An Italian bakery and Italian restaurant has newly opened on the internal Naccach-Antelias road. A casual Italian eatery welcomes you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as of eight-thirty until eleven at night. Walk in into a vibrant space built under a high ceiling. Glasses of wine coming down over the bar, a display of cakes and pastries, a cooler where Italian wines are showcased and a set of high and low tables.
Via Roma is your little Italy in Beirut. Walls decorated with bricks, wooden tables, black metal for the bar, burgundy leather sofas and chairs, and white tiles giving a touch of brightness to the open kitchen. I loved it how the lights are dangling from the ceiling, the wooden boxes decorating the walls, the open and relaxed space with a television at the end, broadcasting Italian shows.
Via Roma is the restaurant of Chef Massimiliano who came all the way from Italy to share his culinary experiences in Beirut. Starters, several choices of pasta, risotto, pizzas, burgers, chicken and meat, drinks and desserts. The pizza can be ordered during the day by the slice or half a meter and a meter, after eight in the evening.
Georges approached us for the order, he’s the manager at Via Roma, handling the restaurant professionally. With a smile and a welcoming attitude he memorizes the orders and goes straight forward to the kitchen to make them happen. My only problem is that half the food contains garlic; I couldn’t order the burger, the Melanzane, the burrata among others. Anyway, I enjoyed hearing people speak Italian around the place: don’t they say “eat where locals do?”
The experience transformed into a journey when chef Massimiliano himself approached our table to introduce himself. He’s been in Lebanon for the last ten years, a country he loved and planned to build a career in and marry a gentle Lebanese lady. Chef Massimiliano worked with Giovanni at Marguerita, with Anthony at Eatalian and lately at Cafe Mondo. The challenge: Chef, can you give me the tastiest carbonara ever? Challenge accepted he answered, and please don’t insult me; we don’t put cream in a carbonara! Fresh pasta with raw egg, here it comes.
Start with the Burrata, a creamy ball of cheese served with thinly sliced tomatoes. Continue and try the spinach crepe with béchamel sauce and ricotta cheese. Two rolls cooked in a porcelain plate and served on a wooden crate. Adequately cooked, the crepes are firm, kind of al dente, not gooey and not overcooked. Loaded turn spinach, the mix is balanced and tasty. A catchy detail: plates are fresh and green, loaded with greenery.
We were offered a plate of Taralli: Taralli are toroidal Italian snack foods, common all over the southern half of the Italian Peninsula. A cracker similar in texture to a breadstick, a pretzel, or a sushka, taralli can be sweet or savory. Crunchy and made with white wine, the ribbon-like biscuits have a strong flavor and aroma of aniseed. This nibble is best enjoyed with cheese or cold cuts.
Amazing linguini mixed with seafood and a spicy sauce. A colorful plate, looking good and smelling great, makes your mouth water before you dig in. The linguini Pasta feels light... light on the stomach, light in shape, light in feel, smell and way of cooking. No cream, no complication, simply fresh pasta with diced seafood, mussels, shrimp and much love. Passion poured in this plate is felt in each of your taste buds.
The pizza is another story: Via Roma’s Pizza is unique, the only one in Lebanon using a special Italian flour made of four different kinds of flours, preparing it 48 in advance for better integration and relaxation of the dough. There is one factory that produces this flower, and it’s called “De Marco.” The secret is keeping the pizza light and airy, enjoyable hot or the next morning.
The pizza landed on our table, Georges approaches with his big scissors to cut it. Exactly like the chef described it, the pizza crust is outstanding. Not only light, airy and fluffy on the borders, but it’s also flavorful and tasty. The good thing about it is that it’s not like any flour, simply flour to hold the filling, but it has a special character to it. Nuts and Gorgonzola on one side, baked potatoes and speck ham on the other side... the sauce, the flavors, the mix of ingredients, the generosity... this is waw! The pizza is much more than a pizza, it’s a meal on the dough, and it’s addictive.
Beetroot risotto: cooked al dente, burgundy colored, balanced flavors. A clean and meat plate.
Wait, let me be honest, I came here to eat casual Italian food in a restaurant open in Naccach’s internal road in a commercial center... I was not ready to eat gourmet Italian cuisine, a superb salmon presented like Michelin chefs do, the most special pizza found in town, a unique risotto and a one-of-a-kind carbonara.
The carbonara: cooked al dente with homemade spaghetti, the chef’s carbonara is phenomenal. Egg yolk transformed into a sauce, absorbed by the spaghetti, mixed with a load of pepper, embraces with Parmesan and ready to amaze.
Best for last courtesy of the chef: the homemade chocolate truffles and zaatar liqueur. You have to try them to understand.
A great experience I’ll repeat, food was great; I felt at home, relaxed and enjoying dinner as I do it in front of my television. Remember to buy bread for home, limoncello cream made in-house, the locally crafted cakes and croissants. And if the chef is around, you’ll receive a bag of bread for your next day breakfast.