I like a restaurant that puts its bar at the center of attention. The interaction between the bartender and diners, as well as the interaction between the diners and themselves, turns any meal into a fun social event. When I heard that old La Republica di Ronimotti has expanded its bar services, I enlisted my daughter to check things out properly. The truth is that Ronimotti has a special place in my heart anyway, ever since I discovered the Pizzicato special monthly meal, which is when owner Motti enters the kitchen and produces a line of small seasonal dishes. Now that the bar menu has been expanded, a similar concept of smaller dishes can be enjoyed all week long.
Tonight we have on the bar a family of two parents and two kids, an older couple having a quiet conversation, some girls on a night out, and me and my kid, letting the bar manager lead us through the meal, while considering my kid's no meat rule. We start with 2 cocktails: Victoria, which is a classic Vermouth-Rum-Gin, and the Spicy Caribbean which is a mixture of flavors: coconut liquor, Fernet Branca, orange juice and chili powder.
With our cocktails we receive a parade of starters: Corvina fish Carpaccio with tomato seeds, micro leaves and lemon zest that add a delicate sourness to it; malfatti, which means two spinach and cheese dumplings in a rich tomato sauce; and our two favorites, pride of the Italian kitchen, polenta and risotto. The polenta is rich with butter and cream, and served with parmesan cheese and some truffle oil on top. The risotto changes daily, fortunately today we get our favorite version – with pumpkin and chestnuts. The rice is cooked to a precise point and wrapped in a rich orange sauce, made even more interesting with pieces of chestnuts. This is a very good vegetarian dish that can also be served as a main course.
Meanwhile, Ronimotti's tables are getting filled up. I suppose the warm atmosphere, with the rural wooden furniture, the sausages hanging on the walls; the nice soundtrack and attentive hosts attract a diverse audience. Some of it, we are told, consists of regulars.
When we get to the main part of our evening, I return to the fish department, while the daughter turns to pasta – ravioli, to be precise. And precision is a keyword here. Thin, home-made dough pockets with a generous 4-cheeses filling, cooked Al-Dante, and served with a nice game of sauces: when my kid can't seem to be able to choose just one type of sauce, the bartender suggests half and half. And so some the pockets are served with a sauce of roasted cherry tomatoes and thyme, and the others are served with olive oil, truffles and pine-nuts.
Ronimotti's fish are of course local and fresh. Today they have a plateful of a large, fleshy version of the red mullet fish, done simply, in a way that emphasizes their natural taste. The fish are baked in a stone oven with sliced lemon and fennel that adds a special anise taste, and served with parsley and roasted peppers.
Cheesecake! The bartender decides when we debate over what to get for dessert. Its secret, apparently, is a combination of a crispy pine-nuts base and a baked cheese cream, with a cream topping. But we also get the Torta Della Nonna which is a traditional cake made of almonds dough and polenta, and served with lemonchello cream and vanilla-cream.
I finish my beautiful Italian meal with a shot of lemonchello, while my kid has the Campari. Arrivederci, Ronimotti!