There are lots of Italian restaurants in Berlin, and with nearly 36,000 Italians living in the city it’s pretty obvious why. They bring with them one of the most distinct food cultures in the world that has become a significant part of the restaurant scene here.
On the corner of Schwedter Straße in Prenzlauer Berg is such a place: Pappa e Ciccia. The smell of truffle coming out of this organic-focused establishment is near enough intoxicating. It’s the main reason that I went this Monday evening when my parents were visiting from the UK, and I’m so glad I did. If you’re ever in Berlin this is one place you must go.
We sat outside in wicker chairs and enjoyed the heat of the late evening, watching the world go by as we gathered around a simple wooden table. Pappa e Ciccia is that beautiful combination of laid back quality that does’t take itself too seriously, which can be seen in the table settings and interiors as well as the food.
To start we shared two dishes: white asparagus and caponata. The caponata was the star of the first course with a deep richness that made me salivate. The mixture includes aubergine, tomato and capers that is then met with sugar and vinegar, which adds a contrasting sweet and sourness. Think of it as ratatouille’s big brother, who’s grown a bit more sophisticated and complex.
The asparagus was served with a zabione and hazelnuts, which was a lighter version of the green asparagus with hollandaise I’m familiar with in the UK. The lightness in flavour was balanced with interesting textures, with the lightly blanched asparagus having a bite not dissimilar to that of water chestnuts, the crunch of the hazelnuts and the smoothness of the zabione that coated our mouths.
Up next one of us had pork and the other two had pasta, and whilst the pork was tasty, it’s the pasta I want to focus on here: black linguine with octopus and tagliolini with white truffle. Both were fucking delicious, and I don’t swear lightly.
The octopus was cooked perfectly. It was tender, with no signs of unpleasant chewiness that is so often the way. It was flecked with cods roe that added points of salty intrigue to the dish and was complimented by the acidity of gently sautéed tomatoes. And the pasta, oh the pasta, it was so light it was unreal. There was a similar story with the tagliolini, light as a kiss! But this time wafer thin pungent white truffle was piled on top of a rich buttery sauce.
I think this may be the best pasta I’ve ever eaten – Jonathan Hare
We left, happy and full. I was unable to manage a dessert, but I know there’s a tiramisu on the menu begging for some attention next time…
Image 1: © Debora Mittelstaedt
All other images: Pappa e Ciccia