This post is special to me and you my loyal readers, are incredibly lucky as I’m going to share our magical experience.
As much as I love Rome, a trip out of the city was on the cards and we ventured to Lake Albano. If I could recreate all the thoughts and emotions that went through my head on the afternoon of Saturday 11th July I really would. Hurriedly waking up in the morning and rushing to the train station was a little hectic but the 45 minute train journey was more than enough to settle the stresses… or maybe it was the breath-taking view of the lake.
Emerging out of the tunnel and seeing a twinkling crisp blue water, hidden in a volcano crater was an oasis away from reality; you wouldn’t know the lake existed unless someone told you.
Knowing we were going somewhere spectacular, we made the most of the view and booked a table at Pagnanelli for lunch. With the best seats in the house it was time to start flicking through the menu.
What struck me as one of the highlights of the restaurant was its history as it’s been in the family since 1882 and still proudly going strong today.
To start we had a seabass ceviche which I’d never tried before. The serving size was generous and with a dash of lemon it was wonderful on a hot day.
Something about the texture however meant that it wasn’t my favourite ceviche, as I much prefer salmon or tuna but it was nice to try something different.
The mixed starter was to be shared between three, which in hindsight was a mistake. The highlights were the ricotta scattered with raisins & drizzled with honey, and the prosciutto.
Even better was when a beautiful lobster tagliolini graced us with its presence. Astounding in colour and the sheer size of wonderfully cooked pasta, it wasn’t a dish for one so we all dug in.
In comparison to its beauty, the flavours weren’t the best and seemed to be lacking a certain oomph.
Another recurring dish; pasta with pecorino cheese and guanciale although this time, served in a melon. From all the food we tried at Pagnanelli, this was my favourite and I never thought I was a melon fan.
The sharp yet sweet melon cut through the pasta but didn’t take away from the perfected traditional recipe and created more of a flavour fusion on the tongue.
My dish of choice was rabbit with truffle and although not as beautiful as the others, it was still a sensational meat that had been cooked to perfection. I just wish there had been more truffle…
To balance out the pasta we shared a rocket salad with blackberries and balsamic. I’m not usually one to add fruit to a salad but somehow the peppery rocket alongside the silky balsamic and sharp blackberries, worked and it disappeared in no time.
A more traditional Italian side order didn’t fare so well as it was far too bitter and strong. I’ll be avoiding radicchio from now on unless I’m proven otherwise.
Since we had eaten to our hearts content we ordered a quartet of desserts to share between three. Another huge mistake as they were all equally delicious and my gluttonous personality wasn’t satisfied with a bite of each.
Being the generous nation that they are, our servers offered three liqueurs to finish off our delightful lunch; ginger, berry and almond all made in-house. The two favourites were the berry and ginger but the milky taste and texture of the almond was unfortunately left.
Before arriving, I noticed online that the restaurant has a wine cellar. I asked our sommelier if we could visit the cellar and she happily became our tour guide.
Leading down the staircase it was amazing to see how big the wine cellar was with bottles all neatly perched.
It turns out our sommelier was originally born in England and moved to Italy once she finished university and had been working for Pagnanelli for over 20 years.
There must have been over 10,000 bottles of wine and she knew every single one including all the regions and notes of each. Even more impressive was at a customer’s request she knew the exact location of where it could be found in the cellar.
It wasn’t just a wine cellar, Pagnanelli also has a secluded area for hosting private dinners, wine tasting and many other events.
It was a wonderful little spot which also held special bottles which had been signed by more common diners such as Keanu Reeves, Nicholas Cage, Catherine Zeta Jones, Robert De Niro and a whole host of others.
Further into the cellar, a hidden cosy area had an array of bottles of Grappa; an italian spirit.
Not only was Lake Albano indescribable but Pagnanelli was the icing on the cake. It’s one of the best lunches I can remember having; an extensive menu with incredible food, wonderful service and a view you can only imagine dreaming about. If there’s one location and restaurant I will be heading back to, it’s this.
But remember, this is our little secret.
– Pagnanelli, Castel Gandolfo