The “best of Belgium and the best of Italy.” That’s the mantra at Bocconi, a delightful restaurant at the heart of Brussels.
The restaurant has long since enjoyed a good reputation but its Italian-born head chef, Igor Rosi, has taken this to another level altogether. Igor, still relatively young at 34, arrived here a couple of years ago and has, slowly but surely, made his mark on the cuisine.
He’s the first to accept that this is partly thanks to the man he calls “maestro”, the renowned Italian chef Fulvio Pierangelini who tutored Igor and who is considered one of the most influential Italian chefs of his era. Some of the mentoring may have come out of the Gordon Ramsay-school of training but Igor’s turned out none the worse for that.
The underling objective of what Igor tries to do is to marry the best Belgian ingredients and products with Italian inventiveness and creativity. This can be seen in several dishes on both the recently changed a la carte and set menu, for example, the anti-pasta whose long name is perhaps best abbreviated to “giardiniera”. This comprises meat sourced from Hendrik Dierendonck, a top Belgian butcher whose meat is aged according to authentic methods.
The “rouge de Flandres”(sirloin steak) – a breed that was virtually extinct here but which, thanks to Dierendonck, has now been revived, blends perfectly with parmesan and other Italian-sourced components that make up this mouth-watering dish. It’s but one example of the Belgium/Italy theme at this restaurant.
Fulvio, as senior consultant, still has the final word on the cooking both at BoCConi and the group’s other restaurants which are scattered around the world. But it is a sign of the confidence the Rome-based Fulvio has in his protégé that Igor has now been “left off the leash” and is now able to inject his own personality into all the cooking.
And, yes, he really does let his creative juices run freely.
As is colourfully pointed out by the knowledgeable maître d’hôtel, Pierre Nauwelaers, Igor has been “impregnated with the same spirit” as his mentor!
The main card, which changes seasonally (about every four months) comprises a choice of seven starters, including that great Italian classic and signature dish, Vitello tonnato (tartare de thun) and, with the new season newly arrived, a salad with locally-sourced asparagus. There’s a great choice of traditional pasta and risotto plus a selection of four fish and four meat dishes, all absolutely delicious and including a “fish of the day”.The most popular with customers is the sea bass but the filet de boeuf and lamb chops are also good sellers too.
If you have still room for pudding, there’s some terrific deserts, including waffle (another great Belgian classic, of course) with cherry liquor, chocolate fondant with raspberry and fennel with sorbet.
While the clients tend to be more likely from the business community nearby, visiting at lunchtime is also an opportunity to experience another aspect of Igor’s culinary creativity as this is when he likes to experiment with dishes before deciding if they’ll make their way to the evening service.
From Monday to Friday, the lunch menu changes every day but always comprises of a choice of either one, two or three dishes. Sunday lunchtime is also a great time to visit because this is when there is “live cooking” in the middle of the restaurant – a great chance to see how to best prepare things like oysters and raw fish. With the summer here, there’s even a lovely outside terrace to enjoy the cuisine.
The restaurant is part of the prestigious Amigo Hotel but has its own entrance and very much its own character too. It’s situated on one of the busiest streets in the city, between the Grand Place and Manneken Pis, and, in this ever-bustling thoroughfare, could be easily missed. But try not to miss it though because this place a “must visit” when eating out in Brussels.
Good to know:
- Ristorante BoCConi
- Rue de l’Amigo, Brussels
- 02 547 4715