Hidden in a small side street of Avenue Louise there’s a very romantic restaurant. Decorated with dried flowers, dried ham, ballerinas hanging next to vintage mirrors and black and white images covering the walls of the Italian restaurant. There are big dark brown wooden book shelves displaying books that look older than I am. Once you enter the long room, lit by dimmed warm light-bulbs and covered in very pretty pastel coloured tiles, you’ll see what I mean. You’ll also immediately spot the heavy wooden bar to the left, which is embellished with a marble surface and looks like a hotel reception starred in some old movie from the 20s. This place definitely is the right spot for people who pay a lot of attention to details and to whom decoration and interior is key when eating out.
The restaurant Osteria Romana was opened five years ago by owner and chef Filippo, and it is the go-to spot for Italians working in the area, but also for other people, who are friends of good Italian cocina. It seems that the place was a well-hidden treasure, until today, when the little brother of the place Le Cave opened. Decoration wise very similar to the restaurant, it looks like an antique shop or an old library with old maps hanging on the walls, golden coloured metal details around the beautiful bar and other little pieces that Filipo very carefully picked.
We started at Le Cave for a ‘small’ Aperitivo. Together with a glass of Prosecco (and later a Dry Martini), Filipo suggested for us to try the Mozzarella di Bufala covered in raspberry dust, warm, melted St Marcelin cheese with Figue ‘caviar’ on top, Caponata and also a small dish called “Eggs & Eggs”: a normal chicken egg cooked at low temperature served with fish roe and two other types of eggs. All very delicious, Italian food with a little twist that does not “over-“ twist the dishes.
After an hour or two we headed to Osteria Romana that soon will be connected to Le Cave by a secret tunnel. We didn’t wait for too long until our food (and time) travel continued. A piece of cheese from Piemont, served on a mouse trap and grilled Artichokes served on a vine branch as well as three meaty olives bathed in rosemary smoke, were a very nice and aromatic start to the dinner.
Three exceptional tastes that gave my taste buds a pleasant kick. We continued with a portion of Carbonara pasta each, served perfectly al dente with some incredibly tasteful pieces of lard. You can actually order the pasta by weight, ranging from 12-50 Euro for 50-250g, quite cool, also because it is served in a very vintage silver pan.
Very saturated at that stage already, the next course was just waiting for us: Wagyu Carpaccio with salad and a citrusy dressing along with a bunch of Sicilian cherry tomatoes served as a side dish. The Wagyu beef itself had a soft, buttery and aromatic taste, but the dressing was unfortunately too sour and killed the delicate taste of the beef. The tomatoes were very sweet, something you rarely find in Brussels, but it was “just” tomatoes, so we became a bit disappointed after Filipo had spent so many words on them.
The dessert was simple and nice: a few half-dried grapes, very soft and sweet.
If I had to choose, I would go for the smaller place, Le Cave, it’s more intimate, relaxed and also cheaper. While Osteria Romana without doubt is on the upper scale in terms of prices in Brussels (although a menu for 65 Euro is quite ok, but it’s the prices for single dishes that seem to be quite high), Le Cave is more suitable for a young professional’s budget. Both the waiters and the two owners are incredibly nice and attentive (although I found that little brush with which the waiters are cleaning the tables from breadcrumbs looked a bit funny). Osteria Romana is definitely a place for people with a sense for aesthetics, who are willing to spend a bit more on their Friday evening’s dinner.
Good to Know:
- Le Cave, 13, Avenue Legrand 13 – 1000 – Brussels
- Prices: Le Cave: around 30E per person for drinks and dinner with small shared dishes;
- Osteria Romana: around 80-90E for a dinner with drinks