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Italiamo: Oxford’s Italian outpost

Every Oxford student knows Italiamo. Their calzones on Broad Street have been a go-to lunch option for years and now they have diversified even further. A new store on the High Street opened last year and uses the extra space to stock specialist deli items and the sheer variety of pasta and pizza options means one can never become bored sitting in the tranquil oasis of their garden.

Everything about Italiamo is Italian. The queue, the order in the apparent chaos, but above all the flavours and products. Everything is brought in especially, from cheeses to spreads to prosciutto to coffee. That authenticity really reaps its rewards and the continued value proposition in the face of spiralling import prices is truly remarkable.

High Street Store

We kicked the trip off by meeting the charming owner Medina at the High Street store, picking up the items that are only on offer here. If you have favourites from Mediterranean summers gone by then chances are you can grab them. It’s my go-to for Pan di Stelle spread and biscuits (I’m yet to find them anywhere else in the UK other than London’s Eataly) but you can also find cheeses, meats and specialist pasta such as the Sardinian gnochetti.

Schiacciata and Pizza al Taglio

In terms of exclusive food, here we picked up the traditional Sardinian schiacciata with ricotta and potato and the vegetarian Roman variety, pizza al taglio. It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest potato lover but the thin slices here work beautifully with the light ricotta and crispy thin base that characterises schiacciata to make the perfect bite. The taglio is a much crispy and fluffier option and the aubergine stood out from the rest of the vegetables.


Next up was the circular Genovese. The goat’s cheese here is glorious but not overpowering and the pesto, peppers, and tomatoes combine superbly.

Arancini, Parmigiana, Pesto Chicken Salad

Other savoury options were arancini, parmigiana, and the pesto chicken salad. Arancini are often far too bland in the UK but this one is different. A glorious mess, the vegetables and tomato within make it a great sharing side if you are feeling hungry. What stood out to me about the parmigiana was the genuine quality of the cheese and tomatoes. Again, I’m a big believer in the fact that almost everything is ‘over-cheesed’ in our country but when the ingredients are high quality that doesn’t matter. The aubergine slices are thick and chunky, soaking up the tomato sauce well. And then the salad, oh the salad! This is the best value takeaway salad in Oxford, no doubt. The sheer quantity of leaves and vegetables, as well as the light dressing, is in stark contrast to most places and the chicken itself is moist and lightly drizzled in pesto.

Sweet options inc

Then onto those sweet options that always look so tempting in the window. The double espresso is brilliantly bitter and in a different league from the regular overpriced high street options that students often turn to. The coffee is sourced from a small company in Milan that the owners keep secret so no one else catches on. 

I’ve always been tempted by the tiramisu so was very excited to try it. If you like it boozy you are in luck! There are too many fingers for me but there is certainly enough dessert here for two or three. All the pastries and biscuits are homemade in Sicily and they really did take me back to my favourite island for a summer escape. The cornetti (croissant) are the sugared variety usually preserved for when sitting on an Italian bar stool and the apricot jam in ours was fruity and clearly not artificially flavoured. The cantucci are slightly different from any I’ve had before with a firmer, pastry-like texture but the chocolate crema within makes them an ideal coffee dunk. The filling in both the aragostini and cantucci is similarly rich and you should opt for the pistachio if looking for something lighter. These cannoli too are noticeably different from those that you usually find in England. The coating is thin, crispy, and crumbly, allowing the crema to dominate.

Everything at Italiamo is done with care, love, and authenticity. There is a simple reason that people continue to visit despite the queues and waits — quality. Calzone dough proved for 24 hours, specialist importers from across Italy, focaccia sandwiches made every day by hand. These are the things that make the difference and being able to get access to that in Oxford at such a reasonable price point is remarkable. The Sardinian family team here of Stefano, Madina, Alessandro and Emanuela, are always up for a chat and a smile.

So, all I can do is apologise. With this review my aim was to identify which of the vast menu items you should opt for. Quite frankly, the answer is all of them. So, all I can say is keep on visiting, keep on filling that stamp card, and branch out from your calzone order!

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