Mani D’Oro, Gasperich, Luxembourg

We kicked off the week with a place which used to be (and I discovered it is still!) my favorite and we will continue today with a review of a brand new restaurant!

Mani D’Oro (translated: Golden Hands, an idiomatic expression used in Italian to define someone who is gifted in doing manual works) has been opened for less than one month on route d’Esch, just before getting to Cloche D’Or.

Their core is the preparation of fresh pasta: you can eat sur place or take it away, together with pizza, sandwiches and salads. As Mani D’Oro is open from Monday to Saturday, from 11 to 8 pm (Saturday till 3 pm), we decided to visit it for Saturday lunch, which, since I am getting old and I am not partying anymore all night long, has became a very pleasant ritual.

As said, Mani d’Oro is located on the main street and has a lovely terrace on the front side – I am already looking forward to summer apero, I know!
The décor and the atmosphere are sophisticated and refreshing: a big counter as soon as you get in, where you can order or pick up your take away, tall tables on one side and table booths on the others, with a line of chairs in front of the windows with the view on the outside – very much street food feeling. On the back of the booths, the kitchen and laboratory, with bright windows on the main room – so you can see all the preparations.

The menu has a choice of pasta to match: you choose your format and you choose the sauce (including several vegan and vegetarian options), plus pizza in three sizes, sandwiches and salads. Some daily suggestions are also available.

I ordered a pizza La Piccante (ventricina sausage and nduja sauce) in the smallest format while E. went for one of the daily suggestions (home made ravioli with porcini mushrooms and truffle).
We concluded with a tiramisu to share and we were offered two shots of limoncello.

Total bills reads 49 Euro, 24,5 Eur each (for 3 beers, 1 bottle of water, 1 portion of pizza, 1 portion of truffle pasta, 1 tiramisu, as said limoncello was offered).

Pictures of our lunch are followed, as usual, by my impressions about Mani d’Oro.

What I loved about Mani d’Oro:

  • I definitely loved the concept of the restaurant and the decorations: honestly lunch places I have tried so far are going in-between extremely cheap eatery and posh restaurants offering pricey lunch options. Mani d’Oro offers you a very affordable Italian experience in a captivating atmosphere. Also – the restaurant has a great selections of cocktails, Gin and other drinks, so it is not your usual lunchtime place.
  • I loved the pizza and I cannot wait to come back to try more of that: crunchy, not greasy at all, light in the dough and with first quality ingredients. The small portion (12 Euro for the topping I have chosen) was definitely more than enough for just one person and I have found myself imagining there sharing a large size with several friends and a Campari (or Aperol Spritz, depending what you like). E. also said his pasta was delicious, even if slightly smaller in size: the pasta with truffle is the most expensive one (20 Eur – and it is very reasonable as they came to shave the truffle at the table), but other pasta dishes are around 12 Eur, like salads, 6.5 Eur for sandwiches). Again, ingredients are top quality and you can definitely taste it.
  • Service was friendly, with detailed explanations and very present despite the place was very busy during Saturday lunch (better to book during peak hours). I also appreciate very much the take-away and delivery option. I am a fan of pizza al taglio (don’t blame me, I like it more than your typical round pizza) so I would definitely prefer ordering it at home to share with friends.

What I liked a bit less about Mani d’Oro:

  • At the moment, as the place is open until 8 pm during the week, it is perfect for lunch or late lunch, after-work or a very early dinner. If you fancy their dishes after 8 pm, you will need definitely to wait for next day.
In conclusion: I loved Mani d’Oro and as it is not far from where I live, it is going to be my place to go for Saturday lunch and after-work with friends. Their pizza is delicious and they offer a great selection of pasta, sandwiches and salads – together with drinks, also alcoholic – for a very fair price in a charming location. 

Piadi – Italian Food House, Bonnevoie, Luxembourg

Last week I went back to basics and came back after long time to have dinner in Bonnevoie. If you missed the previous episodes, I have lived in Bonnevoie for about 10 years and probably my first posts on the blog were very centred on that area, a bit like now they are focused around Place de Paris 🙂

Piadi – Italian Food House is another one of those places which have been on my list for long time, so a quiet night of the week while I was not feeling cooking seemed the perfect night to try it.

We got there at 7 pm (yes, I know.. “eating with the chicks” as we say in Italian) and got to choose our table as the restaurant was basically still empty. The location is very nice: just few steps from the central station, with bright windows on the first roundabout in Bonnevoie. Not fancy, but definitely colorful, those kind of places were you feel like smiling as soon as you got in.

We were informed there was a special tasting night (“Pasta lovers”) and, if we wanted, we could have had three small portions of pasta for 19 Euro.
We decided to eat a la carte a as you know I am not very past oriented.

