Sunday, February 26, 2012
You'd probably miss Pipero al Rex if you weren't specifically looking for it, but inside the Rex Hotel on Via Torino is a rather special restaurant. Diners beware: it also has very special prices. You'll pay double the market price for classic Roman dishes, but the quality of Pipero's signature dish, Spaghetti alla Carbonara, will not be found elsewhere.
The restaurant is lovely. Sleekly elegant and well-appointed with unique tableware and dishes. Bread is served on a striking pale green, leaf-shaped silicone dish. The water glasses are a uniquely designed small plastic glass. They are a glass within a glass, with a half centimeter separating the two, creating a lovely visual effect. These glasses were not intended to be glasses but instead small pots for plants. The glasses can be purchased in Rome for three euros at a restaurant supply shop in the Ciampino area of Rome. Another unique feature of Pipero's table presentation are the appetizer plates: ceramic tiles that resemble a dark, charcoal gray -almost black - slate.
We were served several complimentary appetizers, mere tastes. First a paper thin slice of lardo with a balsamic reduction. Tiny and tasty. Another was a small deep fried meat ball prepared from bollito di manzo, served on a drizzle of port reduction. The port was strongly, and unpleasantly, alcoholic.
The goose breast tartare with apple and stone-ground mustard was delicious and beautifully presented: finely cubed and couched between two paper thin crostini rounds (prepared with pane casereccio, sugar and water, pan fried), alongside geometrically perfect cubes of spiced apple. The cardoon, pecorino Romano and anchovy appetizer was once again beautifully presented and with an interplay of flavors that worked beautifully. The cardoon was crunchy but not too.
We were never brought a wine list. Owner Alessandro Pipero served us a white wine as an appetizer and then continued to fill our glasses with it throughout the meal. It was lovely so we happily stuck with his choice. The wine: Sara - La Luna del Casale, a chardonnay made with organic grapes by the organic wine producer Sirbu Nicoleta in Lanuvio south of Rome.
Service was impeccable. Charming waiters who didn't hover but at the same time anticipated customer needs. Just what you look for in fine dining.
Owner Alessandro Pipero began his culinary career as the sommelier and right hand man to chef Antonello Colonna, for five years. He then branched off to open his own restaurant, il Ristorante Pipero, in Albano Laziale just outside of Rome. A little more than a year ago Pipero al Rex opened. The restaurant's chef is twenty-seven year old Luciano Monosilio, originally from Albano Laziale. He brings solid experience to the restaurant, including Uliassi, Tordo Matto and Roscioli. Hotel Rex owner Pino Cau was a regular customer at Il Pipero in Albano, ergo the restaurant's location.
Pipero al Rex devotes an entire page of its menu to Spaghetti alla Carbonara. It's priced by weight. For 50 grams of pasta (half a normal portion size) the price is ten euros. One hundred grams is twenty euros, on up to a hefty price of fifty euros for 250 grams. We ordered 50 grams and it was just the right amount: so rich and creamy with an abundance of flavorful, crunchy guanciale that a larger portion would have been too much. Carbonara is a mainstay of Roman cuisine, but Pipero's Carbonara ranks among the very best.
Here's their recipe:
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Spaghetti, 100 grams
Guanciale (pork jowl) 50 grams
Egg yolks, two large organic
Equal parts grated Parmesan and pecorino romano
Reserved pasta cooking water
Cut the guanciale into roughly 1/2 inch by 1/8 inch strips.
In a saucepan large enough to hold the pasta, cook the guanciale over a very low flame until crisp and crunchy.
Remove from the heat and set the pan aside.
In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and cheese together with a fork until you have a hard ball.
Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to package instructions but drain one minute earlier than indicated, reserving the cooking water.
Add pasta water to the egg & cheese ball and whisk until creamy.
Reheat the guanciale, remove from the pan and quickly toss the pasta in the remaining fat over a medium flame.
Turn off the flame and quickly mix the egg mixture into the pasta.
Place in a serving dish, top with the guanciale and serve.
Posted by Flavor of Italy at 6:37 PM