A journey where the foundation of spices, fermentations, and marinades aims to create a bite without the slightest trace of salt: Francesco Apreda overturns common perception with 7 "alternative savoriness" dishes.
"If you want to know your past, observe yourself in the present. If you want to know your future, do the same." Yes, I agree with you: perhaps there was no need to invoke Herman Hesse. But the most impactful message of "Siddharta" frames Francesco Apreda's "here and now" much better than any chronicle.
Maybe entering a Roman restaurant, feeling Neapolitan vibrations, and imagining the East in the space of a dinner is a rare occurrence, even among the infinite gourmet circles of the Eternal City. Nevertheless, the chef continues to piece together elements from around the globe, creating international connection in every bite.
The present of Idylio? A fast-paced time-lapse just a few meters from the Pantheon, now invaded by the same melting pot of voices from 2000 years ago. And it is precisely the fusion (not the 'fusion' minced and overused; rather, a harmonious blend of cultures) that makes his menu a kind of moving world map.
If from a hotel bearing the name of Agrippa's masterpiece (The Pantheon Iconic) you expect primarily strength and grandeur, at the entrance, a pervasive sense of grace actually prevails; the same grace that the Campanian chef has been recreating in the Idylio lab since 2019, breaking away from the baroque style that often numbs hotel dining.
Without fanfare, Apreda has gradually built an out-of-order path - Essential Savoriness - where the foundation of spices, fermentations, and marinations aims to meld the products together instead of breaking them into a thousand pieces. Inside, you discover the summer radiance of the Coast and the scent of a bazaar; the simplicity of escarole and the unforeseen grace of almond ricotta. All under one simple condition: zero salt - not even the shadow of a grain - in any of the 7 planned tastings.
From the introduction, it might be easy to think that sooner or later the "weak course" will arrive with a corresponding drop in attention and flavor (after all, Iconic signature - the itinerary with 6 freely combinable offerings - presents guests with the benefit of choice). Instead, the sensory surge is constant: plate after plate, it continues to fuel peaks of iodine, blurring the boundary between the base ingredient and the applied method.
All around, the somewhat dreamy play of a sparkling room, with the shimmer of crystal chandeliers and the floral swirls of Asian silk prints - almost integrating the luxury vein with the travel one; gold on black that winks everywhere, multiplying visual stimuli, the kitchen positioned at the right distance from the dining area. On the wine side, the game is elevated with the skilled sommelier Alessandro D'Andrea, ready to balance the aromatic power of the preparations with a decisive sip that never dominates the range of persistence in tasting.
Like an index to flip through to immerse yourself in the story, the snacks project the preview of the show onto the table. Thus, a squid ink wafer appears, resembling a mussel shell, while the "real" mollusk - filled with tomato cream and covered with its water's gelatin - awakens the taste buds with a splash of freshness. The quail egg in tempura is an old friend: inside a semi-liquid Big Bang, outside a crispy shell that instantly opens with the warmth of the mouth. A few seconds of amazement, and while you are still savoring the melting broccoli cupcake glazed with coconut milk, the vegetable shows determination in the tiny radish in osmosis with gin and filled with lemon cream, pungent enough to bring the palate back to the starting blocks.
The bread moment? Here it is spread over several acts in a continuous performance: starting with a burrata cream with spices, soaked in olive oil to unravel the interweaving of scents and accompanied by slices of semi-whole bread waiting to be sprinkled. Next is a soft cushion of fried pizza with tomato powder, capers, and herbs: the emporium scents that conquer the nose with a different caress; that of dehydrated vegetables, where the memory of Neapolitan toppings flares up. Drawing a line is the first new entry: Raw sheep and frozen blue cheese with liquid nitrogen, red turnip, and Pizzutella grapes. It's hard to imagine it without salty additions. And yet, it's a strategy game on the single element.
"For example, beets cooked in parchment with kombu seaweed," explains the chef, "or tartare seasoned with a blend of sun-dried bell pepper and levisticum leaf powder, enhancing the natural savoriness." There is also a smoky tone, "obtained from caramelized sheep's jus, along with the oil extracted from the fat of separately made lamb skewers." Complexity sifted through extreme simplicity: the cooked seamlessly embracing the raw.
Can escarole pretend to be a diva? This time, yes. The leaf, adorned with raisins and pine nuts and enveloped in cauliflower cream for a touch of roundness, completes the outfit with a light makeup of Matcha green tea. Above, a set of dehydrated lemons extends the life of the winter salad.
The aquatic speed arrives with Tubetti cooked in a Roman artichoke extract and complemented by an artichokes brunoise, creating the right vegetable springboard: the pasta plunges straight into a flowing foam of almond and nutmeg; on top, seaweed and marinated mackerel swim freely, spreading umami to prepare the bite.
The ever-present Pasta in bianco with 5 roots does not lose its shine (the only signature dish on the menu, which we have already told you about here). But the highlight of the evening is a bold Red mullet and "pajata," radicchio, and dried grapefruit grains. A balancing act—or rather, acrobatics—to soften the meat in the presence of the noble fish just seared in the pan. So much so that a double jus connects land and abyss: "I combine that of the bones and that of the offals." The result surprises for symmetry, with Roman "pajata" quickly passed over the coals that ultimately stays in its place, respecting the status quo without prevailing. A bitter radicchio restores the bite: a ritual cleansing between the two courses.
It's the turn of San Pietro alla Luciana (John Dory Luciana’s style), crispy with fermented purple cabbage and walnuts. "The fillet, immersed in butter to retain the flavors during preparation, welcomes the mollusk in the form of a tomato sauce with red wine, capers, olives, and a touch of chili," says Alessandro.
Next to it shines a new and brilliant gift: the Gaeta "tiellina," polished with a glaze of roasted peppers and closed on the soft filling of octopus in a stew. When the side becomes central: from accessory to supporting role.
Who would have thought that a fake ricotta could dethrone the original? It happens in the dessert, where the green variant of the dairy product accompanies almond and coffee ice cream, landing on a carpet of persimmons spread at the base. The intense crumble with miso and mushroom cream frames it: the season traveling within a present that smells of the future.
Photos by Alberto Blasetti
IDYLIO BY APREDA
The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel
Via di S. Chiara, 4/A – Rome
Tel. +39 06.87807080