All photos courtesy of La Pergola.
This write-up initially appeared on VICE Italy.
Italy has numerous deluxe places to eat, but none as unapologetically opulent as Rome’s La Pergola. Sitting down atop the Rome Cavalieri resort, the three Michelin star restaurant has been run by German chef Heinz Beck, maître d’ Simone Pinoli and sommelier Marco Reitano for 23 a long time.
Diners wait in the lodge lobby for the lift to the top ground, in the company of artworks like Bertel Thorvaldsen’s famed neoclassical bronze statue Shepherd Boy with his Pet dog, Andy Warhol’s Dollar Indicator sequence and a triptych by Rococo master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (currently on bank loan to a non-public museum in Milan). I’d usually dreamed of acquiring out what luxuries await upstairs – then, one working day, I got invited for lunch.
Just after two decades in the small business, maître d’ Pinoli and sommelier Reitano have a knack for looking through their consumers and putting them at relieve. Just one way they make you experience special is by giving your individual personalised serviette – that is, if they definitely like you. “Each customer is taken care of with the specific exact perseverance,” Pinoli claimed. “However, we reserve special attention for our regular consumers and the types we are in particular fond of.”
The coveted napkins are hand-embroidered with clients’ initials in gold thread, and held in a particular wood chest of drawers for a long time to come. They’re so exceptional that some diners even offer revenue to get their hands on them. “That’s the worst detail you could do to attempt and get one,” explained Pinoli.
Napkins aside, the entire dining practical experience at La Pergola is, really frankly, insane.
“I’ll depart the h2o checklist here, sir,” Pinoli reported just after I was seated. Seeking to glance unfazed, I gave him a nod as if he’d just handed to me the wine record. When I took a look, it had 55 (Fifty Five) unique kinds of h2o on it. The list featured Chateldon, King Louis XIV of France’s favourite water, Magma, a by natural means bubbly water from beneath the earth’s crust, and Svalbardi, a h2o extracted from true icebergs right after staying frozen for about 40,000 a long time.
Finding extravagant h2o is challenging – if you are as inexperienced as me, at minimum – so I went for the 1 with the most intriguing backstory: Magma. My bubbly volcano water was served in a glamorous black bottle at the close of the meal, to help with digestion. It was, with no a doubt, the greatest water I have at any time drunk in my everyday living.
Of class, the food stuff was delicious too. The spotlight of the lunch was a person of the restaurant’s specialities, blended foie gras with purple berries, a shiny pink and more-bougie variation of the high-class French common.
In advance of composing this piece, I’d read wild stories about La Pergola when investigating one more posting. When Sommelier Marco Reitano told me that one of his waiters as soon as dressed up as a gladiator to entertain a boy or girl, I realised you can very a great deal talk to for anything at all there.
For instance, you may well have to have a very last-moment blazer to don at meal, given that you’re needed to don just one to be served. The employees retain solitary-breasted, navy blue blazers in sizes 42 to 64 just in scenario, and have them diligently dry-cleaned after every single use. They also have reading through eyeglasses on hand, but due to the fact the pandemic hit they can not hand them out. In its place, they offer a specialised studying lamp that apparently tends to make letters on a page seem far more outlined.
In a bid to continue to keep matters as stylish as doable in the age of hideous encounter masks and social distancing, the cafe had to rethink some of its solutions. “We’ve worked things out so we can retain 95 % of the working experience at prime degree,” Pinoli reported. The restaurant’s menu is own and can be taken home the wine checklist is electronic, but if you want to have a search at the real thing they’ll fortunately offer you with gloves.
The sommelier is often available to “really guidebook attendees in their choice”, in accordance to Pinoli – which is handy, taking into consideration the wine menu has 3,500 solutions. In point, there are two wine lists, a single for Italian wines and one particular for international wines, both including bottles you will not come across in any other cafe.
But the beverage extravaganza doesn’t quit there. At the stop of your food, you are ushered to the Cigar Room and presented with a range of precious cigars and 15 forms of tea and espresso, amid sumptuous sofas and unique artworks. “In the previous, we utilised to serve a large amount far more cigars,” Pinoli claimed, including that the ritual is not as preferred nowadays. “We consider to adapt. We have a cocktail bar that follows the most up-to-date developments,” he reported.
If you decide for a organic infusion, your waiter will usher in a trolley with fresh vegetation and flowers, slash them on the spot and infuse them in a committed metal container known as a samovar, previously owned by Tzar Alexander I of Russia. “To make the knowledge even a lot more spectacular, the tea is then transferred to a compact glass jug containing liquid nitrogen,” Pinoli claimed. “The infusion is then personalised with important oils selected by the shopper.”
The espresso support is similarly stunning, with a variety of beans from mysterious corners of the earth heading for €14 a cup. A single type from Mount Everest, for instance, is a single of the only espresso beans to be by natural means generated previously mentioned the Tropic of Most cancers. Then there is the Kopi Luwak – the rarest coffee in the globe, with less than 500kg roasted annually – whose beans are eaten and then expelled by Asian palm civets. Evidently it can take a little mammal’s poo to make coffee taste mouth watering. This item is now widely condemned by environmentalists, as the civets are typically caged in severe problems, even when the coffee is labelled as staying created by “wild civets”.
Last but not least, La Pergola is also accessible for lavish personal functions and gatherings (in non-pandemic times). “A when again, a incredibly crucial Russian customer wished to celebrate his wife’s birthday with us, and rented out the whole restaurant [for €35,000],” Pinoli claimed.
The person was a significant lover of Sanremo – an Italian music contest held every single calendar year considering the fact that 1951 – and specifically of 1980s Sanremo tunes. So Pinoli observed him a band that could engage in any track he requested from that time. “He knew them all by coronary heart,” he explained. “He was content as a kid.” At midnight, a waitress requested the birthday female to depend to a few. “One, two, a few,” she said. Then Growth – the celebration was dealt with to a particular fireworks display, with Rome as the backdrop.