The devilled horn, Il Corno, is a sign of virility and an Italian zest for life. It is also the name for Oxford’s first ever Panuozzo Bar, which you can find smack, bang in the middle of The Covered Market in Oxford, serving Italian street food to an ever appreciative crowd. READ ABOUT IT HERE!
The talisman of Naples, Il Corno is therefore a popular amulet or charm in Italian folklore, believed to bring good luck and protection against the evil eye, and therefore the perfect name for this new Neapolitan cafe/bar.
It’s delicacies – panuozzi, taralli, rum babas and sfogliatelle sound wonderfully decadent, but you’ve probably inadvertently tried them in Italy over the years.
It’s rather a different story over here, as it was pouring with rain when we visited, everyone seeking shelter inside the Covered Market and enjoying the dry interior, which meant Il Corno was very busy.
“every Italian I’ve spoken to knows all the offerings like the back of their hand”
Luckily founder Fanny Clemente and her parents Barbara and Franco were on hand to keep up with the orders, wheeling out endless plates of sticky buns, biscuits, pastries and Panuozzo sandwiches, more of which later. But having lived in Naples for most of their lives are totally au fait with what’s expected.
It’s a jolly but fairly basic set up – a counter at the end, tables and chairs, the windows steaming up as shoppers constantly pour in to be resuscitated at the Panuozzo Bar by some proper Italian street food.
But don’t expect pizza or pasta. Instead the panuozzi are the stars of the show. Resembling a panini they are made of pizza dough, shaped and cooked in the oven, then sliced lengthwise and stuffed with savoury ingredients like pancetta, smoked scamorza cheese, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and friarielli (a bitter broccoli).
You can buy them as a half or whole, and prices range from £5 to £10.50. We ordered a variety and they arrived piping hot and oozing with Neapolitan ingredients. Scarmorza (a smoked mozzarella) is a favourite of mine and the perfect cousins to the rather unusual friarelli, although totally authentic.
“Not one for the regimists then, far too much delicious pizza dough, cheese, sugar and cream for that”
You must also try the taralli – the extraordinary savoury, hard curled biscuits made with olive oil and pepper, perfect with a glass of red wine while sitting in the sun, or here with a glass of limoncello.
Once consumed we also tried their sweeter offerings, an unusual selection of rum baba (who knew it was such a delicacy in Naples, but rumour has it this dessert originated in France and found its way to the port city of Naples in the 19th century). These rummy, yeasted sponge cakes are rich with butter and soaked in rum, so probably best for the non-drivers, while light and airy at the same time.
The heavenly sfogliatelle – ridged sugary pastries filled with ricotta, semolina, ricotta, candied fruit, milk, eggs and sugar, like an exotic custard – were again piping hot, dusted with sugar, their creamy sides spilling out when you bit into them and tried not to burn your teeth.
The Italian almond cookies with their green centres were so sweet, the perfect accompaniment to the Il Corno coffee and so we emerged replete and stuffed with goodies.
Not one for the regimists then, far too much delicious pizza dough, cheese, sugar and cream for that, but a genuine glimpse into Neapolitan street food and cafe life, plus every Italian I’ve spoken to knows all the offerings like the back of their hands. What a massive bonus for Oxford that the Clemente’s decided to open up here.
So go and try it out, shut your eyes and dream of sunnier climes. You never know Il Corno might even bring you luck.
Il Corno is open from 11am to 5.30 from on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 11am to 11pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 11am to 4pm on Sundays. It will be closed on Tuesdays. For more details go to: https://www.ilcorno.co.uk