Chef Adriano Baldassarre is currently firing on all cylinders and his restaurant Tordomatto should be a destination for anyone who loves modernist fine dining. I’m frankly shocked to feel this way. I returned last night expecting to confirm my impression from last year that this place is an expensive snooze. It’s still expensive by Roman standards, but Tordomatto is now – to my great surprise – a thrilling restaurant.
Many of Baldassarre’s young contemporaries try to add excitement by multiplying the number of technicolor garnishes on every dish. Baldassarre, by contrast, goes deep. The number of elements on any given dish are small and judiciously selected, each one intensely concentrated. In looking over my photos, I can recall the distinct pleasure of every dish because Baldassarre’s flavors are sharp and un-muddled. My lens may not always be properly focused, but his cooking certainly is.
Beginning with the “Svojature” or parade of small bites at the beginning of the meal, my palate was slapped to attention by a bite of black olive with orange, pepper and slightly bitter olive oil. The concentration of flavor here is marvelous. A crispy cracker resembling the restaurant’s single Michelin star contains a hidden ribbon of anchovy inflected mozzarella cream. A button of tomato panzanella is light and fun before the mineral wallop of a lamb’s liver bonbon. It’s not uncommon to receive an array of tastes like this, often meant to resemble mignardises (the candies which follow dessert), in fine dining restaurants. Rarely are they so memorable and profoundly delicious.
What follows next is something I’d seen on the chef’s Instagram page – a riff on the Roman breakfast of cappuccino and cornetto, here with baccalà in the porcelain cup. To be honest, I thought it looked a little dumb. Ideas like this are often pleasing to the eye and brain but deliver nothing for the mouth. How wrong I was! Shavings of bottarga add depth to what could otherwise be a blandly creamy bite, and this cornetto rivals the best butter croissants I’ve tasted in Paris.
Then we land here – a dish of raw langoustine draped luxuriously over a wakame sponge upon a bed of sand made from the coral with dots of mussel mayonnaise. With a glass of German Riesling (the wine pairings are on point), I was in absolute heaven. While this dish may sound cerebral, I assure you that it’s pure pleasure and, as my dear friend Christian would say, “totally slutty.”
I won’t bore you with the blow-by-blow of every course, except perhaps to discuss the evening’s only miss. Baldassarre’s talent for reducing and intensifying flavor works to great advantage in almost every dish. Here, however, a tomato risotto meant to evoke a summertime stuffed tomato is, if you can believe it, too tomatoey. There’s no relief, no balance of flavors. It’s like sucking tomato concentrate from a tube. How amusing that the evening’s most difficult dish (for me) looks so innocent and almost banal. A croquette of pigeon liver was, by comparison, far less challenging.
With apologies for the flurry of superlatives, there are a few other important things to note: Tordomatto is serving the best bread I’ve tasted in Rome. The plateware, which is not generally something I notice, is stunning and carefully paired to highlight each dish. Wine pairings tie with Marzapane and Pipero Roma for the most enjoyable. The procession of desserts, centered around a bocce court filled with chocolate balls and concluding with some unmissable mignardises, is among the best in Rome right now. I had none of these impressions during my visit in 2017. Something (everything?) has changed.
Let’s talk about the cost: we selected the “ConFusion” tasting menu with nine courses plus mignardises for 120€. A comparable dinner at Eleven Madison Park in New York or Pierre Gagnaire in Paris would be nearly triple that price. Here in Rome, Il Pagliaccio (2 Michelin stars) is charging 170€ for a menu that I enjoyed far less. Tordomatto’s pricing is right in line with Pipero Roma (110€), which I also highly recommend. If you’re willing to drop a considerable amount for fine dining (400€ per couple with wine), do it at one of these two restaurants.
Address: Via Pietro Giannone, 24
Hours: Open for both lunch & dinner Friday-Sunday from 12:45-14:30 and 19:30-22:45. Open Monday, Tuesday & Thursday for dinner only from 19:30-22:45. Closed Wednesday.
Telephone: +39 06 6935 2895
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Tordomatto in pictures
Photos by Meg Zimbeck © Rome by Mouth
What people are saying
- “I Cento” by EDT ranks this as their #11 restaurant in Rome for 2018, calling chef Adriano Baldassarre’s cuisine “a beautiful expression of contemporary cooking, solid and centered.”
- Gambero Rosso (2018) has awarded Tordomatto with 2 Forks and a numerical rating of 83 in 2018, 80 in 2017 (improving).
- “Roma nel Piatto” by La Pecora Nera gave them a score of 9- out of 10 points (“excellent”) in 2018 and 9- points in 2017.
- “I Ristoranti d’Italia” by L’Espresso awards them 2/5 hats (“high quality”) for 2018.
Also recommended in this style
Pipero Roma in the historical center
Also recommended in this neighborhood
Enoteca La Torre a Villa Laetitia (more traditional fine dining in a baroque setting)