We’ve been steadily (and happily) working our way through all the Michelin Star restaurants in Rome, and we finally made it to the only Roman restaurant to garner three stars, La Pergola. To get there, it is quite the cab ride from the Historic Center. The restaurant is located in the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria, formally a Hilton, which is situated on Monte Mario with a splendid view of the city. For some, the massive hotel might feel a bit too Las Vegas, and La Pergola continues this motif. I tend to prefer more casual, modern, and light places. So this lightly lit, formal space came off as slightly dated, harkening back to the more formal elegance of decades past.
The view is superb, although late at night it could be almost anywhere. The tables are pretty, with small white vases and greenery. Simple yet elegant. As you sit down, however, you’ll get the “guilt sell” of being asked if you want champagne: woe to you if you are concerned about how much it costs, you’ll have to overcome your embarrassment and ask “how much is it?” This is a tactic I really dislike — and it happened at Imago as well. Note to fancy restaurants: why not have a discreet menu card on the table with the champagne and sparkling wine choices, so a diner may readily accept — or decline — the offered selections based on their budget? Not that anyone coming to La Pergola should be unprepared to spend some serious scratch, but perhaps they don’t want a 50 euro glass of Dom Perignon to start with.
But the food is fabulous. After stuffing ourselves on the tasting menu at Pipero al Rex earlier in the week (to be covered in a separate post soon), we shied away from La Pergola’s tasting menu and ordered a la carte. An interesting amuse bouche of raw scallops quickly arrived — as interesting for the presentation as for the flavor.
We started with scampi carpaccio with two caviars and amberjack marinated in yuzu and lemongrass on guacamole with soya macaron. While the scampi and caviar were beautiful and delicious, the amberjack dish had the most amazing textures — the macaron melts on your tongue, adding a terrific, savory saltiness — and it was our favorite of the first two courses.
We moved on to two strong, carnivorous options: a succulent lamb, and veal with a surprise — a cheese-filled, beautifully cooked artichoke under a salty foam.
We shared a cheese course to ration our appetites, and then it was on to the sweets. La Pergola has a definite appreciation for the sweet tooth. After another amuse bouche form the kitchen, we were treated to the “magic box” — and what a treat it is. Drawer after drawer of beautiful little sweets, melt-in-your-mouth macarons, gellies, chocolates, etc.
But we were not done yet. We shared the Grand Dessert. Yes, it is grand: an assortment of seven amazing sweets, including a divine coconut hot chocolate and a tremendous tart and fruity aspic with raspberries.
While I found the overall experience a bit too formal for my taste, I keep going back to the fact that the food was fabulous. Really fabulous. Perhaps flawless. For that, I can deal with the decor. But I’ll pass on the high-priced champagne: just give me a reasonably-priced prosecco.