We started with a Negroni and a glass of white, together with a platter of cheese and cold cut, accompanied by piadina and gnocco fritto – a typical specialty from Emilia Romagna. We were not sure about portions, so we hold on the main order, but, after the starter, we were definitely still hungry: I went for a dish of passatelli with pesto and clams (another pasta specialty from Emilia Romagna) and E. for a piadina with Italian sausage, onions and bell peppers.

We spent 84 Euro for: 2 glasses of wine, 1 Negroni, 1 bottle of water, 1 starter to share, 1 piadina, 1 passatelli, 1 espresso, 2 digestif. 42 Euro each.

Pictures of the dinner followed by my general impressions of Piadi – Italian Food House.

What I liked about Piadi – Italian Food House:

  • As anticipated, I liked the place and the general feeling the place is giving you. It is very relaxed and friendly and the nice service is definitely completing this feeling. It is a place you can go straight from work for a quick drink accompanied by Italian antipasti, you can have an informal date or you can meet up with your friends. Probably the colors of the place are making me thinking you cannot be sad among those walls and you will definitely link that dinner to happy circumstances.

  • Food was good: we were given more piadina and gnocco fritto with the starter once we finished them, the squaquerone cheese which is included in the antipasti platter was my personal highlight and I liked very very much the passatelli – more than the piadina honestly. The menu is pretty various as well: a nice choice a la carte as well as suggestions of the day which are going from starters to main – they had rabbit that day that I love, but I was not feeling very much for that, next time. It is definitely a place where you can have dinner (or lunch) with pasta lovers, vegetarian or picky eaters.

  • As said, service was very kind and my bonus point goes definitely to the Negroni I had. Most of bars and restaurants are recently serving Negroni -which is my favorite Italian cocktail – and even if I have found really good versions around – and some interesting relook -, the one I had at Piadi’ was the one to me which tasted closer to the one I have in Italy.

What I liked a bit less about Piadi – Italian Food House:

  • Once again, another place where I cannot find something to dislike, we had a very happy evening and I would probably come back. There was only one small “discomfort” regarding to the price of some items, if we want to call it like that. The shared platter has two size (a small and a bigger one) and we ordered the big (21 Eur). We were feeling to have only that but as said we were still hungry after – I feel that compared to other places I had the mixed starter, the portion size is slightly misaligned with the price, but it is not a big issue, you just have to know you can/need to eat something else after. Same for the “digestifs”, rarely seen a shot glass priced 5 Eur, so I will probably not order it next time.

To know: together with the a la carte dinner, Piadi is also organizing various interesting tasting nights, all oriented around typical products you rarely get to eat somewhere else (like “Tigella night”) and Sunday brunches. To be informed about these events, follow them on their Facebook page.

In conclusion: Piadi – Italian Food House is an informal Italian place, focused on authentic Italian products from Emilia Romagna, located in the heart of Bonnevoie. You need definitely to try gnocco fritto but next to that you can have other very tasty dishes – and delicious cocktails. It is the perfect place for a night out with friends or an easy going date.

Al Grappolo, Gare, Luxembourg

A new week has started and the weather is very depressing, isn’t it? Personally I am a fan of the cold season, which I prefer much more than the hot one, but rain… I can’t really handle it. After a week of much work and some social gatherings, last week-end I just stayed in and cook for my friends.

But.. I have still couple of reviews to post about “new” places I have visited during the previous week-end. Al Grappolo, in rue Adolphe Fisher, is one of these places. It is not new, as it has been open for some time now, but for some reasons, even if I wanted so much to try, I never had the occasion. I heard a lot of great stuff about it, so I was very curious and excited.

First of all, book in advance as the place is very small. We got there around 8 pm and the place is pretty cozy, the atmosphere is calm and warm. Candlelights, white table cloths, an old fashion record player. We ordered a Campari spritz to kick off the night and then the owner came to our table to introduce us the menu. Indeed, there is not a fixed menu, but it is changing every day with some limited choices.

We chose two portions of porchetta (roasted pork) with gorgonzola to start. To follow, I had veal with mushrooms, L. calamarata (a kind of pasta) with squids and E. pasta with “nonna” ragu.

We had a bottle of primitivo during the dinner – which took ages to be chosen, so praise to the patient of the staff who supported our decision – and we concluded with some digestives.

Total bill read 210 Eur – two starters, three mains, 3 apero, bottle of wine (which was around 50 Eur) – 70 Euro each.

Pictures of the dinner – starter pic is ugly, but I was so hungry I forgot to make it before eating – followed by my impressions about Al Grappolo.

