Chasing good Italian food at Osteria Romana
If you read the blog, you probably have seen me complain about how hard it is to find authentic Asian food in Brussels...Well it is equally hard to find good Italian restaurants! A lot of establishments pretend to serve Italian specialties but let's be honest, overcooked pasta and carbonara with cream aren't very Italian...Neither is watery coffee. In my search of an Italian restaurant I stumbled a few times on the name "Osteria Romana" and I decided to test whether they could be labeled as "real Italians".
I first booked a table for2 on Friday at 7PM and then moved it on Messenger to the following day. The confirmation of the switch was made within the hour, they're quite responsive. On the day of the reservation, I received a SMS confirming my booking and inviting me to the wine bar (La Cave) next door in case I wanted a drink before 7PM, nice touch since not many restaurants do it. P. and I were among the first customers, it is becoming a real habit for us, and we were shown to our table. We had then some time to check the decoration which is very unique!
L'Osteria Romana is actually located in an old mansion avenue Legrand, next to the infamous Avenue Louise. The decoration is a mix of old/retro and eclectic within a dim atmosphere. You'll see for example black tufted benches, a wooden bar, marble columns, old tiles on the floor, wooden book shelves, an old sewing machine and strange items here and there. It somehow reminded me of La Pharmacie Anglaise, minus the strange vials...At that point, one of the waiter came to give us the menu and ask what we would be drinking that evening...
The menu is short and confirmed what I had read online, Osteria Romana is a tad expensive but products seem to be of higher quality and dishes all looked interesting. For example I was intrigued by a starter called Artichoke the Jewish Way but also by the Carbonara al kilo and the Japanese influence in some of the suggestions. Apparently chef La Vecchia has spent a few years in Japan which explains the fact that Wagyu ends up on the menu next to edamame and ginger. After a first look at the menu, we settle for the Artichokes as our starter. I then ordered 100g of Carbonara and P. took the "1988 sul Porto di Favignana".
The starter arrived extra fast and looked absolutely fantastic...The artichokes looked like flowers baked in an oven (or deep-fried) and I was certain they would be extra crisp on the outside but very soft on the inside and I was right. The texture was incredible and the taste just perfect. Plus the presentation isn't like anything I've seen before in Brussels, a real signature antipasti! I can honestly say that we enjoyed every bite and would have ordered some more had we known.
I checked online the recipe of the Carciofi alla giudìa and it seems like this Jewish/Roman antipasti is usually deep-fried...And dates back to the 16th century can you believe that?! Let me know if you've seen artichokes served this way elsewhere in Brussels!
After the artichoke discovery, P. and I chatted a lot about human resilience, meditation and how it could be helpful to people with mental disorders. We tend to always turn to medication first but there could be natural alternatives. Now that I think about it, we have more and more "deep" conversations and not just frivolous ones during our monthly meetings. Our conversation was going on and so was the dinner as the pastas arrived, served in pans.
I had chosen the Carbonara and I wasn't disappointed by what showed up on the table, the other dish was a bit more surprising but absolutely interesting: a tartare with ginger and combava served on hot pastas...The smell was mouthwatering in both case. We dug in immediately, almost forgetting the usual "picture time", you'll forgive us it was too tempting :)
** I am not very happy with these pictures, they're probably the worse I've taken so far so I'll have to go back I guess, during lunch to ensure optimal light.
I really like the idea of ordering a certain quantity of pasta, otherwise I know I won't finish my plate...or pan in this case. I chose 100gr (50gr = 12€, 250gr = 50€) and it was perfect for me. It could actually be nice to do the same for every pasta dish on the menu to reduce food waste :) Now besides the portion size, there are a bunch of reasons why I loved this carbonara:
There was no cream in there, just Pecorino and grated Grana Padano
The pasta were al dente, not under or overcooked
The sauce was extra rich
The generous amount of pepper flakes
But mostly the Guanciale...Oh my!
I mean the Guanciale was something different...It was extra crisp but melted in your mouth and it was salted and fatty to the perfection. I could snack on this if I wasn't a tiny bit body/health conscious. It really complimented the overall recipe, which is shared on one of the pages of the menu actually!
As for the 1988 sul Porto di Favignana...I was so surprised! It didn't seem like much but it had such strong flavor, especially the ginger and combava notes. They really complimented the salmon tartare and made the pasta really special. It was a very nice discovery and one I would definitely order on a second visit.
It was finally time for some coffee. I couldn't eat any more so desserts were skipped but I couldn't leave without trying a good Italian espresso...I got one and P. got 2 cappuccinos! We did stay until closing so 2 coffees seemed fair, especially if they're served in such cute cups...
Just look at this foam on the Cappuccino...And my little espresso was so intense and delicious! It was the perfect touch to finish our monthly meeting! 15 min before closing we asked for the bill and were surprised. Osteria Romana isn't cheap but it wasn't overly expensive either for the quality of the food we've received. In total we paid 108,5€ for 2 including:
1 bottle of still water (1/2L) = 4,5€
1 bottle of sparkling water (1/2L) = 4,5€
1 Antipasti = 19€
1 Carbonara (100g) = 24€
1 1988 sul Porto di Favignana = 28€
2 glasses of red wine = 16€
2 Cappuccinos = 9€
1 espresso = 3,5€
It's not the cheapest restaurant I agree but once in a while I don't mind paying a bit more to enjoy a delicious evening in good company :) Now you'll probably see a bunch of reviews and critics about Osteria Romana ripping you off but let's be honest here...If you read these comments and still go, then you are conscious that your bill will be higher and you're ok with it so don't complain ^^' Additionally they don't hide the fact that they're more expensive, they announce it on their Facebook page but it is also clear on TripAdvisor, the Fork and many more websites (€€ - €€€).
I need to add that Osteria Romana was crowded with Italians at almost every table on that night which is, in my opinion, a good sign. The waiter we had was also Italian I believe or at least he spoke really well Italian.
All in all, it is an address that I would definitely recommend if you want to eat some real Italian food in a very intriguing set-up and don't mind spending a bit more.
I have you been to Osteria Romana? How was your experience? Let me know in the comment...