A sneaky peek inside Greenwich's Jamie's Italian
We take an exclusive look inside chef Jamie Oliver's new Greenwich eatery, set to open on Bank Holiday Monday, with his mentor and business partner Gennaro Contaldo.
One man's name is currently on the lips of every Greenwich resident or tourist passing through the town.
And this lively buzz, prompted by the arrival of chef Jamie Oliver's Mediterranean restaurant chain, is concentrated outside a Grade II property at the heart of Nelson Road.
Since the hoardings covering the windows of the soon-to-be-opened Jamie's Italian were removed, revealing a shiny gold logo announcing its Deli along with a sneak peak into its bar area, excitement has reached a peak.
Even before I stepped inside, for an exclusive tour and chat with business partner and fellow culinary legend, Gennaro Contaldo, I had to battle a huddle of people peering through its windows.
Jamie's restaurant chain arrived across the river, in Canary Wharf, in 2009, and has been catering to hungry Wharfers from its base in Churchill Place ever since.
But its spokeswoman revealed it had its sights set on a base in Greenwich for quite a while. And she said the new venue would appeal to families.
More than 100 staff have been recruited to work across the venue's bar, restaurant, antipasti and coffee sections, as well as in the Deli at Jamie's Italian - the first of its kind in the capital - which will open on Bank Holiday Monday.
As Gennaro rushed around the new restaurant, chatting to staff and sampling dishes as he went, he likened its opening to the arrival of a "little child".
With his smiling character and bucketfuls of experience, Jamie's pal, mentor and business partner, said the new addition would prompt the creation of a "big family" of staff and diners in south east London - all sharing a passion to produce the best quality food.
"What an opportunity for all those young chefs, the young waiters at the front of house, every single one," said the Italian, who was born near the Amalfi Coast.
"I'm so proud, they are like my children. This is about love and passion. This was a dream Jamie had many years ago, it became my dream, now it's everybody's dream.
"Our food is made with love - that's what it's all about."
The food, he said, was made with fresh, top notch ingredients.
And it is within the venue's antipasti section - where platters of freshly-prepared meats and vegetables make their way out onto the pass as staff practise - where this is most evident.
"Our culture here is like it is in Italy," he said. "If you ask for prosciutto, they will slice it straight away for you so it's fresh.
"And all the tomatoes are not just hanging there to look at, we'll use them in the cooking and they'll be full of flavour."
The Greedy Italian has been cooking since he was 10 and possesses a drive to create simple, classic and tasty Italian food.
"Here the food is good because everything is so fresh.
"Italian food is about taste - it's a harmony of food and every flavour goes with something."
And such a desire for authentic taste seems to be in demand in Greenwich.
He said: "I came into work the other day and I met a women who works in the shops around the corner.
"She said 'I am so excited about the restaurant - at last I can eat some genuine food'."
The Jamie and Gennaro partnership has a long back-story.
The Italian speaks of his business partner with a smile and deep affection. Now, the duo cook together every day, trying out new dishes and pooling their passion for food "made with love".
Gennaro said: "What he's cooking in his house he wants everyone to share; he wants to give back his experience."
Lounge area - Relax with an Italian coffee and a good book as you while away the hours in the relaxing chairs and wooden tables
Bar - The swish, modern bar boasting numerous tipple greets diners as they enter the front door.
Anti-pasti section - A divine sight for food-lovers, who will be bound to feast their eyes on this impressive selection of Italian meats including salami and prosciutto, interspersed with bunches of fresh tomatoes.
Staff will be busily preparing mouth-watering vegetarian and meat platters showcasing Lombardy peppers, buffalo mozzarella, Caponata-topped crostini and Puglia olives in the open-plan area.
Main dining area and kitchen - With an impressive glass ceiling the spacious restaurant is light and airy and an ideal place for summertime eating.
Decor and furniture has been kept sleek and minimal, with wooden tables and blue metallic seating, while the exposed kitchen area offers a glimpse of the tasty treats emerging from the pass.
Deli - A treasure trove of fresh produce including pastries, meats, olives and coffee, as well as the perfect place to stock up on top-quality dry pasta, coffee beans and Jamie Oliver's wide range of pesto and oils.
Wooden chopping boards and casserole dishes boasting the Jamie's Italian logo are also for sale.
To book a table go to jamieoliver.com/italian/greenwich