Panadería Rosetta in the Juárez neighborhood was successful from the moment that it opened, but Elena Reygadas didn’t rest there - instead she seized the opportunity to use the neighboring space and turn it into a more casual space than Rosetta y Lardo, with a pleasant bar, outdoor seating and a menu that shares some elements with Rosetta and Lardo, but also diverts significantly. The emphasis lies in the breads, pastas and the dishes with strong herbal accents that were masterfully concocted by Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli; it’s also less formal and more playful, flirting with the aesthetic of a tapas bar, with a menu in which the most nutritious elements appear as appetizers.
From a comforting leek, potato and bacon soup, to vegetarian options (like the endive, grapefruit and mint salad, the lima bean hummus tendered by tarragon, or the grilled veggies with nettle mayonnaise), to instant classics like toasted bread with soft buttered crab, spicy mango salsa, pickled purple onion and cilantro shoots: one of the most playful and on-point combination of flavors, textures and colors that I’ve tried all year. The soft, crumbly bread, with honeycombed, crunchy crust; the mango, sweet and aromatic, with its touch of spice, all contrasts so well with the saltiness of the sea and the perfectly fried crab, complemented by the plus the acidity of the pickled onions – a recipe for salivation, and each element served in its perfect proportion.
Now on to the main entrees, of which I sampled two extremes of the spectrum. From one vegetarian stew to another with meat, I traveled from India to Italy. To start, the red curry with fennel and almonds makes for a sauce that is pure pleasure to the nose, with a stinging spiciness that is balanced with a touch of anis and roasted fennel and soft oiliness of the almonds. The other dish was a delicious veal stew, which melts at the touch of the fork, and mounted on a creamy rice with saffron. The risotto is shaped like a square and with a toasted surface, a preparation that reminds me of the way that Italian grandmothers take advantage of yesterday’s polenta, cutting it into squares and frying them, or the burnt bits of rice at the bottom of the paella, that everyone fights over.
To wash it down, we had some wine, well-chosen and all available by cup, half liter or bottle, or even a negroni sbagliato (with prosecco in place of gin); and for dessert, some miniature vanilla, licorice and banana eclairs, with a small class of macadamia milk for dipping. Elena and her companions, Iván Icra and Federco Sali – with one step ahead, have reached something new. It’s most excellent for those of us who had already succumbed to the power of her breads, and now are happy with the good lunches and dinners in this recently transformed space, that honors what Anaïs Nin once said: “Luxury is not a necessity to me, but beautiful and good things are.”