 

Things I liked about Al Grappolo:

  • My expectations about food probably were generally too high, we had a pleasant, tasty dinner, but I think what makes the place special is the combination between the good food, the amazing atmosphere and the bubbling service. Walking into the door, you are catapulted in an Alice in Wonderland’s hole, where Luxembourg grey sky is thousand years far, surrounded by this welcoming feeling you might have when you eat at someone’s place.
  • Next to the food, the choice of wine is incredible, wide and interesting. Personally speaking, I would choose not to go to a place which has decent food, if I don’t like the wine offer. At Al Grappolo, wine would be one of the first reason to have dinner for me.
  • Considering what we ate (and drank), I have found the bill quite fair compared to similar place, above all for how pleasant was our night.

What I liked a bit less about Al Grappolo:

  • Let’s be honest: the fact they don’t have a fixed menu and the choice is very limited, is ensuring that the products are always fresh and seasonal. At the same time, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The night we had dinner there was only one starter (pork), couple of meat pasta dishes, one fish pasta, one meat main course (the one I had) or grilled meat (for 2 people). I am very easy going in terms of food and I eat everything, so it was not an issue for me, but if you are with picky eaters, it might not be the right place.

 

In conclusion: Al Grappolo is a very cozy and warm Italian place located just off Place de Paris. It offers seasonal products and a very authentic cuisine, together with a great choice of wine. I would definitely recommend, especially for a night out with friends, when you want to be at restaurant all night and enjoy one glass more.

 

Sana, Organic Food & Restaurant, Luxembourg City

After one year almost stuck with the blog, it is finally the time again for one of my favorite moment: trying a new restaurant!

I got this occasion as soon as back from my Italian vacations and the place I wanted to try first was Sana, Organic Food & Restaurant, which opened at the beginning of August just few steps from Place D’Armes, where the historic Banana’s was located.

The concept of the place is quite innovative for Luxembourg city: at the ground floor, Sana has a “pizzeria al taglio” which is open from mid-morning until 7 pm. They have a wide selection of pizza which you can eat sur place or take away. Next to that, you can as well order some salad, small starters as arancini and dessert. Said like that it might look a quite “easy” place, but what makes Sana different is definitely the research of the products: the pizza itself is prepared with a special flour coming from Italy (Farina del Mulino Magri, operating since 1929), and every single ingredient is selected among the top to get to a result that is a “pizza gourmet” – forget about pizza with chicken, here you have authentic Italian pizza prepared with 100% bio tomato sauce from Apulia, mozzarella cheese from a family factory in Molise region, Parmesan aged at least 36 months and cold cuts coming 100% from Italy.

At the first floor, then, you will have the restaurant. The concept behind, again, is simple: the objective of Sana is to present dishes from the Italian tradition in a form of “bistrot” and to give priority to the quality of the ingredients utilized.

Behind the whole concept, there is Andrea Cavaliere, who used to be the chef at Kava, in Bertrange – at the time he was there it was one of my beloved places in Luxembourg – and previously with Roberto Fani, who owns 1 Michelin star. We have been advised that the restaurant has been just opened – less than 2 weeks – and therefore the menu is still “work in progress”. But we were tooo curious to try so we booked a table for last Saturday night.

We have been welcomed at the main door and left to choose if to dine inside (upstairs) or outside. The weather was still pleasant and the terrace is very well presented – with a funny “beachy” feeling just few steps from Place d’Armes. We decided anyway to have just a drink outside and to move then upstairs for the dinner. With a glass of champagne and one of rose, we were offered a sample of the pizza available: italian sausage and potatoes, grilled eggplants and chickpeas cream with mortadella (definitely my favorite). The effort in the research of amazing ingredients for me it is clear already from the pizza and what surprised me most was the lightness of the dought – not greasy at all.

We moved upstairs thought the white staircase at the entrance – watch out if you have heels 🙂 – and we were accommodated to a table on the window in the main room. Again, it is surprising how the place changed completely from when it was Banana’s (closed and dark): now Sana restaurant is full of light and decorated in the particulars. You feel like you are in a countryside cottage where the owner will offer you totally homemade products.

We decided to go classic, therefore we ordered a portion of carbonara to share and to follow the cotoletta, veal, prepared with the bone. To conclude the dinner, we shared a classic tiramisu.

 

 What I loved about Sana Restaurant:

  • What a refreshing new place! A place where the quality of the raw material is outstanding and there is an extreme effort in presenting traditional dishes. I am not a fan of carbonara, but the one of Sana was to die for. The cotoletta was also amazing: so tender you can cut it only with the fork and not greasy at all. Tiramisu is prepared with the classic recipe but without raw eggs and was exceptional. I was surprised by how such a “simple” dinner could have been so tasty. Even the salad which was accompanying the main, instead of the boring fries, was delicious. I cannot wait for Sana to extend its menu and to try new dishes. 

