Sunday, November 9, 2014

La Pergola, Rome (***)

La Pergola, the restaurant of hotel Rome Cavalieri, located in the 9th floor of this huge building overlooking Rome by Monte Mario. It is the only restaurant in Rome to be awarded 3 Michelin stars and one of 8 in Italy. For 2015 it has been awarded by the Gambero Rosso guide 95 points out of 100, putting it in the first place of the list alongside Osteria Francescana of Massimo Bottura.    

The restaurant serves only dinner and does one sitting per table. 
Trying to get a reservation can be quite difficult. I would suggest to book 2 months in advance for Friday and Saturday night, or about 1 month in advance for weekdays. You can book directly from their website by an email which they answer promptly. A reconfirmation is required 3 weeks in advance and a final reconfirmation the day prior or even the same day, until midday, of the meal. 

To get there it's a small taxi ride from the city centre. Maybe a quarter from the Vatican. 

Heinz Beck is the executive chef of La Pergola since 1994 in which he has been awarded numerous prices and awards. Under his command the restaurant was awarded the 3 Michelin stars in November 2005 and kept them since then. The 50 year old chef, born in Friendrichshafen, trained and worked in many famous restaurants like the Tantris in Munich, but then married to his Sicilian wife and left to Italy, where he mastered the Italian cuisine. Nowadays except from La Pergola he is also in charge of Apsleys restaurant of Lanesborough Hotel in London (1 michelin star) and  a new restaurant in Tokyo since 2014. He has published many culinary books of Italian gastronomy, although his speciality is definitely the pasta. As I have seen in some of his videos and interviews he always strives to serve light and healthy dishes, a modern twist of Mediterenean flavors.  

Entering the restaurant we were welcomed by a lovely lady and then got seated to a window table. As you can see the big long salle has big windows and views to the terrace, which is open for the warmer summer months. The heavy interior is classically decorated with wooden walls, blue carpets and big porcelain vases. You will find many art treasures around you, paintings, a rare Aubusson tapestry, Sevres porcelain, an 18th century bronze candelabra and a collection of hand blown glass by Emile Galle. In the center of the long room there is a 17th century Celadron vase decorated daily by the hotel's master florist. Tables are well spaced out with comfortable chairs and decorated with candles and flowers. The tableware consists of Vermeil cutlery and plates.

Photo from Rome Cavalieri
What really gets the attention of the guest though is the view beyond the terrace. The whole Rome is in a small distance, with the 140 meters high dome of St Peters in the front. In my visit the weather was rainy with lightnings and thunderbolts adding to the whole view. Inside the atmosphere was relaxed with my neighbour diners to be mostly from Italy (they were speaking Italian at least) while there was classical music playing in the background (I can still remember some Vivaldi).

There is the a la carte option as also a degustation menu with 7 courses (6 plus dessert) or a more extended one with 9 courses (7 plus cheese and dessert). Then there is the 20 years menu, the one made by Heinz Beck to celebrate La Pergola's 20 year jubilee, with 12 courses showcasing the milestones of his culinary art. If you would like to have this particular menu hurry up since it is available for a limited amount of dinners, 999 to be exact. 

La Pergola has one of the biggest wine cellars in the world, with more than 60.000 bottles of 3.500 different labels. It is divided in a number of individual air conditioned areas and rooms optimized for each type of wine. The crus range from 1888 to the present with rare vintages and labels from all around the world. Italian wines, french wines in normal sizes, magnums or 3lts. Some interesting and hard to find wines like Sassicaia (1985), many vintages of Petrus and Mouton Rothschild,  Barolo Granbussia  in 378cl (a traditional particular size for Barolos), Lafite from 1900, Margaux, Cheval Blanc, Gaja wines, Barolo Monfortino. Also many vintages of Chateau d Yquem as long as many dessert wines from Italy and Germany. It has been awarded the Grand Award from wine spectator since 2004, something that has been achieved thanks to La Pergola's sommelier, Marco Reitano, who has also been awarded the Oscar del Vino, as the best Italian sommelier.  

Except from the menu and the huge wine book La Pergola has also a water menu. Well, that's something new. Many pages with water bottles, mineral, carbonated, artesian and so on, from all around the world, Italy, Hawaii, Fiji, Japan, topping at 120 euros for a bottle of water coming from America if I remember correctly. We opted for Evian. 

To start we were offered butter and  some excellent olive oil from Lazio (they use 100ml bottles of the best olive oil they can find, so as soon as the bottle is opened the olive oil is used). With the olive oil, as you can see in the photo below, we had 3 types of salt; regular , smoked (the grey) and ground salt from Hawaii. Bread was of 4 different kinds, baguette, focaccia style bread, a poppy seeds one and butter bread. All of them were very good, served warm with the butter bread standing out. The waiter suggested that we try a piece of each bread  

The amuse bouche, a glass rectangular plate on top of some rocks, was beef with mushrooms, herbs, topinambur and coffee sauce. Not bad, but I found it a bit bland, especially as an amuse bouche. 

