Opening a new restaurant a month before Ramadan, in a part of Fez’s Ville Nouvelle that is undergoing a major redevelopment, would appear a challenging prospect. But for Restaurant L'italien, it is one that looks set to pay off. Suzanna Clarke reports.
The View From Fez had heard the buzz around town about this new venture. Among several glowing reports, a local restaurant connoisseur told us that he had eaten the best Italian food at Restaurant L'italien since visiting Italy. So we set off this week to try it for ourselves.
Located across the road from the former Champs de Courses, which will eventually become the new Fez city centre, Restaurant L'italien has a terrace out front, flanked by olive trees.
Inside the decor is, “New York industrial warehouse meets Swedish meets Italian,” according to co-owner Alejandro Ferrando. With a fit-out by Italian architect Vanessa Di Mino, the restaurant has a modern designer feel, with a blonde brick feature wall, Eames chairs and lights from Habitat, yet still retains an air of casual comfort.
|Alejandro and co-owner Alvaro|
|Brahim - the pizza DJ|
Although entrees included tempting choices like Insalata Caprese and Carpaccio and hot items like Minestrone soup, we went straight to the pasta and pizza sections. I opted for one of the most popular choices, Pizza L’Italien, with rocket, semi-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and truffle oil, as well as the staples of mozzarella, parmesan and tomato paste. It was delicious, with a light and crunchy base and very fresh ingredients.
My husband selected the Ravioli di Spinaci, which the menu simply states has ricotta and spinach. But the reality was much more. While the plump parcels of home made ravoli were filled with fresh spinach and ricotta, the dish was set off to perfection by the creamy sauce with Cepe mushrooms. The overall effect was melt-in-your-mouth.
We couldn't manage the meat or fish main courses, such as Cote de Boeuf a la Florentine or Gambas Grises a l’italienne, so they will have to wait until next time.
However, we did squeeze in dessert - Panacotta ai fruitti di bosco and a Tiramisu. Presented in glasses, the panacotta was richer and creamier than I have eaten before and was delightfully complemented by the tartness of the berry coulis.
My partner’s Tiramisu, however, lacked the usual bite of liquor which is usually part of the mix – a concession to Moroccan tastes. It still had the distinctive coffee flavour through the sponge biscuits, beneath the mascarpone, but the result was lighter and blander than usual.
Overall, we would highly recommend Restaurant L'italien. There is an obvious attention to detail at every level, both in the decor and the kitchen. The service was friendly and attentive without being intrusive. The team have worked hard to get things right and it shows. There is free Wi-Fi for the business types and they do great coffee as well. In the cooler months the front terrace is likely to be crowded.
Entrees range from 50 to 90 dh; pastas and risottos from 60 to 120 dh; meat and fish dishes from 90 to 150 dh and pizzas from 60 to 100 dh. Desserts are around the 40 dh mark.
Ferrando says that the aim was for the prices to be “democratic – good food should be for everyone”.
Restaurant L'italien is open from midday to midnight. It’s at Residence Longchamp, Av. Omar Ibn Khattab; just down from the corner of Av. du Pakistan, opposite the former Champs de Courses. Bookings and delivery: 05 35 943384.
Review & photographs: Suzanna Clarke