  • The place has its own very strong features and it is not parroting any existing place or trend, they have done a great job renewing it. As said, the interiors are very bright and cared into the details. You totally forget to be in the city center in Luxembourg and it is versatile to welcome a date night, a family gathering or an easy-going dinner with friend. The spent, then, considering the quality of the ingredients and how big the portions are, is very fair: we spent 65 Eur with wine for 3 courses, but you can limit it definitely with only one course, as portions are big. Again, you should consider where the ingredients are coming from: the cotoletta was 26 Eur, which is an extremely good price for a meat dish compared to other locations in the city center. The carbonara, on the other side, was 20 Eur. But then you have to consider that they use only bio egg yolks, cheek lard aged at least 36 months, authentic Pecorino Romano DOP and Sicilian Extra-Virgin Oil. Yes, you can definitely find a carbonara for less, but would it be the same? I don’t think so.

  • A lot of other items made our dinner unforgettable: the kind and relaxed service, with waiters able to give you real suggestions and information about the dishes and the products used, the chef going around the tables to check how things were going, the welcome with the pizza for the aperitif. On my side, I can tell you that my friend who accompanied me is the most picky person in terms of food ever – not a good match for me, that I am eating everything, I know LOL – and he told me that this has been the most delicious dinner we had together and he couldn’t find anything to complain about. Well done!

What I liked a bit less about Sana restaurant:

  • This has been a great night and, even if full, I didn’t have that feeling to have eaten “too much” as ingredients were so good and cooked properly that you don’t feel exhausted by the food. I don’t have negative remarks, just for you to note that the place has been open for 2 weeks now and the menu is still on progress, including the wine list, which at the moment is quite small, but for which Sana has already plans for extension. 

 

In conclusion: Sana is a brand new place in Luxembourg city centre. They have a delicious pizzeria al taglio on the ground floor and a bistrot style restaurant upstair. They propose an authentic Italian cuisine with outstanding ingredients. As Italian myself, Sana is definitely jumping on top on my Italian recommendations for Luxembourg city – and it is perfect for a date or for a night out with friend. Don’t miss their carbonara and watch out for new items on the menu to come.

 

Lunch at Trattoria del Circolo, Hollerich, Luxembourg

I am still working couple of days per week at home and this is giving me the opportunity to visit some restaurants in my areas also for lunch. Except business lunches, I tend to take my lunch from home as when not busy drinking like Joan Collins or eating like Adam Richman, I follow pretty strict dietary rules – unbelievable but true.

But after the almost three months lockdown, when I had lunch and dinner at home every day, and I pretty much avoided as well take-aways, I am quite keen now about having at least one lunch out per week.

Last week, I was invited by a dear friend to “Trattoria del Circolo“, the restaurant of the Italian club Circolo Curiel. To be honest, even if it is located at a walking distance from my place and I pass there in front almost every day, I have never been tempted to try it before. As I was explaining to P., in Italy usually this kind of restaurants are famous (or infamous) for the huge portions, very simple dishes and a fairly decent quality, so not exactly my target. “Trattoria del Circolo” was indeed an extremely positive surprise.

Starting from the location, traditional but not kitsch, warm and welcoming, with bright spaces and a very Italian feeling. There are two different menu, one for lunch and one for dinner, with some choices that are available at both meals and a good variety of products and tastes. Prices are moderate, with starters around 10 Eur, primi piatti around 16 Euro and main course from 19 Eur to 25 Eur. For lunch, there is also a daily menu available: starter, main and dessert for 13,5 Eur. You have two choices per course, so this might accommodate various palate.

We went for this option and we had as starter a seafood salad (other option was a caprese). As for main, I had spaghetti with rabbit and bell peppers, while P. had orecchiette with gorgonzola. We were not given option for the dessert, which was a cheesecake with raspberry.

Two menu, two bottles of water, two espressos, total bill read 38 Eur (19 Eur per person) that might not be a lunch for every day if you are surviving like me on lunch vouchers, but it is definitely very much competitive.

Pictures of our lunch followed by my general impressions on “Trattoria del Circolo“. (Note that the pictures of the location don’t do it justice, but it is just for you to have an idea.)

What I loved about “Trattoria del Circolo

  • Trattoria del Circolo” has been so far one of the best gastronomic highlights of this year. Not because I haven’t been out a lot, but because in its whole presentation was able to surprise me like not other places did recently.
  • Food was not only delicious, but extremely polished in its presentation, going far beyond the idea of “trattoria” as Italian I might have had. I can’t wait to come back and try the evening menu! Rabbit is usually a dish I love so much at my granma’s place that I tend to dislike everywhere else: here it was a great exception, as it was to die for.
  • The location is very cozy: honestly I immediately pictured there a date night, but it would be perfect as well for a family reunion or a dinner with friends. Bonus point: there is a terrace on the back if you want to eat outside.

