Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A MILONGUERA'S CHOW GUIDE: November 14, 2007

I Due Ladroni-Ristorante Italiano
Fitz Roy 1951, Palermo Hollywood

I had a mad craving for sashimi last night, so we headed out to Dashi, a Japanese joint in Palermo. The usual smiling (and totally fake) hostess greeted us at the door at 8:30, and began to walk us over to a table that was smack in the middle of the still-empty restaurant, which did nothing but irritate the heck out of the BF. He thinks many restaurants conspire to punish early eaters by giving them the worst table imaginable. So, after the BF asked the hostess for some other options, which were as bad as the first, we walked out and headed to his newest culinary discovery: I Due Ladroni.

"No, it's not that I want to eat Italian food. Really!" Whatever. Never come in between a hormonal, PMS-ing woman and her cravings. It can get ugly. But I had just read an article by an Indian guru earlier that day about managing one's expectations, so I wasn't going to get upset, but I did reserve the right to pout.

Anyhoo, talk about opposites. We were greeted by an exuberant and affable Roman, who let us choose our table, and proceeded to talk in Italian to the BF who hails proudly from Southern Italy (and may your foist child be a masculine child). I have to say that I get completely turned on hearing Italian, sort of like Jamie Lee Curtis in a Fish Called Wanda, so things were definitely looking up.

This establishment is relatively new, having just opened about 2 months ago, but I see a very bright future for Francesco and his business partner, Philip, the more sedate, serious, and considerably shorter of the two owners. Not only is the food outstanding (Frankly, I'll put my already-tainted-rep. on the line to say that it's the best Italian restaurant we have tried in Palermo, maybe in Buenos Aires, with the exception of Marcelo's in Puerto Madero), but the service is wonderful, a rare find in restaurants here. Cheerful owners who listen to you? Fantastic! Waitstaff who are cordial, attentive, AND genuine? Amazing! My experience here was so positive that I made a reservation for 4 for later this week! These guys are the real deal, and they've stolen our tastebuds and our hearts. Get it? Ladroni? Thieves? Stealing? Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!

***A word about customer service in Buenos Aires...OK, two words: IT. SUCKS. In general, restaurant staff (especially) are way the hell too busy talking to each other, goofing off, and not paying attention to the people who pay their bills: the customers. Hello?!?! People come to eat at restaurants. How about coming to the table within 2 minutes of our arrival to take their orders instead of making us flag you down? It really BUGS me. Bad service in restaurants or shops (I DETEST salespeople who hover and watch me as if I were going to steal something in their store full of poorly made products) will make us walk out the door, as we did in Dashi.***

Francesco is like the archetyal Italian mamma, only taller, skinnier, and hairier, bounding from kitchen to tables in 3 or 4 large steps with his incredibly long legs, and doting on us, stopping short of darning our socks and tucking us in. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious, which gives a fun and homey vibe to this medium-sized restaurant adorned with copies of colorful vintage Italian ads, black and whites of famous actors, and red-checked tablecloths. But on to the food.

The meal started off with two scrumptious little pizzas and a basket of bread made in the restaurant, coupled with little condiment bowls of sundried tomatoes, black and green olives, and marinated red and green peppers. We were checking out the Parma ham and bufala mozzarella combo for our entrada, but Francesco informed us that they didn't have Parma ham right now. He could have easily substituted Parma for Serrano, and we probably wouldn't have known the difference, but he scored some serious points by being honest and not trying to pull a slick "viveza criolla" on us. We opted instead for the caprese, an Italian classic of tomatos and bufala mozzarella, which was perfect. I mean, it's so simple, how can a restaurant screw it up? No, this one was so perfectly condimented that it didn't need anything extra, though I added just a touch of balsamic vinegar. What can I say? I have a Filipino palate that likes sour.

Next, the BF chose the risotto con hongos. I chose the salmon, though, I was also tempted by the pasta bolognese, risotto, and pumpkin-stuffed ravioli, stuffed by Francesco himself. It's always a good sign when no one talks during a meal. It means the food is good. BF's risotto was perfectly al dente, and the hongos were real porcini mushrooms, again, REAL porcini mushrooms, not regular funghi slipped in there to unsuspecting customers. I had a couple of forkfuls, and the taste was rich, earthy, and comforting, with just the right amount of...everything. In fact, I'm going to order it the next time we're here...or maybe it'll be the pasta with bolognese sauce, or maybe... But I loved my salmon, fresh and cooked perfectly, with a side of cooked vegetables and yummy puffed pastry with I-can't-remember-and-I-didn't-write-it-down-but-it's-a-veggie inside.

I decided not to get dessert, but if I had gotten one, I would've have gotten the tartufo or the tiramisu. So many to choose from!

On Tuesdays, then have an addition to the regular menu. This week included such main courses as suvlaki de cordero, pollo tandoori, and bouillabaise, all of which would have suited me just fine if I hadn't wanted a slab o' fish.

This restaurant was instant love, and will be a regular stop on our weekly dining circuit.

Ambiance: Homey for a decent-sized restaurant. I can see families and couples coming here.

Service: Impeccable and down-to-earth. A RARITY!!! PLUS, Francesco speaks English pretty well.

Price: I didn't look at the bill, so I can't tell you what I paid, and I hate math. BUT here are the price ranges in pesos. Aren't I a benevolent goddess? Entradas: between 16-22; Salads: 22; First Plate: 27-35; Second Plate: 31-36; Dessert: 9-16. This is not an inexpensive place, but they use quality Italian ingredients (De Cecco) which shows in their food. So completely worth it.

Overall: Fantastic find! Get on a plane, and try this now!


Anonymous said...

I due ladroni is now the most stylish and charming restaurant at Palermo Hollywood. I agree.
The two partners combine en excellent service with a cool atmosphere.
Bravo Francesco and Philip!
Happy Thanksgiving!

A lady who often visits you!

Anonymous said...

Alright, now my mouth is a waterin'. Can't wait to try it out on Wednesday. Back to watching Grey's Anatomy now. Ciao ciao.