Posted on Sunday, 14th October 2012
Anthony Genovese is Chef and part owner of Il Pagliaccio, a two-star Michelin restaurant considered to be one of the best in Rome. Born to Italian parents in France, Genovese began his career on the Cote D’Azur, after which came travels in Asia where he honed his skills before returning to Italy to deliver an eclectic menu at Il Pagliaccio.
Situated in the historical centre of Rome, the restaurant is elegant but feels quite stiff and formal. The doors to the restaurant are kept locked throughout the service, and one must be let out when leaving. There are only about 25 covers and the dining area is quite small.
Amuse bouches included quail’s egg with lemon foam and a fried zucchini flower. The quail’s egg might have worked better if it was a little runny rather than hard boiled. That said, the lemon foam was scintillatingly spectacular with its zingy lightness. As to the rest – fried risotto ball, corn chips with zucchini mousse and a spherified leek jelly with leek soup – all were decent if a little uninspiring.
Another amuse of calamari roll with crab worked wonderfully well with a raspberry sauce. The combination was divinely good, although the garnish of tofu with puffed rice was odd and bland.
Breads included walnut and honey, white with sesame, flatbreads with rosemary and olive oil and breadsticks. All were extremely well made with the bread crusts giving way to a hard knock.
As well as the a la carte menu, there are three different tasting menus – eight-courses, ten-courses and twelve-courses at €120, €140 and €160, respectively. Kicking of the eight-course menu was a red prawn (a la carte price – €44) drizzled with tomato powder and served on a bed of tomato puree that proved to be a harmonious match. The powder added spark to the prawn which was beautiful in texture and flavour. This was accompanied by a little side serving of spaghetti with spinach.
A ‘deconstructed’ egg dish (€35) was so good it was almost indescribable. An egg white mousse with curcuma spice was served with dollops of egg yolk, mushrooms, caramelised almonds, mint oil and a parmesan cheese roll. The nuttiness of the cheese when combined with the lightness of the egg and the sweetness of the almonds gave this dish an incredible, robust, and almost meaty flavour. This was an exceptionally technical dish executed to the highest order.
A dish called ‘Remembering my grandfather’ consisted of ziti pasta with salt cod, chilli salami and potato cream (€35). The pasta was cooked al dente and was lovely. That said, I had expected a dish in honour of his grandfather to ‘wow’, but it didn’t.
Cannelloni stuffed with a delicious suckling pig (€35) and coated with bacon and mozzarella was intensely flavoursome. Served with a tomato ragout, there was a crunchiness to the pasta which added a fabulous textural contrast to the dish.
Deep-fried amberjack fish (€45) was beautifully cooked and accompanied by some tasty calamari with coriander. For relish, there was a tomato chutney and a highly interesting watermelon cube marinated with port wine and champagne.
Grilled Tuscan pork (€45), served pink, was the height of delicious tenderness. There was a little fattiness running through it that gave the pork an incredible flavour. It was served with blackberries and green beans which were a nice match.
The “cheese idea” was an oddity. Goat’s cheese mousse and tapioca topped with a raspberry vinegar jelly did not gel, and the bland green tea foam seemed pointless.
Pre-dessert was a melon sorbet topped with a watermelon puree and frozen cream drops. This was interesting and refreshing in an odd kind of way.
Pastry chef and co-owner is Marion Lichtle, who lived and worked in London for many years before moving to Rome with Genovese. Included in her CV are the likes of The Square, Chez Bruce and the Glasshouse. Thus it was unsurprising that a dessert of brown bread ice cream (€20), caramel and chocolate truffle with crispy cornflakes turned out to be a stunner. The ice cream was beautifully creamy, further heightened texturally by the little bits of brown bread running through it. The crispy cornflakes worked magically with the dish, and the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate was perfectly judged. This was technically and visually a winner.
Genovese’s menu embodied exactness, with the meal proving to be a clinically executed and precise experience. Occasionally odd in parts, there was no doubting the meticulous care that went into its creation. I did wish for a greater wow factor in the amuse bouches, and the cheese course was conceptually questionable, but the ‘egg’ dish was perhaps one of the most spectacular plates that I have ever tasted and which did well to showcase the masterful skills of this fantastic chef. It’s well worth a visit for a hard-core foodie experience, but the atmosphere felt sterile. The service was polished and professional but somewhat inflexible.
Food rating: 4.5/5
Service rating: 4/5
Three courses from the a la carte menu is about €110.
Eight-course tasting menu is €120.
Ten-course tasting menu is €140.
Twelve-course tasting menu is €160.
Excludes drinks and service.