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.

Advertisements

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!