Italian cuisine, to me, is extraordinary. The Italian gastronomic culture is famously known to be rich in pasta, fish, pizza, fruits, vegetables, cheese, cold cuts, wine, and coffee.
Simple ingredients are concocted into heartening flavours and dishes that purely foster a state of contentment. Italians are known the world over to have meals together with loved ones, be it a Sunday lunch at home with the family or friendly dinners at Lake Como. Italian cuisine is therefore extraordinary because it isn’t merely about food, it exemplifies togetherness.
An Italian summer is definitely on my bucket list. Sadly, it hasn’t come to fruition yet. Lucky for me, and anyone living in Jakarta and its surrounding areas, Jakarta is undoubtedly a foodie’s haven. Countless food and beverage outlets are within one’s easy reach. Needless to say, up-and-coming new ones often emerge swiftly.
At the heart of Jakarta is the landmark Welcome Monument, or Bundaran HI, that’s surrounded by grand shopping malls and hotels. A little to its east lies Menteng, which is known as an elite settlement since the Dutch colonial era and has even been adopted by today’s society. Wander a bit deeper to Menteng and you’ll find Jl. Surabaya, where you’ll see a stretch of the road selling antiques on the left and restaurants on the right. Casa Alba Ristorante is the newest edition to Menteng’s culinary scene, having initially opened its doors in PIK named ALBA Ristorante.
I may not have ridden a Vespa; how I envisioned myself getting lunch in my Italian summer dream. Nevertheless, lunch at Casa Alba is a splendid idea tucked away from the city’s bustle.
A plethora of Italian restaurants stands tall, embracing its culture in the capital. With so many around, what sets Casa Alba Ristorante apart? It’s “the epitome of Italian cuisine, from the root to the evolution” – without laying claim to any specific areas of the country. Casa Alba maintains Italian cuisine whilst evolving into its own calibre. Familiar names of dishes are noticeable on the menu but they all come with a twist.
I had the pleasure of indulging in the stars of Casa Alba, comprising varieties of antipasti, paste fresche, wood-fired pizza, i secondi, and dessert – aka entrees, mains, and desserts. The best words to describe them all are: unique and exciting.
Prepare to get blown away by the bursts of flavours within the appetisers. The Carpaccio di Manzo con Gelato al Parmigiano e Tartufo, beef carpaccio with truffle-scented parmesan ice cream, is a refreshing joy thanks to the cheesy ice cream. The Cannocchie Gratinate al Pane Aromatico con Pomodorini Ciliegia Salsa al Prezzemolo, gratinated mantis shrimps with parsley sauce and cherry tomatoes, is decadent, especially for those who prefer a safe option.
Going a tad above the level is the Tartare di Pesci Selvatici Coome Ceviche Leggermente Piccante, mild spicy tartare of wild-caught fish in ceviche style, which can be spicier depending on how one prefers their chilli intake, but overall is a sea of flavours – even for non-fish connoisseurs – using fish sourced from Lombok.
What’s an Italian dining experience without devouring in pizza? Casa Alba possesses a one-of-a-kind lava-rock pizza oven that concocts fluffy yet still crispy pizza crusts, perfectly charred with fresh ingredients that are ideally ratioed across every slice.
Remember, Casa Alba is experimental, thus you can explore the Paposcia Pugliese. This crispy puffed pizza doesn’t necessarily look like your average round pizza, filled with parma ham, tomato, mozzarella cheese, and rocket salad. One word: addictive.
Cappelletti Panna Limone e Café, homemade cappelletti with lemon-scented cream sauce and coffee powder, is a mouth-watering, creamy gem. It could possibly be one of the rarest pork-containing dishes served in the capital.
Salomone Arrostito con Salsa Allo Champagne e Gnocchi di Patate Dolci, pan-seared salmon with champagne sauce and roasted sweet potatoes gnocchi, is the embodiment of Mediterranean cuisine that’s savoury, sweet, yet light.
End your meal with Chef Roberto Fiorini’s dear-to-home, Bread of Memory. As he recalled his childhood, he shared that his parents were against throwing out leftover pasta and bread. They reused the leftovers by soaking them in milk and creating a much softer version of “bread pudding” paired with ricotta and orange ice cream. It’s hearty and sweet; whenever you think you’ve had enough bites, you’ll end up finishing the whole plate! Getting your own serving is therefore highly advisable. More so is Panna Cotta al Cocco Spuma di Banana Gelato Yogurt e Lime, coconut panna cotta with banana foam, yoghurt and lime gelato, a breeze of a finisher.
Casa Alba also provides set lunches worth Rp350,000++. You’ll get a three-course meal with selections of antipasti, paste fresche or i secondi, and dessert.
The dine-in ambience is comforting modernity. Natural light pierces through the tall walls, cascading the dim lights from deep orange lamps above wooden tables and fuchsia and orange armchairs. Up to 140-150 people can be accommodated, including the two private rooms for 30 people suitable for meetings and can be divided into two for 10-15 people and can be closed to the public.
Casa Alba Ristorante is the perfect place to celebrate special occasions. Supported by the homey, casual fine dining theme the restaurant appoints itself, families, lovers, businesses, and friends are guaranteed to flourish their bonds over food. Each person can expect to spend at least Rp300,000-500,000 here.
This Italian restaurant embodies true Italian hospitality through the staff, ambience, and especially the food without having to go to Italy. Experience coffee from Sicily while you’re here!
Most of all, I’m glad a piece of Chef Roberto’s childhood is shared. It gives an ounce of an Italian summer dream I long for, despite it being only for a day. Or does it have to merely be a day?