By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Despite its swank address inside the upscale Artz Shopping Mall in Mexico City’s upscale Colonia Jardines de Pedregal – and the hefty prices that come with that locale – there is a distinctive downhome feel to the newly opened Negroni Artz restaurant.
A glassed-in patio with simple wood and wicker chairs at graciously linened tables and a canopy of greenery give the place an open-air appearance, while friendly staff and an unpretentious menu with all the traditional Italian favorites help to create a casual, warm and cohesive dining environment.
Negroni Artz, the latest addition to the 20-member Grupo Hunan restaurant group, is the second Negroni restaurant in the collection, an updated version of its namesake its Colonia Arcos Bosques, which opened in 2017, with a slightly expanded menu.
To its credit, Negroni Artz doesn’t pretend to be an aloof haute cuisine restaurant where pompous waiters deluge guests with obscure and intimidating names of dishes composed of equally opaque and daunting ingredients,
The dishes served are straight out of a grandmother’s recipe book served trattoria-style, along with homemade long-fermentation crusted bread.
What makes the food at Negroni stand out from other standard Italian fare is the use of fresh, high-end ingredients, unadulterated by elaborate sauces and grandiose spices.
The starter selection at Negroni pretty much covers the standard antipasto range, with grilled eggplant stuffed with parmesan cheese in a tangy arrabiata sauce, artichokes baked in extra virgin olive oil with caramelized onions, and a variety of four different types of carpaccio.
The star appetizer is the roasted octopus, delicately seasoned in garlic and rosemary with grilled baby potatoes.
Accompanied by a sparkling prosecco Bellini or the house cocktail – equal parts Campari, dry gin and vermouth (not recommended for designated drivers or those who plan to go back to work after lunch) – these items are ideal center-of-the-table sharers that can be lingered over before settling down for a hardy, indulgent meal.
Pasta – freshly made each day from the highest quality Italian semolina flour — is king at Negroni, and the house specialty is the pasta Negroni, a tasty alfredo-style spaghetti prepared at your table in a hollowed-out wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that melts in your mouth and leaves you hungry for more, despite the generous servings.
The pappardelle portofino, lush thick noodles in a flavorful tomato, basil, parmesan and pine seed sauce, is also extraordinary in its simplicity.
There is also a delicious selection of risottos, including one made from Mexican wild mushrooms and a lemoned shrimp variety.
The creamy truffled pear risotto is also exceptional, but may be a bit too sweet for some palates.
If pizza is your thing, Negroni has you covered with 11 different, thin-crust, brick-oven-baked variations, topped with your choice of fresh veggies, prosciutto, Italian sausage and truffle oil.
Main dishes include a magnificent sea bass fillet blanched in sweet basil and black pepper and presented on a bed of steamed spinach and cherry tomatoes, which is ideally light after a resilient serving of pasta and/or pizza.
The veal Milanese in a savory puttanesca sauce with a soupçon of devilishly hot spices is also very good.
But if you really want a taste of old-fashioned Italian cuisine the way your nonna used to make it (and are not counting calories or courting a heart attack with high cholesterol), try Negroni’s classic ossobuco and polenta in red wine and tomato sauce.
If you make it to the dessert menu, the gluten-free almond tart and the profiteroles in caramel and chocolate sauce are definite winners.
Negroni Artz is located inside the Artz Pedregal Shopping Center at Periférico Sur 3720 in Mexico City’s Colonia Jardines de Pedregal (tel: 5929-3388).
It is open Mondays from 1:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesdays from 1:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 1:30 p.m. to midnight, and Sundays from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Reservations are highly advised and all major credit cards are accepted.