Rome's most famous restaurant transforms: here’s the new La Pergola by Heinz Beck

Jun 11 2024, 15:21
The German chef, Heinz Beck, holder of Gambero Rosso's Tre Forchette and three Michelin stars, reopens La Pergola restaurant after seven months of renovations

It's a daring move. Heinz Beck is highly enthusiastic at the unveiling of the newly refurbished La Pergola restaurant in Rome (with Gambero Rosso's Tre Forchette and three Michelin stars), which reopens on Tuesday, June 11, after seven months of extensive work. The terrace on the ninth floor of the Rome Cavalieri is the domain of the German chef, who has been there for 30 years since his first arrival in Italy. La Pergola is not just a restaurant: it's an imaginary place, an idea, a representation of the Eternal City, a stage, a status symbol. The view from up here impresses even locals living nearby, let alone foreigners who pop open fine bottles of wine and toast to St. Peter's Basilica.

T for Terracotta

The new design is stunning, featuring floral motifs and a retro taste: refined and welcoming. "We wanted to capture the colour of Rome, its essence, starting with terracotta. That hue we see on the city's rooftops, a tribute to travertine in a contemporary key. We also used pine wood as decoration, blending seamlessly with the surrounding landscape," explains architect Patrick Jouin. "It was a delicate, simple, and conceptual project. We aimed for purity, seeking raw materials with the characteristics of the city, achieving harmony with what comes from the place itself, the view, the moment we live in. There’s a touch of the 1960s with a modern look, along with a rich selection of artworks that integrate seamlessly with the dining room, illuminated perfectly. We added a layer of light that penetrates this space through panels that move like clouds," notes architect Sanjit Manku of the Parisian studio Jouin Manku.

The menu changes too

"We know where we come from, now we want to show you where we’re headed: beauty, modern warmth, and feelings. We offer a homely atmosphere where clients feel like they never want to leave. It's a new but comfortable look, a warm and enveloping environment," comments Beck. The kitchen has also been renovated, including the installation of photovoltaic panels for energy supply and new equipment, the entire pastry section has been renewed, and new Josper ovens and state-of-the-art induction cookers have been added. The dining offerings? Also new. "I’ve changed the cooking style several times over these 30 years, but I’ve never followed trends. Now we’re taking a new step towards nature in a direction of healthy cuisine. We associate the concept of a diet with sacrifice, but it’s not so; through modern techniques, we can provide foods rich in micronutrients, moving increasingly towards meeting our body's needs."

Super legumes

An unusual focus is on legumes. "We reactivate the germ and use enzymes to increase nutrient bioavailability and quantity: we use modern techniques to make dishes increasingly good, light, and sunny." He revisits a cherished concept: "The quality of a meal is evident the next morning when we wake up feeling great. Dinner doesn't end when you get up from the table, but when you wake up the next day feeling fantastic. We aim to provide a wonderful evening and an even better morning." One of the new dishes on the menu is called 0.1: a tribute to the tomato in all its forms and textures. The percentage represents the proportion of humanity compared to the world's biomass. It’s presented as a cobblestone, with continuous references to the city. Another novelty is a tribute to the Queen of Roads: Lamb on the Ancient Appian Way. "The germinated legumes resemble the paving stones, with herbs reminiscent of those growing spontaneously along the roadside. The protein could only be lamb, a nod to the transhumance along the Appian Way." Reviewing the menu: a ten-course tasting for 350 euros, seven courses for 290 euros, or à la carte options.

Vast wine cellar

At the helm of the 60,000-bottle cellar is still Marco Reitano, who has been Heinz Beck’s wine partner for 30 years. "During these months, we had the chance to reorganize the inventory; there were many errors, I can't count how many different ways Chateau Lafite was written," he smiles. Unlike current trends, La Pergola does not have a pre-paired wine tasting menu: "Of course, if clients want guidance, I create it on the spot, but here they often prefer to open a bottle. And what a bottle! Even labels costing 20,000 euros without hesitation. We continue with allocations of the most important signatures, but I've also expanded for summer with many lesser-known whites, focusing on Tuscany and Campania, which are giving me great satisfaction." His final appeal is to winemakers: "Nowadays, if you don't present a new label every year, you're nobody. Keeping up is increasingly difficult."

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