Chef Heinz Beck has a mini-empire of restaurants, stretching from Italy (Rome and Tuscany) to Portugal, Dubai (which just opened), London (Ora by Heinz Beck at Brown’s Hotel) and (from late 2014) Tokyo. His flagship, La Pergola, opened in 1994 and is situated on the top floor of the Cavalieri hotel, which is perched on one of the hills of Rome and overlooks St Peter’s Basilica. The dining room tables are arrayed around the picture windows overlooking the city. The wine cellar here is vast: an array of rooms containing 65,000 bottles of wine, with 3,500 different labels offered on the list. There was even an extensive mineral water menu. We had the seven course tasting menu.
Bread was made for scratch in the kitchen and was of a high standard. The loaves were excellent, but my favorite was the extremely delicate pizza bread, served warm and as light as focaccia and loved the various salts to go with the bread (I opted for the cumin. Amuse bouches of Gnochetto with Parmesan reduction and tomato was delicious with hearty flavors of Parmesan and tomato. Parsley with white fish and coconut was refreshing and the fish was silky. Crispy pasta chip with tomato bouillon was very good. These bites were paired with a Leclerc-Briant Champagne Brut Rosé. It’s a wonderful full-bodied, dry, salmon colored bubbly. Complex, rich, and spicy red fruit on the nose and palate is balanced with freshness and acidity on the finish.
The next amuse was a cold vegetarian dish of carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli in lightly gelatinized mushroom sauce. It’s unusual to have a cold dish but it tasted fine.
First course of composition of duck foie gras, chestnuts and fig paired with the 2013 Kracher Cuvee Beerenauslese was sublime. The foie melts in the mouth with notes of anise to compliment the fall flavors. The wine was smooth and moderately sweet, offering apricot and honeyed flavors, with a hint of orange peel. There’s a lively acidity keeps this focused.
Smoked scallop tartare, cumin salt, and red beet shell was next and the mix of textures worked really well. The scallops had good sweetness, enough smokiness from the cumin and the red beet shell added a hint of sweetness.
The “Autumn Garden” was a very pretty bowl of vegetables with a vegetable stock poured into the bowl. The Swiss chard leaf was dehydrated for texture. The various beans, squash and broccoli were cooked nicely. Overall, it’s a satisfying vegetarian dish that’s flavorful and textural that you won’t really miss meat much.
The restaurant’s signature fagottelli pasta was served and it makes sense why it is. The liquid filling of the pasta was delightful, the seasoning was precise.
Red mullet with celery and caper sauce was lovely. The fish was firm and the flavors of the celery and capers worked.
Venison with crisp licorice on polenta and persimmon truly made me think of autumn/winter time using game as the big dish to end the savory potion of the meal. The venison was perfectly cooked and not gamy. I loved the inherent sweetness of the pistachios that encrusted on the meat and some crunchiness.
The cheese cart is entirely a collection of Italian-made cheeses. While most are classic like goat cheese covered in ash, there’s some interesting ones like a cheese soaked in bourbon or coated in saffron that makes this cart special (you can play the video for most of the cheeses there). I had the goat cheese in ash from Piedmont, saffron cheese, Pecorino from Sicily, Abruzzo, Taleggio (the slice standing upright) paired with housemade fig jam, cheese soaked in whisky paired with honey, and a chunk of delectable blue cheese. I could have happily ended my meal with the cheese cart but there’s dessert.
Pre-dessert of passion fruit macaron, raspberry tart, coffee tart, and passion fruit pâte de fruit were delightful sweet bites. The main dessert of pomegranate ice sphere on gianduja cream and cannelloni filled with salty pine seed chantilly was stunning with the color. The bracing acidity of the pomegranate ice globe was great and a good contrast to the chocolate hazelnut cream. The canneloni was my favorite part for the crispness and the pine nut chantilly’s delicate floral flavor.
Mignardise appear in a little silver arrangement of drawers, each drawer containing a different dish. A mini tiramisu was spectacular, while assorted jellies were delicate, as were cookies and a little cylinder containing creme patisserie.
A wide range of coffees is available and my friend opted for tea service that involved a table side cart and gorgeous silverware. Service was superb from start to finish, as polished as you could wish for.
This restaurant is the type that you want to pamper yourself and enjoy the food, wines chosen for the evening, and the posh atmosphere. This meal took me 4.5 hours from start to finish and it’s worth every minute. (I could have spent sleeping a few hours earlier for my early ride to Florence the next morning.)
For more photos, please CLICK HERE for the complete sets or see below:[alpine-phototile-for-flickr src=”set” uid=”26389565@N00″ sid=”72157690776987266″ imgl=”flickr” shuffle=”1″ style=”gallery” row=”4″ grwidth=”1200″ grheight=”800″ size=”640″ num=”30″ shadow=”1″ border=”1″ align=”center” max=”100″]
at Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts
Via Alberto Cadlolo, 101
00136 Roma, Italy
Phone: +39 06 3509 2152