Thursday, April 26, 2012

RisotrArte: Creativity and tradition in the Agro Pontino

This time Roberto Giuliani takes the stand:

Fortunately, despite years spent seeking out restaurants that enrich my gastronomic knowledge and feed my emotions, I can still be surprised, all the more if the restaurant that stimulates my enthusiasm is located in my region, and in a town not usually mentioned in the more influential Italian restaurant guides: Cisterna di latina, home of the Butteri, the cowboys of central Italy. Yes, because butteri are not just to be found in the Maremma, but also in the Roman countryside,a nd more particularly in the Agro Pontino.

I just discovered RistorArte a few days ago, during the lunch break of Wine Expo, an event that took place in the chloisters of Palazzo Caetani. At 1:30 hunger pangs forced me, my wife Laura, Maria Luisa (yes, the one who is Queen of La Rocca del Gusto, another gastronomic jewel at Monterodondo), and Alessandro to seek out a place to eat. One of the participants at Wine Expo, who wasn't from the area, suggested RistorArte: "Don't be fooled by the entrance, which isn't particularly inviting -- once you're in, and more importantly, seated, you'll be quite happy. I've gone two nights running."

We left Palazzo Caetani, and following his frighteningly precise directions (200 meters up this road, 50 meters after the light....) turned left onto Corso della Repubblica, right onto Via Quattro Goirnate di napoli, and found the place at # 35.

Upon entering we were welcomed by Andrea Iacoangeli, who seated us in a simple, nicely laid out room. He then told me how the idea for RistorArte developed:

"We're four almost thirty-somethings who have been in the restaurant trade fro a while, involved in all sorts of things, from small agriturismi to luxury hotels, to clubs to banquet services for top-tier events. And it all began with banqueting; in 2008 we founded E-Mangio Catering & Banqueting (E-Mangio is an acronym cobbled from Emiliano, Andrea, and Giorgio -- Gerry, who developed the graphics of the logo, is missing).

It was a quick step from banquets in private houses to larger events in prestigious locales, and what began as a passion became jobs before they even realized it. The dream of having their own restaurant developed day by day; it took time but finally came true on March 3 2011, and the adventure began!

The goal of RostorArte was to bring together the conjunction between "Art" and "Table," bringing the table into art, with a small gallery whose artworks change periodically. The menu, in addition to listing the dishes, provides information on the artists exhibiting to make the sensory experience complete.

An experience patrons can enjoy as they please; early in the morning with a muffin and a drink... during the day, with a drink and some finger food... at lunch, with a quick, quality meal... at dinnertime, with an antipasto (e.g. "The Land Hugs the Sea"), with a first course featuring home-made pasta... or late, with cheesecake  served with wild berry fruit sauce and a Visciola cherry liqueur, or a cheese plate and one of the more than 80 wines they have in their cellars...

The four of them run the hall of RistorArte, taking turns depending upon their catering jobs, while the kitchen is in the hands of the young chef Marco Berrettoni, with the assistance of the equally young Patrizia Bellisari. The menu is evenly divided between fish and meat, with a not do locally produced ingredients. They make their own desserts and most of their pasta (gnocchi, fettuccine, tagliolini). The goal is a creative cuisine firmly rooted in tradition, using quality ingredients and pricing to be accessible to all.

As is our habit, Laura and I ordered different dishes to double our experience, and the four of us ordered: A Sformatino of Baccalà alla Siciliana, Eggplant Parmesan, Eggplant with Tonnarelli alla Norma dusted with salted ricotta, Gnocchetti with squash, porcini mushrooms and rosemary, Raviolacci stuffed with sea bass and orange aromas, Mackerel Millefoglie with citrus and Carasau bread, and Pork fillet in a mustard and herb sauce.

I may have left something out; since we were all stuffed for dessert we divvied up a single portion of an excellent chocolate tart. All the dishes nicely presented, balanced, and much better than one often finds. 5 coffees (someone had two), two bottles of water and one of wine, Cà Dei Frati's Lugana Brolettino (2010), which never fails to please. The cost? 95 Euros, 18 of which for the wine, which means that the food cost 77 Euros, or less than 20 per person. What more could one want?

 I forgot -- the restaurant isn't just open for lunch and dinner: There's a nightly Apricena (Predinner) at a "antidepression price" of 12 euros that includes a drink, a substantial antipasto, and a half-portion of pasta.

Beginning May 2 there will be live acoustic music Wednesday nights, beginning at 9:30. And Sundays starting at 6:30 there's a Happy Hour, with a great selection of cocktails and a rich buffet for 5 Euros, with lounge music in the background.

Via Quattro Giornate di Napoli, 35 - Cisterna di Latina (LT)
Tel. 06-96881468
E-mail: ristorarte AT emangio DOT com

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

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