Dining and WIning
with Dra. Lourdes Quijada
If you want to find a good Italian restaurant in Panama, who best to ask but an Italian.
By chance I bumped into an old acquaintance while snacking in trendy Petit Paris, in Marbella. Great place for coffee and freshly baked croissants and lunch time specials, but for now I’ll stick to Italy.
My adviser gave me two names, one long established, the other new. Anxious to keep up with the culinary times I headed for the new one, and it took just one visit to persuade me to become a frequent shopper.
Roman Antica is tucked away around the corner from the Marriott Hotel and Casino, and right across the road from where the original Pavo Real once served fish and chips and harbored darts and jazz fans.
The quiet elegance of the restaurant is in sharp contrast to the bustle and loud chatter of the pub scene. It’s apparent even before you enter as you look through the multi paned windows and see the candles flickering on each table. Once, during a power cut Roma Antica became Romantica as we continued to dine by candlelight.
From our first visit service was speedy and efficient with Allesandra di Giovanni ensuring that your order is taken and on its way to her husband and business partner, chef Fabio Pietrosanti.
The menu is fulsome and varied, even after multiple visits with friends we have not been Saveable to sample half of the offering from Antipasti to gourmet salads, first and second courses and house specialties, and then of course the desserts.
Within minutes of seating a napkin wrapped basket of crisp and warm bread is in front of you along with flavored olive. So while we dipped and nibbled we roamed the menu and settled on Misto di Verdure, an antipasto of roasted zucchini, aubergines and peppers with olive oil and sea salt, You can vary this melt in the mouth mélange , which is easily enough for two, with either or both, marinated pearl onions and mushrooms
For beef lovers there is Carpaccio Filetto, thin slices of beef fillet, dressed wirh mushrooms and parmesan flakes, and a cheese appetizer comes in the shape of thin slices of brie or camembert gratin, dressed with honey and toasted almonds.
And then there is antipasto Romano … . but there has to be something for you to discover on your own.
The gourmet salads are indeed gourmet, with a cornucopia of house dressings turkey pastrami, grilled chicken or beef strips, and lots more to explore and savor.
When you reach the “first” course you will find multiple choices of pasta dishes, all cooked al dente, and there is freshly home made gnocchi an ravioli. If you slip past the second course selection you will find a list of “additional” items including a ceviche of the day and an enticing selection of bruschetta.
Second courses provide variety of fish dishes, steaks, chicken and lamb, all exquisitely prepared and served.
There’s even a risotto made to order. It Takes 45 minutes, but if you order early and you have been eating your way through some of the listings I have mentioned, 45 minutes is a short break and about the time it takes in some restaurants to get soup and salad.
For dessert there is a specialty of the day, my favorite is amoretti.
The biggest and from the pocket book point of view the best surprise is the wine list. There is an excellent selection of full bodied Italian wines from $16 to the mid $20s. But there is also a drinkable house wine at $7.50 a liter. Yes $7.50. A half Liter is $4.50.
Off to the side is a comfortable lounge where you can drop by, snack, sip and chat and wait for friends. My prediction is that it will soon be a waiting area for a table.