Think of Italian cooking and a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich isn’t the first dish that springs to mind. McDonald’s is a more likely endpoint when walking that greasy path to breakfast.
Hey, I’m a fan of a McMuffin. Two are required to feel anything much, given they’re so small and saggy, but they’re well-executed sandwiches. The combination of those three ingredients – the fatty protein; the tempering, undulating egg; the salty cheese that lubricates – is restorative to the point of art. It is a Michelangelo or a Rafael, a muffin-based sandwich, in that it is gentle but heartily effective.
But unlike those Renaissance painters, a McMuffin can be improved. God, insurmountably improved. Never mind the neoclassicism. McDonald’s is nothing more than a stop-gap or a last resort as far as I’m concerned. And yes, at times, wholly necessary in that “last resort” means incapacitation, but if a hangover is anything less than an 8/10 or worse, there is no excuse for the fast good giant’s dirty excesses.
And so to Italy, a little puzzlingly, for reasons to which I have already alluded. You see, Italy, generally, is fairly terrible at breakfast. Mostly it’s just sugar. I think they’re all just waiting for lunch, in which they excel. Fair enough, then, that Lina Stores has looked further afield – to America, essentially – than the Ligurian hills for inspiration.
The ever-expanding Soho pasta shop – there are now six; might one open outside London soon? – has just launched breakfast at its big and breezy King’s Cross location. Besides the pastel green, chic banquettes and sugary aesthetic, the restaurant is a departure from the original, that hallowed deli and pasta stop on Brewer Street. Founded by Lina, a formidable lady from Genoa, in 1944, it remains iconic.
King’s Cross is less romantic but it does serve breakfast: American ideas with Italian ingredients. On the menu are focaccia sandwiches (all affordable at £8.50) filled with bacon (pancetta), sausage (from Tuscany and imbued with fennel), egg and cheese (provolone). There’s a respectable scrambled egg on sourdough – add truffle for £2. And there are generous and colourful fruit bowls, avocados being smashed up, coffees, juices.
The Tuscan sausage and fried egg focaccia (focaccia con salsiccia e uovo) is a triumph, a careful but buoyant balance of richness in bouncy bread. Dip a morsel in ketchup, which at Lina Stores is homemade with San Marzano tomatoes, and hey, hangover cured.
Executive chef Masha Rener, who grew up in a restaurant kitchen in the countryside of Umbria, Italy, with her Croatian mother, has done wonders with this breakfast classic.
Sausage, fried egg and scamorza breakfast panino
2 x 250g rosemary focaccia
4 eggs (ours are from Cacklebean farm)
500g Italian sausage
250g smoked scamorza (or other smoked mozzarella)
2 tbsp olive oil
Cut the sausages lengthwise. Heat up a large pan to medium heat, add the sausages and cook them until thoroughly browned.
In the meantime, cut the focaccia lengthwise and warm up in the oven for 3 minutes at 160C or toast them in a toaster for extra crispiness.
Slice the scamorza into thin slices. When the sausages are done, reduce heat to low and add a slice of scamorza to each sausage half and let it melt slowly.
In a separate pan, add the olive oil and fry four eggs until crispy around the edges, ensuring the yolk remains runny.
Assemble the sandwich by topping the bottom of the Focaccia with four sausage halves with the melted scamorza cheese on top. Add the freshly fried egg.
Before topping with the top of the focaccia, soak the bread in the pan to soak up the extra fat from the sausages for extra flavour. Enjoy.