What I liked a bit less about “Trattoria del Circolo

  • As for this lunch visit, everything amazed me, so there was nothing I would have changed – well, personally I would have kept the pasta in the boiling water for 1 minute less, but this is something totally personal. I will anyway give it another try for dinner and I will update the review at that time.

In conclusion:

I had a very tasty lunch at “Trattoria del Circolo” in Hollerich. The lunch set menu is a steal, the location is lovely and the food was surprisingly good and well presented. Definitely a place I want to come back.

Kava Restaurant, Bertrange, Luxembourg

Not sure about you, but when I have to decide where to go for dinner, I am often limiting the choice to my comfort zone, meaning the areas were I live rather than I often go out – city center, place de Paris. Visiting a restaurant out of these areas has basically to be justified by a specific situation. The situation in that case, last week, has been an extreme curiosity to find out a new place that has been on my to try list since its opening – but for which I have been too lazy to move my ass out of Hollerich -, Kava Restaurant, just in front of Bertrange station.

As I did, you can easily book your table online – that for me it is always a plus point – and you get a confirmation almost immediately. We got there around 9 pm and were asked if wanted to eat on the terrace or inside. Ca va sans dire, we opted for being outside. The terrace is only partially covered – and heated – but the time to be inside this winter is going to be long, so why do not still take advantage of the  pleasant temperatures?

After a while, we were provided by two menus: the list of cocktails – that includes a quite creative side for being in a restaurant – and the food menu – few starters, main with fish and meat having the common point of being mainly cooked in the wooden oven, some typical Italian dishes. Vegetarians will have at least two options per course.

We ordered a “Cocktail of the Chef” while deciding what to eat. We finally went for oysters as starter, accompanied by a glass of champagne, followed by rabbit and beef filet, both accompanied by truffle potatoes pure’ and a bottle of red one, a special one tonight.

Pictures of the dinner are followed, as usual, by my impression of Kava Restaurant.


What I loved about Kava Restaurant:

  • There is a combination of factors, to me, that makes this place exceptional. The list of drinks, to start with, innovative and quite edgy. Our “Cocktail of the Chef” has been definitely a surprise, considering I am very methodical in my alcohol choices, – extremely refreshing, well balanced and presented. Not very often you do see such nice cocktail list in a restaurant – I would say Kava is definitely almost at Airfield level on this item.
  • The food choice is on the classic side, but with a twist. There are options that I have rarely seen in other place in Luxembourg city – my rabbit has been one of them. I was tempted and worried at the same time when ordering that, as the only place I normally eat it is at my Granma’s, but I would say that the competition was high. The cooking was perfect, the meat tender and the seasoning structured and fair in its balance. Even for dishes that are easily replicated around, like the oysters, the beef filet and truffle potatoes, the quality of the raw materials was amazing and the execution, for the main, outstanding. While I was very full at the end of the dinner, I reserve myself to try the entire dessert list next time, that appeared to be delicious.
  • The atmosphere and the service have their great part in the success of the place. We felt spoiled from the moment we got in to the very end, having the chef himself coming with the truffle for our dishes, with an extreme hospitality and professionalism of the whole team who took care of us. The place itself is very cozy, with an attention to details almost maniacal: from the personalized wine glasses, to the bread basket, to the restrooms. The ambience indeed is refined, sophisticated, without being too posh, with a mixed client base – that was a family with kids seated next to us, couples young and less young, table of friends.

What I liked a bit less about Kava Restaurant:

  • Our dinner was among the best I had in the last year in Luxembourg and I would definitely rate Kava, for the whole experience, among my top restaurants in Luxembourg. It reminds me very much of a place that used to be my favorite in the city for ages and that recently has lost much of its charm, due to a very poor management – no name, no shame.
  • Said that, should I find something to be picky at, I would definitely say that the list of wine is not as good as the one of drinks, and I would have expected to have some more good choices, further than Moresco Langhe from Gaja and a Sassicaia – there is also another Ornellaia on the list, but only from 2016.
  • Lastly, and that, unfortunately, cannot be improved but only acknowledged, the view from the terrace is not very romantic, but I recognized they did their best to accommodate it in the nicer way possible for the location.

In conclusion: I had awesome time at Kava Restaurant. The place does not have any gastonomique expectations, still proposes a very different kind of cuisine, with Italian origins and mainly based on the wooden oven. The food was delicious and the service exceeded our expectations. Cocktail list out of the ordinary is a plus. I would definitely recommend it for a date night, a business dinner or a meet-up with friends. The restaurant is a sophisticated oasis of peace, where all the details are adding up together in a welcoming, unique atmosphere.

