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Natural Flavors at La Pergola, Rome

By Andy Hayler

La Pergola Restaurant RESIZEDIt is perhaps ironic that the only three-Michelin-star restaurant in Rome is the brainchild of a German chef. Heinz Beck trained with Heinz Winkler (himself the youngest ever chef at the time to receive three stars) near Munich before moving to Italy in 1994, but he has fully embraced Italian cooking. An expert in nutrition—he collaborates with renowned scientists and speaks at conferences on the subject—Beck has perfected a cooking style that is very light, allowing the diner to fully indulge while still enjoying the natural flavors of the top ingredients to be found in Italy.

A meal at La Pergola might begin with duck liver terrine with smoked apple, almonds and amaretti, and perhaps move on through the signature fagotelli carbonara with its delicate pasta, progressing to medallions of duck foie gras, pigeon and topinambur with jelly of white port and Madeira. Prettily presented desserts might include an iced pomegranate ball on gianduia chocolate cream. Beck’s is a modern take on Italian cooking, but one that focuses on the core flavors of the ingredients. The cooking here simply aims to display these flavors rather than distract the diner with culinary tricks.

La Pergola is set in the Cavalieri hotel, a Waldorf Astoria perched on six acres of grounds atop Monte Mario, Rome’s highest hill. The dining room’s floor-to-ceiling windows provide a magnificent view over the city, and the hotel has a very fine art collection, examples of which can be seen in the cigar lounge. An attractive private dining room seats up to 16 guests, a discreet place to entertain guests. A wine cellar of 65,000 bottles is available to complement your meal (about $654 to book the private room; entrées from about $51 to $58; tasting menus from about $249 per person). All roads may lead to Rome, but the culinary pinnacle of The Eternal City is here.

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