[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ake a lunch date on a Friday in the Siete de Agosto neighbourhood and chances are you’ll get a litany of feeble excuses to cancel out. But then again, if someone, six months ago, had proposed to eat Italian within a arm’s throw of this crowded indoor market that is hemmed in by a red light district, I too would have shunned at the prospect.
As Shakespeare once wrote: “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
So I did anything but foolish and visited the Trattoria de la Plaza; a venue which has taken over the second floor of a non-descript Chapinero building and whose green awning and narrow staircase is more befitting a billiard salon than a fine dining establishment.
[quote]The Trattoria de la Plaza is quickly earning a reputation as one of Bogotá’s better-hidden secrets[/quote]
The Trattoria de la Plaza is quickly earning a reputation as one of Bogotá’s better-hidden secrets, even though by look of things, as guests without a table wait patiently in line, the word seems to be out and spreading.
Once upstairs, you are a world removed from the bustle of Chapinero and in a dining room decked with a red banquet, wooden tables and back-lit green wine bottles stacked up against the window. Chef and proprietor André Tarditi confesses that the decór evolved organically with furniture and fixtures found near the bustling market.
When Tattoria de la Plaza opened its doors two and a half years ago, Tarditi was in dire need of a miracle. Several business ventures with partners hadn’t given results and needing an affordable place in which to start his own restaurant, Chapinero seemed more forgiving with the bottom line than the high-end rents crippling many restaurants in the Zona G, Parque 93 and Usaquén.
With a degree in business administration, André came to food via the world of finance. When he was not sitting behind a desk trading in stocks at a reputable brokerage firm, he would invite friends over to his apartment and cook up a meal.
Being part Italian and having spent time with relatives in Genoa, Tarditi learned how to prepare and cook many of his grandmother’s traditional dishes. Cooking seemed to evolve naturally and even though the entrepreneur-turned-chef downplays his accomplishments, it is evident, by a full house and the dining overflow, that this Trattoria is all about authenticity. Of staying true to one’s roots. And not going with the flow of expensive, faux Italian.
A chalkboard highlights the day’s specials at the entrance. But I am distracted and enthralled by the size of the dishes making their way to table in the corner where a half dozen bottles of wine seem to have been polished-off with plenty of fanfare. The restaurant is abuzz as everyone seems to be celebrating something.
After a short wait, we are offered a table near the main bar, next to a wall stacked with wines, and a menu so comprehensive, that we need more than several minutes to peruse its pages. There are starters, pizzas, beef and veal selections (including a house specialty osso bucco) and pages dedicated to pasta and seafood.
I order as my main one of the day’s special dishes: the entrecote bérnaise. My dining companions order the salmon and vodka penne, a herb-encrusted tenderloin and a spaghetti vongole. We accompany starters of grilled eggplant with mozzarella and fried calamari with a bottle of Castillian rosé.
The rosé tried to do its part, but was no match for the food. I manage to steer the in-house sommelier away from Spain towards Argentina and Chile. As we savour each and every bite of our dishes, a Carmeniere does the trick. The lunch was a resounding success – to say the least – and extended into the late afternoon.
A round of grappa and limoncello topped off the meal and when the time came to pay, the price was beyond reasonable. Starters at Trattoria de la Plaza range between $9,000 and $12,000. That’s right. You read it. The average price for a main is $26,000. Of course, there are more pricey dishes on the menu, but the over-riding philosophy seems to be to offer guests a top quality meal at an honest price.
Trattoria de la Plaza was a miracle waiting to happen. One which has changed the life of André, and by the sound of things, will change the dining culture of our capital.
Calle 66 No.22-41 Second Floor