By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Ever since it first opened its doors inside the Presidente InterContinental Hotel in the capital city’s upscale Colonia Polanco back in 1996, Alfredo di Roma has been a mainstay of fine Italian dining in Mexico.
Renowned for its incomparable fettuccine all’Alfredo (after all, the recipe was first created by Alfredo Di Lelio in the restaurant chain’s flagship in Roma during the mid-1900s), as well as its extraordinary wine selection (the Presidente InterContinental Hotel prides itself on having the most extensive wine cellar in Latin America), Alfredo di Roma has always been at the vanguard of great Italian gastronomy, constantly evolving and expanding its menu to adapt to the changing demands of its exclusive clientele.
But after 22 years in the same locale, Grupo Presidente decided it was time for the restaurant to undergo a serious redux in terms of interior design.
Consequently, Alfredo di Roma received a $2 million, head-to-toe makeover earlier this year, to reopen on March 21 with a brand new, more contemporary and sophisticated look, along with a revamped bill of fare.
The new décor is much airy than before, with unlinened, polished wood tables, a walk-through wine cellar at the entrance (with 1,500 labels to choose from), an open kitchen that allows you to see your food as it is being prepared (including fresh-made pastas), and an outside terraza for smokers and sun-worshipers.
Mexican architect Rafael Sama oversaw the three-month-long overhaul of the installations, focusing on contemporary, comfort-forward elegance with an appropriate nod to the restaurant’s unique past by way of a collage of chronicled photographs from its humble beginnings through its dynamic global history adorning the walls.
But make no mistake, the new Alfredo di Roma is as modern a dining hall as you can find in Mexico City, with a perfectly balanced blend of space, sophistication and style.
Sleek surfaces and an abundance of rich woods give the restaurant a au courant grace that is both inviting and luxurious.
“We have kept about 40 percent of the former menu — including favorites like fettuccine all’Alfredo — but we have added a lot more items, such as pizzas and a larger variety in our pasta selection,” explained Julien Debarle, Grupo Presidente’s head of operations in Mexico, during a lavish, eight-course inaugural luncheon.
“We have also added more main dish options and a wide range of appetizers.”
Among some of the other additions to the menu are gnocchi in a creamy four-cheese sauce, green and white noddles in a ham and mornay mushroom sauce and pappardelle in a oxtail ragú.
Alfredo di Roma has always been a bellwether of culinary trends, having started off as a small family-run trattoria in the Eternal City’s Piazza Rosa in 1908.
A young Alfredo Di Lelio inherited the then-modest eatery from his parents in the early 1920s, and created his now-internationally acclaimed fettuccine delicacy for his wife after she gave birth to their first child, using a simple mix of semola noodles, fresh butter and shaved Parmesan cheese.
Over the years, the tradition of fettuccine All’Alfredo and many of Di Lelio’s other culinary masterpieces were passed down from generation to generation, turning the family restaurant into a globally recognized temple of haute cuisine italienne, with branches throughout the world, including in Mexico.
When it first opened inside the Presidente InterContinental Hotel in 1996, chef Mauro Chiecchio took charge of the kitchen, turning Alfredo di Roma into an instant hit among Mexico City culinary connoisseurs.
“That is one thing that hasn’t changed at Alfredo di Roma,” said the hotel general manager, Guillermo Valencia.
“Mauro is still here and still making sure that every dish is a work of culinary art. After all, there are some things that are just too good to change, like our fettuccine and Mauro.”