Casina Valadier is one of Rome’s iconic addresses – a stately home with wow factor in the city’s park-with-a-view, Villa Borghese. While often the site for upscale weddings and private events, you don’t actually have to reserve the entire Casina Valadier to enjoy its charms.
Not everyone knows that it is also home to a sensational gourmet restaurant called Vista, which enjoys some of the finest views in Rome from its lofty perch on the Pincio, elevated further by its third floor location at Casina Valadier.
Vista’s charms don’t just stop at that view, as chef Massimo D’Innocenti is the restaurant’s real secret weapon. I met Massimo when I went to dine at Vista and was blown away by his sunny disposition and food ethic. A self-styled ‘happy chef’, Massimo told me that he doesn’t believe that chefs should lose their temper in the kitchen – as has become all the rage in the age of the restaurant celebrity – as it spoils the food.
This philosophy was perfectly borne out during my meal at Vista Restaurant, characterised by a series of delightful dishes which indeed left a huge smile on my face. Enough intro – on with the food!
This classy restaurant is suitable for occasion dining – expect to spend around €100 per head for three courses with wine. Antipasti are priced between €16 and €30, first course dishes €20-€30, mains €30-€35, with desserts costing €15.
Casina Valadier has an uber-glamorous double stair-case running up the front of the villa, which makes you feel like a celebrity when you arrive. Once inside, the pretty period lobby is divided into different rooms, served by a well-stocked bar. This is the spot to grab an aperitif before you head to your table.
Vista Restaurant is on the third floor – lift or stairs are available – and it enjoys this magical view across medieval and ancient Rome. Yes, that’s the dome of Saint Peter’s on the horizon! The restaurant has several tables with this magnificent outlook but it’s worth asking for a window-side spot when you book.
Our dinner at Vista Restaurant started with a treat from the chef – tender occhio di canna baby octopuses served with broad beans and fresh lime. The citrus was well-balanced with the delicate seafood, producing a mouth-watering amuse bouche.
We then moved on to a house-favourite vegetarian option – full of incredible flavours and textures. Combining artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke and quinoa, it was a wonderful introduction to the meal.
Chef Massimo D’Innocenti moves effortlessly between fish, meat and vegetarian dishes, as we were soon to find out. This foie gras escalope with radicchio and grape must was an indulgent dish combining savoury and smoky flavours. Delicious.
The next dish, from the first course menu, was another crowd pleaser – this sensational plate of tagliolini with caviar butter, red prawns, lime and ginger. My mouth is watering just writing about it! The sweetness of the prawns and caviar butter were beautifully balanced by the acid and spice on the plate. Velvety and satisfying!
I also tried Massimo’s gourmet take on classic Roman pasta dish, amatriciana. Combining golden yellow tomatoes with finely cured pig cheek, this was a refined yet characterful version of a trattoria classic.
We moved on to the second course menu next, with this wow fish dish. Plating baccala in a puttanesca crust with friarelli refried greens created a handsome combination of spice and soft bitterness. Great textures too.
The dessert menu was full of delicious options – as you can probably tell from the laden table – but I was very pleased with my choice. This finely carved pineapple, marinated in rosemary with sichuan pepper, was a delightfully fresh palate cleansing close to the meal.
Vista Restaurant isn’t cheap, but it has gone to the top of my list for special occasion dining in Rome. Apart from the peerless location, I’m a huge fan of the chef, his happy outlook, and his skills in the kitchen.
Vista Restaurant Casina Valadier | Piazza Bucarest | Rome | Tel 0039 066992 2090
Testaccina was a guest of Vista Restaurant at Casina Valadier
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