Italians eat fish on Christmas Eve and meat on Christmas day, so we decided to celebrate one of these traditions by eating at Rome’s only three-Michelin-star restaurant, La Pergola, on Christmas Eve. The restaurant sits atop the Rome Cavalieri Hotel, one of the hotels in the Waldorf Astoria chain, on Monte Mario, a hill north of St. Peter’s, and has a spectacular view of St. Peter’s and Rome’s skyline. The setting, the prix fixe menu and the service were perfect. We must return sometime when it’s warmer so we can eat on the terrace and enjoy that view.
One of my three favorite things, aside from the food, of course, happened when we sat down at our large table decorated with several Christmas trees, some of which were candles. Beautiful! Anyway, our server brought us the water menu. You read that right—the WATER menu—with 25 or 30 choices of water! Each entry described the water and its source. We chose one from Alto Adige that was mildly frizzante, and our water glasses were constantly resupplied throughout the evening.
We love fish, and we found Chef Heinz Beck’s food inventive and delicious:
- Amberjack marinated in ginger on guacamole with soya meringue.
- Thin slices of lobster on mango purée with basil puff.
- A dish called simply “mare,” which means “sea.” The menu didn’t include the ingredients because the chef didn’t know until the last minute what might be available that day. The dish on Christmas Eve included the delicacy percebes (gooseneck barnacles), which we first enjoyed at Glass Hosteria in October. The dish was magnificent and smelled and tasted of the sea. Collecting percebes is a dangerous job—one fierce tide and a fisherman could be toast! How lucky we were to taste this exquisite treat once again.
- Tangerine risotto with scampi carpaccio and mint – we waited for about a half hour for this dish and were excited to do so because to prepare genuine risotto means stirring the rice for 20 to 25 minutes. This risotto was worth the wait!
- Spaghetti cooked in acqua di pomodoro with Venus clams, basil, and parsley sauce.
- Scallop ravioli with asparagus and black truffle.
- Fillet of John Dory in licorice crust on almond cream with lemon shrimps – the licorice was so subtle, and the dish was divine!
- Lamponi 1.1, which featured 11 different preparations of raspberries.
With our dinner we drank unlimited supplies of these perfectly paired wines:
- Andrea Felici Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2011
- Polz Sauvignon Therese 2010
- Terralbe Derthona 2007
- Zeni Moscato Rosa 2011
And then came my second favorite surprise—a silver box about 10 inches high with three drawers on each of the four sides. All 12 drawers held two scrumptious bite-sized cookies! I love cookies almost as much as I love gelato (but not quite and NEVER oatmeal). I was in heaven, and although I was full to the brim, I tasted every single one! They also fed us scrumptious chocolates (but give me cookies any day). Yum!
As we left, the hostess gave us a large white box, saying that it was for breakfast on Christmas morning. Inside was a loaf of panettone, the sweet Italian bread that is usually enjoyed during the Christmas season. How lovely to have this traditional treat on Christmas morning!
What a wonderful feast! I’d do it again in a heartbeat!