Italian food is possibly the most famous western food in the world. Wherever you go outside Europe, it’s more likely to find Italian restaurants than French’s or American’s. However, in terms its place among the world’s finest places to eat, Italian cuisine is surpassed by its French counterpart. Where to find a great one? Normally, the easiest place to start will be going to the capital where generally the best of the best will be there. When I got the chance to visit Roma early last year, it’s pretty much unanimous that La Pergola (LP) is the top place serving Italian dishes.
Food (and wine) - 94/100
As it has been discussed, is it possible that the best Italian cuisine is prepared by a German? We’ll see soon. At the beginning, I was actually interested in tasting LP’s full degustation menu, but my parents did not seem to be excited to spend 4+ hours in the restaurants. Hence, we went for the a la carte. Here what I ate
- "Tete de veau" with artichoke and black truffle vinaigrette - Only a versatile chef with his well-trained brigades will be able to prepare this 'calf's head' correctly. It's not really delicious, but intense and rustic; adventurous yet full of culinary tradition
- Fagottelli "La Pergola" - 'Ravioli' of egg and pecorino custard served with carbonara sauce, cheese and Serawak pepper. Arguably the best dish for this meal, each byte will reveal a flavor of tasty cream and slight 'spices'. The portion is too small for an ala carte menu … Probably, my best pasta ever
- Veal cheeks with black truffle, apple puree and topinambur - The best part of cheeks is cooked and resulted in a strong and refined flavor, intensified with black truffle. They're balanced by the soft puree and artichoke, personally I would've preferred mashed potato or polenta as my side dishes
- Coffee souffle served with ice cream - The ultimate dessert for coffee lover? The souffle is soft, fragrant and airy, the taste is rather strong but not cloying all surprisingly.
My mom and dad have sea bass with olive oil and black cod with on chickpea puree. While they enjoy the fish’s fresh meat, flavor wise … they thought the fishes were not that delicious. They told me they would rather have HK style steam fish. They enjoyed their spaghetti cooked al dente with sweet shrimp earlier. It has an impressive wine collection – the best comprehensive I’ve ever seen in Italy. I only have a glass of red Tuscany wine. Based on this meal, I find that chef Beck has an outstanding culinary skill; his dishes were like a work of art with delicate touch, it’s unlikely you’ll see any aggressive nature on his cooking. Hence, being delicious may not always be the priority – kinda like chef Alleno’s dishes at Le Meurice. The best in Rome? Definitely. The best in Italy? I like Le Calandre better. It’s 94/100 (high 2 ½* star in my notes)
Service (and ambiance) - 92/100
La Pergola possibly tries to imitate or has many similarities to Le Louis XV. Firstly, it’s located in the city’s top hotels (Hilton Cavalieri) with breathtaking city views – nearly everything luxurious will not be spared: Riedel glassware, wood paneling, and painted ceilings. As you wind down the meal, they will change the whole table arrangements – flickering candles and different flowers. In addition to the usual napkins (I heard they will put the regular guests’ initials on their napkins), they put extra facial tissue – whenever you leave the table, the napkin would be replaced. It also has water menu, a few of them cost as much as EUR 100. Despite all these, I feel something a bit lacking in the atmosphere … then I realized the tables are not as spacious as Ducasse Monaco, also the ceiling was not that high either (compared to Le Louis XV).
The service staffs were lead by signore Umberto Giraudo who used to work at Le Louis XV, maybe this explained the situation above. The restaurant was about 70% full and only at the beginning Mr. Giraudo served our table. Most staffs worked very hard to impress the guests, but the flow was not as liquid as the service at Ducasse Monaco. Generally, the service was really good except our captain. Somehow, whenever we asked for something, he seemed to be in rush and we noticed the smile was not that sincere. Towards the end of the meal, I asked if I could see the kitchen and meet chef Beck – he’s hesitant and rejected my request because the restaurant was busy without checking with the kitchen. I didn’t really believe him … on the way out, I was talking to the lady host who always smiles and gracious – she immediately escorted me to the kitchen without any issue. That’s the only service issue we face that ruined a bit of the good hospitality rendered by La Pergola team. Chef Beck was kind and nice. The kitchen is almost as big as a tennis court … again, only Le Louis XV has bigger kitchen based on the 3-star restaurants I’ve visited. I bestowed 93/100 (a solid 2 ½*) for my overall dining experience here – nice dining places, but not yet quite the level of L’Arpege or Ledoyen.
For the dishes’ pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...
Via A Cadlolo 101,, Rome, Lazio 00136, IT
strada statale 11, località Sarmeola, via Liguria,1, Rubano (PD), Veneto 35030, IT
If you have Amex Centurion Club, you should try that. They do have a waiting list. You would find out the same afternoon, not the day before, but it's unlikely. Rome isn't like New York, where a table can almost always be found for the right person. Here the tables tend to be occupied for the entire evening, and the restaurants are small. And you want a Saturday evening. Call and ask to be put on the waiting list, say if you're willing to go late, and resign yourself. This is the only really, really hard table to get in Rome. As a last resort, you might try an appeal directly to Heinz Beck. What is so important about La Pergola that you couldn’t have thought of a month or two ago, when you had a chance?
re: jen kalb
Il Pagliaccio (also hard for a weekend at short notice), Imago at the Hassler, Antonello Colonna, Il Convivio.
Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 130, Roma 00186, IT
Il Convivio Troiani
Via dei Soldati, 28, Rome, Lazio 00186, IT
palazzo delle esposizioni,Scalinata di via Milano 9A, Rome, Lazio 00184, IT