 

Jazz Night at Come à la Maison

It has been quite a while since we had a girls’ night out and the perfect occasion came last week, when Come à la Maison organized a Jazz Night at dinner.

The restaurant Come à la Maison is located just between rue de Hollerich and Merl and have lived over the past years an incredible ascending parabola, starting as an informal Italian eatery inside a furniture shop and expanding its activities in the same building, diversificating the offer, with a seafood corner (Come à La Mer), a wine corner (Come à la Cave) and more recently a pizza and a winter corner (Come à la Montagne).
I admit I have been there only couple of times for the brunch, which was and continues to be one of the main feature of the restaurant. The brunch offers a unique and amazing selection of dishes, from fresh oysters to homemade pasta, in a buzzy but posh atmosphere, perfect above all for a celebration or if you feel you want to have couple of prosecco to spice up your Sunday – and if you are hungry, as definitely does not come up as cheap.

Finally – it was the time to try Come à la Maison for dinner. We got our reservation at 8.00 pm and we arrived quite on time despite the light snow. The concert was already on in the main dining room, where you get through a labyrinth of accesses. The restaurant, the whole one, including the other rooms and annexes, was packed.
We were given the menu and took our time to decide while enjoying the music. Finally, we went for a shared board of charcuterie and cheese with truffle. As main, I had a “Focaccia Burger”, Angela a pumpkins soup and Annamaria a beef tartare. We drunk a bottle of Valpolicella Ripasso Giusti and concluded with espresso and Amaro del Capo.

Now it is time for the pictures of the dinner, followed by my impressions of Come à la Maison.

Things I liked about Come à la Maison:

  • The atmosphere is mint, really. I can definitely understand this to be one of the main success factor of the place. It was kind of noisy, but in a positive way, very Italian, warm and pleasant. Perfect to unplug after a day at work and have fun.
  • I found the food offer to be nice, far from the boring “already seen” in most of the Italian restaurants in Luxembourg, but without being too edgy. Mostly classic dishes but made modern and appealing, at list in the presentation. Also the wine list proposed fairly priced bottles next to great labels.
  • The service is very informal and perfectly in line with the place, waiters are smiley and kind and even if as said the place was packed we never felt forgotten.

Things I liked a bit less about Come à la Maison:

  • We had an extremely funny evening, made even more pleasant by the vibes of the Jazz Trio. I was positively surprised by the restaurant and above all by the atmosphere. Said that, would I come to Come à la Maison only for its food? Honestly not. Food was definitely not bad, but was nothing too special that you feel the urge to eat again tomorrow and my friends shared my same view. In particular, the selection of cheese and cold cuts with truffle was delicious – with basically zero input on the restaurant’s side – while the main was slightly disappointing – bland taste, zero fantasy, plain ingredients.

To sum up: I was positively surprised by the lovely atmosphere at Come à la Maison. While, to me, the food is not the main reason to visit the restaurant, the combination between the music, the atmosphere and the service makes the restaurant perfect for a night out or a celebration, where food might definitely not be the priority. Moreover I definitely love the events they propose, so watch out their Facebook page if you want to spend a different evening accompanied by good music.

Trattoria da Gino, Luxembourg City

The story is the same: you see “work in progress” on a window in the city previously occupied by a restaurant you walk by and you start to wonder which kind of food you are going to eat there next. And then, when the sign unveils, you discover that it is, once again, an Italian restaurant.

The question is: do we need another Italian restaurant in town? This was the same I might have initially crossed my mind when I discovered that, at the place of a lunch eatery next the station, an Italian trattoria was going to open, Trattoria da Gino.

My curiosity has never been stopped by a cliché, therefore I decided anyway to try the restaurant – well, I said, even if it was just another boring Italian night, would still be Italian.

I could have not been more wrong.

The place itself, to start with, it is quite different from most of the Italian places I have been in the city: bright is the first adjective I would use to describe it, cozy, relaxed, with a clean and open kitchen on view at the end of the main room – open kitchen in an Italian restaurant in Luxembourg for me is a first time.

First time I visited Trattoria da Gino was a very calm Saturday night at the end of August, during the Fair, and the restaurant was full but not packed. We have been welcome by the owner, Gino – you have probably seen him already around as he has an astonishing experience in the food industry in Luxembourg.

While drinking an aperitif, I discovered the lovely details of the place. The restaurant embraced perfectly the concept of Italian “trattoria” : there is not a menu, but the dishes proposed a la carte change on a daily basis for dinner, are limited to a few and are written on a huge chalkboard on the wall.

