Hundreds, if not thousands of photographs are taken everyday from the top of the Pincian Hill. Il Pincio as it’s known in Italian, overlooks Piazza del Popolo and offers one of the best views across the Rome skyline.
This elegant space was designed by Roman architect Giuseppe Valadier to link the hill with the piazza below via staircases and a grand terrace. Valadier had a hand in the creation of a number of works in the city, including Villa Torlonia and even Piazza del Popolo, but only one took his name.
Casina Valadier was built between 1816 and 1837 and sits on the Pincio, just behind the viewing terrace. Originally a coffee house and meeting point, this villa has kept its noble and tasteful character. Today, it’s a place for fine dining and relaxation, and is home to Ristorante Vista, Caffè del Pincio, and a sophisticated cocktail bar.
We spent an evening at Ristorante Vista to sample the tasting menu; one of the main attractions that draws people to this secluded and elegant spot.
The chef behind the restaurant is Rome born Massimo d’Innocenti. With past stints at prestigious restaurants such as Sapori del Lord Byron and Osteria dell’antiquario, d’Innocenti’s six-course tasting menu promises to be special.
We start with a plate of Juilienne squid, pappa al pomodoro, peppered mussels, and roasted pistachios. It’s a light but flavorsome dish which sums up d’Innocenti’s vision for the restaurant well; to bring together classical Italian and Mediterranean cuisine with a modern approach.
Pappa al pomodoro is a traditional Tuscan soup-like dish made with fresh tomatoes and stale bread. What began in cucina povera has been revamped here and turned into something gourmet with the addition of tender squid and fresh mussels. At the heart of this dish, as with all Italian food, is the principle of using top ingredients and simple cooking methods to achieve the best results.
To match the fish, the server suggested a Chardonnay from the Piedmont region. The 2014 Costebianche is an intense but fresh flavored wine, which complemented the cuisine well. An extensive wine list is available should you prefer to make your own selection.
Next, the Dumpling stuffed with broccoli and pecorino with burrata and semi-dried tomatoes arrived at the table. The thin, crunchy pastry gave way to a soft broccoli filling and was a knowing nod to torta rustica, a stalwart of the Italian kitchen.
For the pasta course, d’Innocenti has chosen Tagliolini with butter and castelmagno cheese, powdered porcini and roast chestnuts to feature in his tasting menu. Castelmagno is an ancient, semi-hard cheese usually made with cow’s milk. Categorized as a bleu cheese (although the blue veins don’t always form) it has a strong flavor that makes this dish quite intense. That said, the roasted chestnuts offer some contrast to the richness.
With the meat course to come, we switch from white to red with a 2014 Cerasuolo di Vittoria, from the Sicilian winery Planeta. This cherry-perfumed wine is served with Pluma Iberian pork in a wafu sauce and vegetables with sesame and pomegranate.
The pluma cut comes from the bottom end of the loin and is well marbled. As such, the meat is delicate, succulent, and full of the sweet, nutty flavor that acorn-fed Iberico pork is known for.
With such high quality ingredients expertly prepared and carefully but not pretentiously presented, it’s a shame there’s just one course left. Not to mention the stunning views across the city, which provide a captivating backdrop to the evening.
From one of the four dining rooms (or the outside terrace during warmer weather) guests can gaze across an expansive, uninterrupted Rome skyline. Numerous church spires peak over the palazzos, the Altare della Patria stands tall in Piazza Venezia, and St. Peter’s Basilica glows against the night sky.
I’m busy landmark spotting when dessert arrives and I’m presented with a chocolate brownie, topped with a macaron, fresh cream and a sesame cannolo filled with Baileys cream. Every bite is enjoyed and the tasting menu ends on a rich, sugary high.
From the tasteful decor to the welcoming staff, everything at Casina Valadier is geared towards creating a composed and discreet atmosphere in which to enjoy fine food and fine wine. What’s more, with the stunning views all around you can really appreciate the beauty of Rome whilst at the same time, escape the rush of the city below.