Thursday, August 15, 2013

La Gastronomia

"How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will." Albert Einstein
Not long ago, I jumped into my trusty four-wheeled vehicle and headed off into the leafy, craggy wilds around Nebušice. I was on the hunt for a fine meal.

Actually, the area I'm talking about is not that far from bustling Evropska street and easy to get to on a weekend by car. There is also bus service. But for a lazy guy like me, it takes a good push to get me over to that side of town.

A well-told tale about tasty Italian food is the kind of push I'm talking about. Friends who live in the area said I had to try La Gastronomia.
It's a relatively new restaurant and food emporium run by chef David Lagomarsino. Previously, he worked at one of Prague's best Italian restaurants, Aromi.

The interior is gorgeous.
It would not look out of place in the center of Prague or any other capital city. In fact, I wish it was in the center of Prague.

Much of the floor space is devoted to the food shop. There is a selection of Italian wines.
They have freshly-prepared salads.
There's a wide variety of cheeses and cured meats.
The man handling those foods is the highly knowledgeable Italian gentleman who worked at La Bottega di Finestra since it opened. They bake their own focaccia in a sparkling new kitchen that you can see through glass from the shop.
They do cooking classes back there.

In front, there are tables where you can sit and eat. There is also a back room with more tables that can be pushed together for a party.
You can look out the window and see the Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, Porsches, and Volvos (all these were there when we visited). In warmer months, it is nice to sit out on the newly-built rear deck, where they also have a grill.
I sat in the back with a bunch of friends. We started with several carafes of still and sparkling water (45 CZK each).
We also got a few baskets of their delicious, super-moist focaccia.
There was plenty of olive oil in those salty, bready cubes.

I was sipping Il Selese Soave from Verona (1.5 liter/110 CZK).
It was very drinkable, with lightly tart citrus notes. A friend and I thought it had more character than their smooth Pinot Grigio by the glass.

We all ordered two or three courses. I started with what the menu called vegetable terrine (187 CZK).
It was a creative but not perfectly descriptive name for rich, warm, mashed pumpkin topped with a portobello mushroom, rucola, shaved Parmesan, and a balsamic reduction. I thought the lightly spicy dish was an earthy and inspired combination of flavors.

One friend got the slow-braised octopus with shaved Grana Padano and baby spinach (214 CZK).
The tentacles had a beautiful, smoky char on the exterior and a soft, tender interior. There was also rucola, balsamic and olive oil mixed in. We agreed this was excellent.

My neighbor at the table had the linguine with clams (259 CZK).
The pasta was al dente, and the shell fish was as fresh and tender and tasty as could be. It was done just right, but I felt the portion was small for the price.

Someone else had the passatelli with Argentinian prawns (215 CZK). The thick homemade pasta was lightly coated with Parmesan and bread crumbs.
There was a light, peppery sweetness with the flavor of dill clearly coming through. Datterino tomatoes provided bursts of brightness. As sweet and fresh as it was, there was really only one prawn though.

For my next course, I had the agnolotti filled with pears and gorgonzola cheese (199 CZK).
These gorgeous pillows of pasta were coated with a butter and sage sauce.
The sweetness of the fruit mixed with the tangy cheese made for a marriage that I approved of whole-heartedly.

Another neighbor went for the milk-fed veal T-bone (496 CZK). It was the best veal I've ever had in this country.
I've never had a more tender cut here. It was simply grilled with salt and pepper to a mostly rare state. Medium rare was requested, but we were happy with it just the same.
The meat was so good, I barely remember the basic, grilled vegetables on the side. I saw raw cuts of this veal on sale in the shop. I'm still sorry I didn't buy some.

For dessert I tried the chocolate amaretto cake (99 CZK).
The dense, moist slice was studded with dark chocolate and infused with the essence of the sweet almond liqueur. It was topped with fresh cream.

Someone else had the crème brûlée.
It was nice and light, though I'll say I prefer denser, creamier versions.

Service was excellent. Our waiter was very friendly and accommodating for customers with small children. One small issue was that several items on their relatively new menu were not available. I wanted to try the lamb chops, the tuna, and the almond and pistachio cheesecake, but none of those were available when we visited.

Even if the quantities on the plate were not always large, the quality of every offering was always high. They know what they are doing in the kitchen.
Everyone had a good feeling about this restaurant and shop. And to keep feeling good, I took some of their food home with me. I bought portions of the eggplant lasagne (140 CZK) and the meat lasagne (179 CZK).
Both made for rich, gourmet lunches at work on the two days that followed.

I'm only pleased that there are such great Italian places like this in and around Prague. In Smíchov, I can get quality Italian foods, wines, and prepared meals at Wine Food Market. In the center, I stop by La Bottega di Finestra. In Vinohrady, there is La Bottega di Aromi. And now in Prague 6, I know where to go.

I'm sure I'll make a special trip to visit La Gastronomia again. It is an Italian island of quality cuisine that makes you feel like you've left the city behind.

La Gastronomia
Horoměřická 2337/8
Prague 6
Tel. (+420) 702 074 677

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