We decided to share a starter (“vitello tonnato”, a North Italian cold dish composed by tiny slices of veal and a tuna fish sauce). For main, I went for “Fusilli Calabresi con Sugo di Porcelletto” – homemade pasta from the South of Italy with a piglet sauce, while my friend had Roasted Duck with Plums sauce.

During the meal, we drank one of my favorite wine ever – Marina Cvetic Montepulciano. The list of wine – as the food card – is limited but has indeed some extremely interested items.

Our dinner and our entire evening were amazingly pleasant: I was surprised above all by the fact that, even if the place is low key and casual (exactly a “trattoria”), ingredients are gourmet, dishes are polished, wine list has a lovely selection and the dish presentation is definitely very refined – more like a high end restaurant than a casual eatery.

I did not mention the taste of the food, which was amazing.

I did not miss the chance to come back to visit Gino very soon afterwards – fact is, they are publishing the daily menu on their FB page and when I am leaving the office and I see something I like, as it is very close to where I live, I just ask myself: do you want to cook or do you want to have …? Well, you know already the reply.

On my second visit, I had another succulent dish – “fregola” (an Italian small type of pasta typical from Sardinia) with sea food followed by a delicious Baba’ with rhum – still dreaming about that. Another time, I had a sandwich with octopus. Then I lost the count…

Well – actually I have been there on a wine tasting night – but I am happy I did not have many pictures about that, but only blurred memories and a memorable headache to follow 🙂
Indeed, Gino is also organizing special nights that are just a good excuse to try the place – on a regular basis, there are wine tasting events and after-works. Watch out the Facebook page for more update.

To conclude, the striking contrast between the concept of the restaurant – a low key Italian trattoria – and the result they obtained – a fine-dining selection of dishes and ingredient, special wines and sophisticated presentation – is making Trattoria da Gino a unique place in its style on the Luxembourg scene – and therefore a must to visit.

This article has been adapted from the one we originally published as contributors on the new Editus website.

A coffee with… Alessio Zappala

He is the one in charge of “feeding” the Italian Ambassador in Luxembourg. He knows her tastes and works hardly to delight the palate of the renowned personalities from Luxemburg and European political scene who frequent her table.

18cbf2dc-4169-46b7-a959-bbdb1933c1ce

His name is Alessio Zappala, known as Chef Alessio, he was born in Sicily, Italy, and he is a volcano of gastronomic knowledge, stubbornness and happiness. This might have been probably what impressed the Ambassador Mrs. Rossella Franchini, before choosing him for her kitchen. We met Alessio for a coffee at Caffé Torino in a sunny morning and ask him some questions, for the readers of Barefoot in Luxembourg to get know him better.


Angela
– Chef, what does it mean for a young chef to play such an institutional role?
Alessio – Working for the Italian Ambassador in Luxembourg is a mission. And not just for what you represent, but for the commitment it takes to promote Italian culinary culture in this country. Since I have been working for her, I had the opportunity to work toward my philosophy.

AN – And what is your philosophy?
AL – Here in Luxembourg, Italian restaurants do not lack, indeed, we can say that there are a lot. Despite this, finding who really respects the tradition and the high quality of our products is very difficult. And I understand it, because it is often more effective to meet local tastes and to choose products easily available rather than making efforts to keep up the pure, authentic Italian gastronomic proposal. So I commit myself and I fight for not coming down to these compromises. Each Italian recipe is made of typical ingredients, most of which are excellent. Let us use them, let people know, we don’t have to add elements that have nothing to do with our culture.

AN – You’re right. I am on your side. And tell me how the ambassador caught you?
AL – In 2014 I won the Bronze Medal at the World Cooking Championship at ExpoGast, an international haute cuisine event, in which I obviously represented Italy. That was followed by the silver medal during the period when I was in the Federation of Italian chefs in Belgium. These occasions are unique, you know, to make yourself known. Not to mention my commitment in Luxembourg to grow the Italian Chefs Federation.
So, coming back to your question, it was that one evening a few months ago, I received a proposal that I could not refuse 😉

d86b4a9c-be9b-4047-90e4-ddd2712c2818

AN – And now you cannot get away from the one question: what does the Ambassador fancy to eat?
AL – The ambassador has refined tastes and is respectful of every single ingredient. It is for this reason that she does not like the excess of spices and sauces, to taste the most authentic flavor of the dish. She decides the main and the sides. And as she decides, there are no further questions.
As for her preferences, she especially loves game prepared with the typical Italian aromatic herbs and the sauce that is naturally released during cooking. Then she often makes herself the bread with which she delights family and guests.

