MODERN LITTLE ITALIAN A WITH BIG HEART
by Chené Koscielny
It took me nearly three years to find it! An authentic slice of Italy in the heart of Geneva: a stylish, modern wine bar and restaurant with a great selection of Italian wines and an inspiring menu prepared with passion and served with a mamma mia accent. Le Décanteur in Rue des Eaux-Vives is my new favourite place.
The young Italian owner, Luca Ragnelli, is standing behind the pots adding the final touches to the lunchtime dishes, as we arrive at noon on a Friday. He welcomes us in perfect English with a beautiful smile.
The ambiance is modern and bright with natural light streaming through huge windows. I feel like I’m in an salumeria italiana in Parma overlooking the hustle and bustle of the street outside. The high wooden tables and metal bar stools create an industrial, yet somehow cosy and intimate feel. An expert host, Luca makes us feel instantly at home, while staying hands on in the kitchen and mingling amongst lunch guests to ensure everyone is having a great time.
Born in Geneva, Luca hails from Italian immigrants who came to the city in the 80s and has worked in family restaurants since he was a boy. Passionate about traditional Italian food and wines, he studied at the École Hôtelière de Genève (Geneva Hotel School) and worked in London and Parma.
“I didn’t just want to create a trendy spot, but a wine bar which also offers good homemade, traditional Italian food,” says Luca, who took over the restaurant from his Italian aunt four years ago.
He kept some of her popular recipes, but changed the concept into his own.
His forté is quality Italian dishes such as the most popular item on the menu: the tagliatelle maison della Nonna – made from homemade pasta with fresh eggs and served with a sauce of tomato, cream, ham, mozzarella and aubergine.
Ingredients are sourced locally and seasonal products are the inspiration for the menu.
Early evening is apéro time from around 6-8pm when the atmosphere changes to welcome Geneva’s trendy after-workers for a great selection of aperitifs, including well known Italian aperitifs such as le Negroni and l’Americano and Italian-style tapas – generous plates of cheese and/or charcuterie and homemade crostini and focaccia.
Our lovely young waiter Angelo from Puglia couldn’t be sweeter.
For starters we chose a creamy pea soup and snacked on a generous platter of crostini and the finest charcuterie comprising mortadella, bresoala and pancetta de montaigne.
Our waiter recommended the two dishes of the day: a truffle risotto paired with a light red wine – Casa al Piano – a Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend, which I chose, while Vivian opted for the lasagna and a glass of Prosecco. The plat du jour costs from CHF19.
My risotto had a lovely fresh and subtle flavour and just the right consistency. Vivian loved the lasagna, which was not too meaty.
For the sake of giving our readers a comprehensive review, we treated ourselves to the homemade cheesecake with berry coulis and tiramisu, both of which were absolutely out of this world. Not heavy or too sweet – just right.
The wine selection will impress any connoisseur and the imported Italian wines range in price from CHF45 – CHF 1200 (for a bottle of Massetto 2005 – Ornellaia – Toscane). A customer once bought two bottles of the latter in one night!
This is the kind of place where you can spend hours dissecting life with friends over a few bottles of good wine and some seriously good food. It is for people who enjoy food and wine in good company. Luca joined our table for a chat at the end of the meal, sharing his passion for the business and some of his frustrations. He’s honest, warm and very committed.
WHY TRIPADVISOR GOT IT WRONG
When you Google Le Décanteur you may be hit with a couple of early negative reviews on Tripadvisor – do not let this put you off, as they all stem for the same group of people, who had to be asked to leave after overstaying their welcome.
Our experience couldn’t have been nicer and this delightful restaurant run by a hardworking, passionate Italian young man who made the effort to speak to every customer while we were there, definitely deserves a try.
WHERE: 63 rue des Eaux-Vives, 1207 Genève.
OPENING HOURS: Monday-Friday: 11am – 3pm and 6-11pm.