This is the story of a place that changed my view on neighbourhood restaurants. You see, to me, a neighbourhood restaurant in a big city is a cheap place: an alternative to eating in your flat, where you can be entertained by a familiar waiter. and order a few beers to complement a greasy portion of fries and some pork chops. Well, little did I know, until only recently, that there is a place here in Copenhagen that offers not only the perfect alternative to eating in, but also friendly company, affordable prices and that special something that any enjoyable place must have: a pleasant ambience.
I guess this last bit would be hard to put into words without a degree of selfish subjectivity, because ‘pleasant’ is the feeling that we get when something warms us up. In this case, it all started with the name. Lazio, as this restaurant is called, is the name of the Italian region where Rome is located. I thought to myself that this is a genuine Italian restaurant that I will surely enjoy, given all the nice memories that come to my mind when reminiscing about the beautiful Mediterranean peninsula.
The setting alone – on the ground floor of a 19th century building very close to Grondal Station and its superb park and residential area – seems to do the trick. With only a few tables inside and about a dozen others beautifully spread about the wide sidewalk that goes around it, there’s a covered window-terrace that lets first the sunshine and then the moonlight reflect upon the wine-filled glasses.
Sitting at these tables every summer evening are couples, friends and children spending time with their families, most of whom have been loyal customers for years now, such as the lovely elderly Italian couple I met sitting outside, enjoying a yummy-looking portion of fish and a refined bottle of white wine. Pierot, the waiter, excitedly introduces us when I ask if anybody here speaks Italian, but it transpires that this team of two are from further away across the Mediterranean Sea: Turkey.
Still, from the kitchen I can hear the occasional “Signore!” and it emerges that Pierot and Eldo – his boss and colleague, the owner of Lazio Restaurant for more than 20 years now – share their kitchen with an Italian chef who skillfully and amazingly fast cooks anything from lasagne or pizzas to gamberoni alla griglia (some kind of fish), minestrone contadino (some kind of soup), medaglioni al marsala (some kind of meat) or mousse di cioccolato (some kind of wonderful!).
I take a seat at a table inside – the chilly summer evenings are still something that my weak immune system has to adapt to – and I order whatever Pierot thinks will suit me best. In between enjoying the buzz that the crowds of people showing up every other minute were creating, savouring the beer that Pierot’s magic hands brought me in almost the same instant I ordered it, and admiring the endless and very impressive collection of wines proudly put on display by Eldo (the avid collector and connoisseur), Chef has made me a delicious portion of scaloppina gorgonzola. And it tastes even better than it sounds: a couple of thinly cut slices of veal covered in a tasty gorgonzola cheese sauce with a perfectly rounded taste, served alongside tiny baked potatoes and an inspired choice of mixed grilled vegetables. Needless to say, it all goes just fine with the Danish beer that keeps filling my glass, although next time I might want to try some wine.
The house wine is changed every couple of months or so, but for a special occasion, you can choose one of the bottles on display (mostly of Italian origin) – the oldest bottle dates as far back as 1920! And the wide range of grappas is bound to not only make for great appetisers, but also to make the time fly faster than Pierot has to move to dodge a couple of eight-year olds chasing each other, all whilst holding three plates with one hand.
So maybe next time you should give the city centre a rest and choose family-friendly atmosphere instead of a fancy, overly-popular bistro. Buon appetito!
Open Mon-Thu 13:00-23:00,
Top Dish: Scaloppina gorgonzola
Price Range: Set menus from 200kr