when working for AlphabetBar Group (v.i.people’s home and media boom in the late nineties!) so that he decided that once again he needed a new project of his own- “A chef without a restaurant is like a fish without water”. And so, In February, Adha’s Quinto/Quarto stall was created in Brick Lane, and there came the coronation of the King of Gnocchi.
Before you even get to see Adha’s stall inside the Boiler House on Saturday, or UpMarket on Sunday, you can hear his booming voice through the crowd (“King of Gnocchi is back!”). Here is where you get to see Adha the true showman. Not behind his stall, but out front, with his arm around a tourist inviting them to try the last of his gnocchi before it sells out (as it did the day I visited, much to my dismay). It’s easy to see how this style of service works so perfectly for a Grub Club event. Friends sat with strangers, in a quirky candlelit café tucked away in Victoria Park, laughing, drinking, and listening to their host introduce each course “It’s hard to find chestnuts at this time of year, I got these from an old Italian man who’s foraged for them in Epping Forest”. Adha gives his guests a supperclub taster of his hometown, his influences, and his vision of ‘Nose to Tail’ dining, along with a comedy anecdote about the origins of the recipe or where the ingredients were sourced (imagine a funny geography teacher, only in chef whites not tweed). At the end of the night, when people are fully fed, they stop to have their photo taken with him, as he wraps his arms around them for a goodbye bear hug. The nights are a great success for all involved, the guests experiencing a “proper gastronomic event” whilst Adha gets the chance to “make some noise, and cook in a restaurant for just one night”
Adha is thinking big for the future of Quinto/Quarto. More food stalls at Brick Lane indoors, and more regular (and probably sell out) supper club events and some long term restaurant pop up too. Adha also specialises in vegetarian and vegan food, so hopefully we’ll have a veggie feast soon too. I can’t wait! Keep your eyes fixed on the website, follow him on twitter, sell an organ to get yourself a ticket before they sell out. His passion, his humour and of course his gnocchi will mean you have a night to remember!
Joanna Simmons, London, December 2013