Berlin, Germany (Gastrosofie). Walter Benjamin, as journalist and writer an outstanding literary figure of the 20s and 30s on the Continent, was born and went to school in this part of town, and although Savignyplatz would have felt more like home to him especially in early life, this square with its clear architectural lines fits him like any passage in Paris. Even an Italian restaurant is not out of place, as Benjamin travelled to and vividly described Naples, Capri, San Gimignano among others. Read about devouring fresh figs up at Secondigliano, or how his hunger was quenched on Piazza Montanara, lavish on the tale of the mulberry omelette and you can just see him enjoying a visit to Il Calice. Anyway, we from Gastrosofie certainly did.
The square that carries his name stretches from Wieland- and Leibnitzstraße, 32 metres wide and 108 metres long. The facades of the buildings on both sides, none higher then the rule allows, designed by Hans Kollhoff and Helga Timmermann seem simple and unadorned, the stone facades in grey-green granite appear cold and austere; however, the colonnades with Art Deco lamps gives you the feeling of an Italian piazza atmosphere. A chestnut tree dabs its green onto the grey stones, his leaves provide shade in summer. A fountain conveys comfort and the splashing of water cosiness. It is in this fine ensemble that the Il Calice with its (wine) kiosk, tables and chairs, food and drinks invite you to linger for longer inside or outside.
Benjamin is a Berlin classic as the Il Calice is, even if the Bragato family was briefly away while another proprietor ran the house.
For two years, Antonio Bragato has been back and with him elevated enjoyment of food and drink. The winemaker, who runs a winery in Friuli and with his son the Il Calice, brought the best wines from Italy, which is why the restaurant named after a goblet can easily be made out to be both an excellent wine bar and an upscale gourmet restaurant.
Not only the square, but also the Il Calice bears the signature of the renowned architect and university professor Hans Kollhoff.
The interior radiates a restrained elegance. The walls are white and as straight as the tablecloths, the wood is remarkably brown as if well tanned after three weeks of roasting, the shelves and showcases abundant and well filled up. The large glass window fronts on two sides let the light of day into this stylish room under the high ceiling: simple, beautiful, timeless, modern. At Il Calice, the connoisseur of tastes senses that Kollhoff can do classic design but likes to use traditional materials. Above all, the counter layout allows an unobstructed view of the unadulterated ingredients in impeccable preparation.
for a start, give me an A to begin with: Various Italian sausage and ham specialties, Beef Carpaccio di Carne Salada, Vitello Tonnato, Vitello alla Genovese, aromatic raw milk cheese, grilled marinated vegetables, everything the heart of the gourmet desires is served. How about Battuta di Filetto Gallega, a Carpaccio of beef fillet with anchovies, capers, celery and lemon zest? The sardines are both sweet and sour, pickled with onions, raisins and pine nuts. Soups such as Minestrone Invernale and salads such as Insalata di Burrata are served, as well as La Grande Variazione di Mare with grilled shrimp plus salsa rosa, ceviche of yellow fin mackerel with avocado and mango, baccalà and potato créme, sauteed mussels, braised moscardini and a delicious tuna Carpaccio.
Homemade Pasta, Pesce and Carne
like tortelloni stuffed with veal and with mushrooms and black truffle tortelloni or spaghetti al vongole, i.e. with clams, Sicilian vine tomatoes and Passepierre algae are classics and delicious as are those quite refined fish dishes that have become almost trivial if one considers these antipasti and home-made pastas, currently either Orata (roast wild-caught sea bream with Romanesco tarts, savoy cabbage and anchovies) or rombo (wild turbot with beluga lentils and bechamel bouchot mussels sauce), and meat dishes, including an entrecôte americano.
is a must and for Italians obligatory an O to end as was A to start. The typical Tiramisù Classico à la Il Calice is to be recommended, as well as a dessert of the day in the glass. The Cassata Siciliana with ricotta, candied orange and Amarena cherries is undoubtedly one of the best desserts of Italian cuisine. For coffee, espresso – or try a dessert wine.
The wine list is substantial and recommendation profound – after all, Antonio Bragato is winegrower and Nitya Koska a sommelier of renown. Walter Benjamin would enjoy it, right? And be fond of the new “Aperitivo” trend that Il Calice is already famous for. More about that next time!
Walter-Benjamin-Platz 4, 10629 Berlin
Contact: E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: +49 30 324 2308
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from noon to 1 am
Christopher Prescott based on a text by Stefan Pribnow