88f0da96-1f35-4b8e-aa0c-0cc035a2c3ef

AN – Thanks Alessio, it’s always nice to meet people through their tastes. And tell us, where will we find you soon?
AL – This year, from 24 to 28 November, the Expogast is back, returning to Luxembourg every 4 years and featuring international culinary art. With a lot of competitions, between 46 teams of different nationalities for the “Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup”. Well, I will coordinate the Italian team.
So dear Italian readers (and not only!), come to cheer for us!

AN – We, at Barefoot in Luxembourg, will certainly be there. So now last question: What have you got up your sleeve?
AL – There is something in preparation on the menu, but I cannot announce anything yet. Readers will have to wait a few month, they have to stay tuned until next interview 😉

AN – Thanks for this pleasant coffee together, Alessio
AL – Thanks to you Angela for having given me the possibility to talk about my projects on the blog.

6606a5cc-343f-4f87-a1b8-e2c2c775dff9

If you want to follow Chef Alessio Zappala check his Facebook Page here.

Pictures are courtesy of Laura Iberti. Follow her Instagram account here.

Alterego Restaurant, Luxembourg City

Can creative cuisine be as well affordable? I had the truly impression recently that the most sophisticated one restaurant gets, the more expensive the final bill is going to be. Sometimes it is perfectly justifiable as well as appreciated. I tend to save at least couple of dinners per year for outstanding places – mostly Michelin stars – and even if when the check is close to the 4 digits, I have never had real regrets, as they definitely deserved. But, from my experience, there are more and more restaurants which tends to offer a slightly gastronomic proposal and to have Michelin-starred prices – I can definitely find couple of examples in Luxembourg. I am not perfectly comfortable with this market approach and I am recently looking forward as well to find some good food at fair prices – who is not?

So couple of weeks ago, I was pretty keen to try a new Italian restaurant that opens its door less than one month before. The place is called Alterego and it is located in route d’Esch, next to the BIL headquarter.

If you are about to close this review before going ahead as you are fed up of “Italian places” in Luxembourg, I would suggest you not too, as this is definitely a different one!

So, I spontaneously met with Jenni at our own headquarter (aka Paname) and we decided to try something new, at least for eating. We called Alterego to reserve and arrived there around 8ish on a Thursday night.

The restaurant is very cozy – tiny, but lovely arranged in a way not to make you feel suffocated. Thing I like is that while from outside the place is quite anonymous – looks like a neighborhood brasserie – inside you have a warm and welcoming unique feeling.

We started with an aperitif – a great Negroni – and we then ordered a selection of starters to taste, one primi piatti to share (black tagliatelle with cuttlefish) and one main to share (crispy codfish), followed by a homemade tiramisu and its relevant cocktail.

Find the pictures of our dinner followed by my comments.


What I liked about Alterego:

  • The food was OMG: when I decided to try this restaurant, I had good expectations about a fair, well executed traditional Italian cuisine. Gosh, I was wrong! Dishes are sophisticated, exceptionally presented, food combinations unusual and traditional plats revisited. Among the starters, my favorite one was definitely the “Knodel”, these sausage and potatoes balls in a light broth with smoked ricotta. The best dishes of the night, to me, the black tagliatelle – a perfect combination between the imperfections of homemade pasta and the rounded, deep taste of the ingredients. Finally, the dessert: I don’t have sweet tooth, you know, but this deconstructed tiramisu, accompanied by a tiramigiu cocktail, enchanted me. It was too good looking to eat and too tasty to finish the meal without. As the menu is changing every month and it is based on a regional cuisine – this month it was Friuli Venezia Giulia, from February 19th another (surprise!) region – I really look forward to come back again and try new proposals from the house.
  • The service was great: we were a bit bitchy, honestly, but they maintained their aplomb. In particular, after we ordered the selection of starters, we realized that Jenni does not eat meat and we asked to not have meat dishes. Only the first couple of appetizers came with meat and after that the order was adjusted, even in progress. Then, for the following two dishes, we requested to have them to share and instead of bringing a portion in the middle, they already split the dish in two, both for the primi piatti and for the main course. Smile, great attitude and explanations as well as in English made the rest.
  • The bill came out incredible fair: we had a huge dinner (several starters to share, two main to share, dessert, a bottle of wine, coffee) and the final check read 104 Eur in total. We had aperitif and digestif offered by the house.

What I liked a bit less about Alterego:

  • Our dinner was great and I would honestly strongly recommend the place with no exceptions. The night we have been there was really quiet, but honestly I don’t mind being in a calm place once in a while!

In conclusion: We loved Alterego. It is a very special Italian restaurant, definitely different from those you might have tried so far. The cuisine is regional based and the menu changes frequently. Dishes are sophisticated and well presented. The restaurant is perfect for a romantic date, a rendez-vous with friends or a night “you just don’t want to cook”. Above all, prices are extremely fair. Recommended!