Spaghetti with scorpion fish, zucchini and sweet peppers.
One of the best pasta dishes I have ever had. The aromas from the vegetables and the fish were remarkable. Cooked very much al dente as I prefer (to the point that some would find them a tad undercooked) with a light olive oil and fish reduction sauce, nicely seasoned. The scorpion fish was stunning in texture and flavor. 

Fagotelli La Pergola.
The most famous dish of La Pergola and Heinz Beck, served not only in this restaurant but also in Apsleys of London. The fagotelli are filled with carbonara sauce (yolks, pecorino cheese, whipped cream, salt and white pepper), then cooked in boiling water and finished in the pan with some white wine, zucchini, veal stock and pecorino cheese. On the plate some crispy bacon is added. The idea of Heinz Beck behind this dish was to make the famous and traditional carbonara lighter and easier to digest, something that can be achieved by not overheating the eggs while cooking.  The result is pretty impressive. The thin house made pasta had liquid filling, so we were advised to eat them by spoon. Once you got them in your mouth, the pasta breaks and you get a mouthful of carbonara. 

John Dory in parsley crust with olive oil, garlic and chilli pepper. 
Three fillets of nicely cooked john dory with parsley and panko, garlic puree (garlic, milk and vegetable broth), pine nuts and julienne cut steamed green beens. The sauce was made by marjoram, shellfish broth and kuzu. It was garnished with espelette chilli and chopped purple tomatos.   

Loin of Lamb with mint sauce and pecorino puff. 
Two pieces of amazingly tender lamb fillet medium rare cooked, cream cheese filled (ricotta cheese and pecorino) artichoke and pecorino foam. The gelees were like a lamb stock reduction, made by the lamb's bones and trimmings, olive oil, white wine, madeira juniper berries, concentrate tomatos, celery, carrots, onions and garlic; the green sauce of mint. Even thought the lamb was pink  it was cooked throughout, so I suppose it was cooked sous-vide. The strongest part of this dish however I think was the quality of the lamb, absolutely stunning. (Gordon Ramsay's lamb was also as amazing as this). 

The pre dessert, banana coconut sorbet in an alcoholic liquid base was excellent. So aromatic and refreshing, I could eat 10 of these instead of the whole dessert. Amazing.

The dessert card was consisted of 4 cold and 3 warm desserts to choose from. We went for one cold and the famous Grand dessert of La pergola. 

Gianduja mousse with chocolate soft matcha tea biscuit and chestnut ice cream. 
Nocciola praline, a thin layer of chocolate, little figs and chestnuts, pink candyfloss and an airy matcha cake. 

Grand Dessert 
Some of the desserts required extra time to be prepared so we were advised to order them before our main course came out of the kitchen. That's almost a hint that a souffle is coming. 
The Grand Dessert consists of 2 parts. The first was a light skillfully made liquorice souffle, although I found it a bit too sweet , being just one of the 7 different parts of the dessert. On the left raspberries on a boat, or raspberries gratinee with almond amaretto flavor. To the right a liquid chocolate and coconut milk drink which was superb. 
The second part of the dessert arrived before I managed to finish the first 3 small plates. From left to right, chocolate Chantilly on top of warm chocolate and chocolate tears; champagne gelee with frais de bois, this was quite acidic and refreshing between the other more sweet preparations. Really liked that. The right part cannoli with mousse, pistachio and berries, very good too.
An extra dessert, a 7th plate with espresso granite and chantilly cream like a tiramisu was excellent. 

The mignardises were 12 different preparations presented in a heavy metal box. Every single one of them was good, while some were great. I remember a stunning chocolate ganache on top of a biscuit, a small tiramisu tart, strawberry biscuits, some sugared buns, two little cannolis with passion fruit, Palmier biscuits with chocolate. 

Lastly we were treated with 4 homemade chocolates. From left to right, nuts chocolate, dark chocolate with passion fruit ganache, milk chocolate with nugat filling and white chocolate with olive oil ganache(!). Again this was an idea of what a skillful kitchen can do. All four were amazing on par with the top chocolatiers of Paris and Brussels, some of the best chocolates I have ever had, definitely the best I had in a restaurant.   

Service throughtout the evening was flawless. The staff were very professional, fast and friendly. They will really try to make everything possible for the guest to feel welcomed and enjoy the meal. The cooking as I wrote earlier was light, but the huge portion of desserts got us stuffed, in a good way. 

To me this is a world class restaurant with a magnificent setting, view and cooking that merits its 3 Michelin stars, in other words ''worths a special journey'', so I recommend it to all food lovers that happens to be in Rome. Then again try to book well in advance. 

Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30pm to 11:30pm

See also:
Le Louis XV, Monaco (3 Michelin stars)
Pierre Gagnaire, Paris (3 Michelin stars)
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal ( 2 Michelin stars)
Paul Bocuse, Lyon (3 Michelin stars)
Jacques Genin, Paris patisserie


  1. La Pergola looks spectacular. I want to dine there, so beautiful.

  2. It really was Radi :D Especially in the terrace during summer months.

  3. Did you go for the a la carte instead of the tasting menu?

    1. Yes we went a la carte, as I wanted the specific dishes!