For almost two years, Bargello, the restaurant located in the lobby of the Arras hotel, has been offering its guests Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Perhaps it was the lack of travel opportunities that finally got me in through the large hotel lobby doors. Bargello is perhaps the closest thing to the Mediterranean that we could see for a while.
Inside, the lobby is bustling with District 42, the hotel lounge, bustling with customers. Even though it was cold outside, District 42 had its outdoor seating and rolling fireplaces.
I skipped the refreshing cocktail and went straight to Bargello, occupying the right side of the lobby. Incidentally, or should I say fortunately, they didn’t have its outer seats open. Inside the massively high-ceilinged room, the vastness of the room at first appears a bit sterile due to its size. But overall, the space somehow retains a sense of privacy due to its decor and layout.
The dining room has an art deco vibe with warm wooden tables and a pop of color in the deep turquoise high-backed banquettes. It’s a space designed to make an impression … with the exception of the waiters who are dressed in logo T-shirts, jeans and mismatched shoes. The whole simple-chic look of the T-shirt and jeans has been acceptable for years, even at the best restaurants, but was shocking at Bargello, especially for a good dinner.
The service as a whole was a bit awkward on the night we visited. But, in today’s climate, with server shortages and new servers often arriving at the last minute, few points can be deducted for a few mistakes and not appearing to know the standard service exercise.
The menu, however, takes you across the Mediterranean as advertised. The braised beets are served with burrata, the Spanish octopus is grilled with chorizo, and the falafel is combined with romesco and local feta. And these are just the starters.
The menu lets you keep it simple and causal with a wood-fired pizza section featuring options like a simple margherita pie to a Moroccan lamb pizza with hummus, lamb meatballs and a host of other Mediterranean inspired toppings.
For the budget of my visit, I skipped the starters and pizza and checked out the main courses. The lamb dish towel, paella, pan-seared scallops, and a few other entrees all sounded like great entrees, but all hit near or over $ 30.
Fortunately, Bargello also specializes in homemade pasta. The herb ravioli with butternut squash, ricotta and bacon bacon almost tempted me as did the Mafaldine-braised short rib stew. But while staying within my budget, the Bucatini cacio e pepe, which costs just $ 18, also gave me a taste of kale salad.
The kale salad is lightly seasoned, but proportionately, meaning each bite tastes like the last. Lemon and olive oil were all you needed for a dressing here, mixed with golden raisins for sweetness and sunflower seeds for crunch. The local Three Graces manchego cheese on top completed a really nice salad. One of my favorite aspects was not the combination of flavors or ingredients, but the consistency of kale, cut into small, easily hollowed pieces. It’s a small thing, but one that saved me from having to struggle with oversized kale leaves, which don’t have a reputation for being cooperative.
The pasta, however, was extremely the highlight. The bucatini was incredibly beautiful. Perfectly uniform and cooked to absolute tenderness, the bucatini were turned, creating a tower resulting from the shallow bowl in which the dish was served. The sauce is butter with very few ingredients other than Parmesan and pepper. The preparation is usually made to order, and the creamy result showed a skillful hand and some of the best cacio e pepe’s around.
I understand the menu is seasonal, but cacio e pepe plans to be a constant at Bargello. This is a good thing because every time I come back I expect my order to be the same as well, a constant. If something is this good, it has to be ordered over and over again.
www.bargelloavl.com, 7 Patton Ave. (inside the Arras hotel)
Atmosphere: The elegant art deco-inspired piece gives a touch of elegance to your dining room. Guests have been noted casually dressed, but it’s a bit more of a dressy experience for dinner.
To try : There is no debate, the cacio e pepe is a must.
Drinks Notes: Beer, cocktails, wines and choice without alcohol.
Prices: $ 10 to $ 64
A service: Inexperienced.
The bottom line: You might not have high expectations for most hotel restaurants. However, Bargello, while having room for improvement in service, excels in cuisine. Although I can’t speak to the main dishes, everything I have tried has been exceptionally well prepared. A simple, well-designed and skillfully executed homemade pasta dish is something worthy of adulation.
Matthew DeRobertis is a chef, writer and father of a child who loves food more than his dog. Contact him at [email protected]