Piazza le Laudi, 2 65129 Pescara, Italy
Café Les Paillotes is a one Michelin star restaurant on the north-eastern coast of Italy in the popular beach town …Rating:
Café Les Paillotes is a one Michelin star restaurant on the north-eastern coast of Italy in the popular beach town of Pescara. Heinz Beck is a consultant for the Restaurant, and the very young and talented Matteo Iannacone is the Head Chef. He has worked previously at the Savoy in Florence and with Ducasse at the Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris. I think about my experience there fondly now, the décor bringing a small smile to my face. It is a little bit Sicily meets China beach, with faux flowers, faux Gauguin paintings, sidewalk art, and gauzy curtains. The terrace is made to look like an aquarium in 1975. There are little hints of an Asian restaurant past by looking at the bamboo dour knobs and oriental accessories around the room. But somehow with all that fantasy thrown together, as crazy as it is, it is kind of cool. I mean, it is not kitsch, because it wasn’t meant to be kitsch, this was most definitely done on purpose… but I liked the fun park style and loud calamity of it all pushed in your face. The food pairs rather well with this concept, shockingly, as I will go on to describe.
First arrived a fragrant crab dish, complemented by purple rice crisps, avocado crème, dill, and mustard cress. The green of the avocado and the purple cracker created a beautiful visual and a contrasting popping texture on your palette. Soft bits of crab with fragrant dill rounded out this lovely amuse bouche.
The next dish was a branzino (sea bass) carpaccio. Studded over the perfect circle of fish were small perfect dots of bright purple raspberry and pale green apple puree, creating quite a feast for the eye, the circles becoming big and small on your plate and in your mouth. It was a little over the top, almost comically so, but still visually beautiful at the same time. Tiny diced cucumber and apple were sprinkled across, adding bits of texture and freshness. For fragrance, dill, red amaranth, celery leaves, chervil, and tarragon added a symphonic background. To start the dish, essence of bergamot was sprayed over our faces, cleansing our palettes through scent. A subtle and creative touch. Although a stunning dish, the raspberry puree was very sweet, and in the end, more salt and oil was needed to keep the balance.
Next arrived a sort of grand seafood crudo, with incredibly fresh white prawns, red prawns, langoustines, oysters, and two types of Adriatic clams. Little plastic tubes of almost a medical design were filled with a soft and simple mango puree. This went very well with the seafood in fact, and was rather fun squirting it about. Neon green nets encased the limes, creating a 70’s-seafood-at-the-beach-bar feeling. The oysters were particularly beautiful, sharply cold, with seawater scooped on top, giving one the feeling that you are on a boat somewhere and someone dived down and caught it for you. It was an incredibly kitschy and quite delicious Michelin star seafood platter experience.
Enhancing all this fun house food, 80’s jazz music wafted through the air, like something you hear in discount store on a Wednesday morning. Just another interesting touch that in the end made me smile, not the other way around.
Following the crudo of seafood came a theatrical smoking (dry ice) prawn tartar, perched on a round plastic disc with electric purple pops of raspberry puree and raspberry “crumbs”. There was a hint of mint lacing through the dish, and cubed celery and tiny domes of yoghurt were strategically dotted over the mist. Quite a spectacle, even if again it was a little overboard. The flavours were very elegant, although again the raspberry puree was very sweet and needed a balance of added seasoning and oil. What I really liked about all the dishes was this sense of excitement, this mad production to excite all of your senses, not just your mouth. So even though the dishes were screaming loudly at you, it was somehow all quite fun.
Tiny calamaretti appeared, very subtle and simple, with lemon, finely cut parsley, and fragrant olive oil. I liked the step back with this, as everything was so over the top, it was becoming slightly overpowering. The legs of the calamari were slightly charred, creating a soft smokiness, and the freshness of the baby squid was dreamy.
We finished our experience with muscardini, which are baby octopus. They are very hard to find anywhere, and you can come across them in Italy only sometimes. The muscardini was braised in a thick rich tomato sauce, garnished with potato puree and crunchy Jerusalem artichoke chips. The dish was somehow comforting, like a slice of delicious doughy pizza. It was a good finish to end our show.
Café Les Paillotes is a special affair, for all parts of your senses. It is to be taken however with a playful spirit, casting off possible opinions about all the kitsch, and just enjoying the ride.