L’ITALIANO Pizzeria Ristorante

By: Epicurious EmQUOTE:  “Life is too short if you’re Italian.  I’d much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a Size 0.”  –-Sophia BushOne of the most impressive qualities in the Italian approach to cooking is a regard for the food itself.  Meat is seasoned with the intent of enhancing, but never disguising its basic goodness. 

Fresh vegetables are savored for their intrinsic perfection.  L’italiano demonstrates such regard for the food they serve.  This restaurant is located in El Valle, past the new Rey shopping plaza and directly across from the Gourmet Coffee Shop.  Chef Roberto Febbi always has blackboard specials using his fresh, homemade pasta.  You can choose from fettuccine, pappardelle, gnocchi, ravioli, and lasagna ($13-$15).  The pastas and his sauces are light with a lavish simplicity.  Also on the board is a caprese salad (using Roberto’s special buffalo mozzarella), and delicious desserts.  The salad is $13, can easily be shared, and the desserts are $4-$5.  

The menu starts with bruschetta and crostini, mixed salad, and peas with ham and onion along with numerous pastas and sauces, including pesto, carbonara, vodka, marinara, and bolognese.  The real treasure at this quaint restaurant is the veal, not baby beef—this is the REAL THING and the only restaurant in Panama that we know of that offers it!  Chef Roberto prepares veal scallopine three ways:  either with lemon sauce, a white wine sauce, or with prosciutto and sage ($12-$13).  Nothing compares with tender, young veal.  The veal “sparkles” with flavor and is so delicate, that it can be cut with a fork.  Also on the menu is a pork chop with rosemary, garlic, and white wine, and chicken breast with a white wine or lemon sauce.

This is Italian, so of course pizzas are offered.  The selection is vast, and the pizzas are very popular with the El Valle regulars and visitors, as well.  Pizzas start at $6.  L’italiano stocks lovely Italian wines, beer, hard liquors, soft drinks, and limoncello.  Besides the food, the joy in this restaurant is Roberto himself.  A happy and playful character, he greets all of his guests with gusto and enthusiasm, and once he gets to know you, he’ll plant a welcoming kiss or two on your cheek.  On one occasion, the fishmonger stopped at the restaurant to see if Roberto wanted to buy fish.  Roberto told us if we wanted fish, he would buy some and prepare it for us (there is no fish on the menu).  That’s what I call customer service!

Pizzeria Ristorante L’italiano is open Wednesday, and Friday through Sunday from about 11:30 or so.  Chef Roberto is also available for catering and as a personal chef.  He can be reached at 6682-9398 or italianchefincs@hotmail.ccom

TIP:  Before stopping at L’italiano, drive to the bakery.  It is located beyond the craft and vegetable market, a block before you reach the Catholic Church, on the right hand side.  They sometimes have fresh cinnamon rolls, hot dog buns, and various breads, including sourdough bread (for $1.10/loaf).

Epicurious Em welcomes your comments and suggestions.  As always, the information in this article was accurate at the time of the writing, but restaurant owners have the option of changing prices, menu, and hours at any time.  Feel free to e-mail me at em@playacommunity.com.