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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ristorante Novecento in Rovereto

The day: 9th June 2007, Lunch.
The place:
Corso Rosmini 82, Rovereto, Italy (tel +39 0464 439644)
The venue: Ristorante Novecento (Hotel Rovereto)
Closest airports: Brescia (Ryanair), Verona (British Airways)
The food: Traditional regional cuisine with a modern take
The drinks: Mainly local.

Our last few weeks in Trentino...we venture South of Trento to try 'Novecento'. This is the restaurant of of the Hotel Rovereto, unsurprisingly to be found in Rovereto: a pleasant town near Trento, in the direction of Verona, along the Adige valley at the latitude where the Marzemino wine is produced. The family who runs it is from Mantua (Mantova), and the cuisine (Chef Andrea Iseppi) reflects both their origin and the local tradition.

We eat in a nice veranda, in 'Liberty' style, overlooking a small patio (where other tables are located) and very bright and airy, perfect for the approaching Summer. There is a sense of relaxed and easygoing elegance:

On the menu two four-course set menus, an Asparagus menu (our choice) at €44 (or €52 with wine, water and coffe included); and Menu Trentino at €42 (or €48 with wine and the rest). The latter offered 'Carne salada (traditional cured beef) carpaccio with rucola and grana cheese; bread gnocchi on a Casolet cheese fondue; saddle of roe deer in Mercuria red wine; apple strudel with castel Noarna apples (more on Castel Noarna below). These dishes also appeared as individual items a la carte.

All primi are around €12 (we mention a classic from Mantova, Pumpkin tortelli), secondi from €16 to €20 (we note a salmerino - local type of pink trout - with aromatic herbs at €18).

As we said, we both (uncharacteristically) opted for the tempting asparagus menu. It will be accompanied by two glasses of wine, both from Castel Noarna: a Sauvignon 2004, and a 'Mercuria' (Lagrein and Cabenet with a smaller proprtion of Merlot) 2004. Both excellent. Castel Noarna is a very reputable wine producing estate, around a beautiful castle on the hill overloking Rovereto (if you are planning to get married, holding your ceremony here could be an idea - this according to the entertaining and urbane manager in the Castello, who, when we visited later just during a wedding reception, was emphatic that even we will get married one day...).

In the meanwhile the bread arrives:

Home-made with organic flour, both plain white, and with darker types (which we could not identify and, shame on us, forgot to ask). Good, especially the 'focaccia' style dark one.

Our starter was 'crispy grouper with saffron flavoured fennel.

Very good and good looking, with the coating really crispy and the panfrying well executed. The saffron fennel was a pleasant touch, and so the dill-flavoured oil. The cherry tomatoes freshened the dish. The fish itself was not too flavoursome, but overall this was a balanced, varied and delicate dish. A promising start.

We continue with the primo, Home-made pasta stracci with asparagues:

The pasta was very well made indeed, thin and with a 'nervy' personality. The asparagus was not very prominent, but once again the dish came off pleasantly overall, and in generous portion.

The secondo is a Beef fillet with asparagus:

The portions continue to be generous, as you can see! The beef and courgettes (yes, courgettes) were good, but the potatoes a little too greasy. Strangely, they had not asked how we wanted the beef cooked, so out of principle we will say that we would have preferred it rarer. Ah, we forgot to mention the asparagus: they were there, and in good quantities, but must have lost a bit of flavour in the trip from the kitchen

To conclude, a Mint parfait

Well presented, but far from successful in our judgement. The parfait had an unpleasant 'crystallized' texture. Woman, terribly disappointed, also thought that the strawberry sauce did not fit the other flavours. Man on the contrary was as usual swayed by the colour match...We agreed that this was a marked fall in standards compared to what had come so far.

But this was not the end, from now on we continue down the abyss: petit four lacking any variety, and a little industrial-looking:

Accompanied by one of the worst coffes in recent times!

The bill is easy: two set menus with wines at €52 each makes €104. An extra glass of Sauvignon was offered.

It was a pity that this meal had a sort of descending feeling to it, the best dish being the starter and the worst the dessert. Psychologists will tell you that this is not the best way to leave a good overall impression... but we'll try to be objective and rational. The hotel boasts of its cuisine and proclaims its restaurant a venue for the Rovereto foodies. We can see that Mr. Iseppi has talent and, although the 'sweet' part was a real disaster, the other dishes were good and nicely presented. Nonetheless, there was a certain lack of memorableness, a lack of true impact in the flavours. We think, and we may be wrong, that this is due to the less than excellent choice of some raw materials (e.g. the lack of a clear flavour in the asparagus within the asparagus menu is a little disconcerting). Maybe -just a conjecture- the chef does not get all the support he needs to express himself - certainly, far from promoting him, his name has to be extracted from the (nice) waiters. The prices are reasonable, but we feel that in the increasingly excellent Trentino restaurant choice this pleasant establishement needs to step up a gear and correct some serious unevennes in its performance.


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