By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
That wonderful, leisurely, a-little-too-late-for-breakfast-but-not-late-enough-for-lunchtime, ideal-for-weekends, perfect-for-lingering-over morning repast that sends cautious calorie-counting and clock-watching to the wind and lets you savor a wholesome meal with friends and family without rushing off to work or breaking the bank.
Indeed, a brunch can transform a simple poached egg into a gourmet luxury with a dab of hollandaise sauce and a slab of Canadian bacon, or a slice of smoked salmon, or even (think New Orleans style) a smidgen of fresh crab meat. And in the spirit of hey-it’s-the-weekend frivolity, can jazz up a ho-hum glass of OJ with a splash of champagne or a boring tomato juice with a dash of vodka.
So, now imagine all the glory of a lusciously indulgent late-morning brunch with a definitive Italian twist. That is exactly what Cristina Maria Cialona, a native-born Sicilian who owns the authentically Italian María 138 restaurant in Mexico City’s Colonia Santa María la Ribera, did.
As of early August, María 138 is now serving a selection of tempting-enough-to-get-you-out-of-bed-on-a-lazy-Sunday-morning brunch creations that combine the wholesomeness of breakfast with the delectability of homestyle, vivere-per-mangiare Italian cookery.
The menu, albeit limited, is a guaranteed get-your-juices-going bill of fare, staring with a selection of fresh-baked pastries (the almond pound cake is to-die-for) and followed up with your choice of French (make that Italian-French) toast crafted from María 138’s incomparable, egg-heavy brioche and served with mascarpone cream cheese and fresh forest fruits; a hardy bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich on a thick golden bun: or — wait for it — a poached egg on a morning pizza with fresh tomato and basil sauce, mozzarella cheese, sautéed spinach and crunchy bacon.
When I went for a media sampling of the new menu last week, I was seriously hungry, so I opted for the pizza (hey, what college student didn’t have cold, left-over pizza for breakfast during their dorm days?), and it was magnificent. We aren’t talking about random slices of frigid Papa John’s pizza here. This was a masterpiece of eggs benedict meets haute cuisine italiano, and it was both filling and delightful.
My dining companion choose the BLT, which was visually attractive and massive, and even though it looked too large and too pretty to eat, she managed to gulp it down so fast that I couldn’t even get her to give me a taste. She said it was wonderful, and I believed her.
And, true to form, Cialona (who has one of the most impressively diverse wine cellars in the city, even though it is not very large) has paired her brunch offerings with a selection of equally enticing morning mixology gems. Using her trademark limoncello as a base, she has created a ginger limoncello spritzer with soda water and a twist of mint. And there is a Venuziano Spritz made from Italian bitter lemons with a dash of apple spritzer.
But for me, the absolute must-have morning aperitif at María 138 is Cialona’s reinterpretation of the Bellini, substituting prosecco wine for champagne and Chinese plum liquor for peach juice. Pure rapture.
I have long been a fan of María 138, which, in my books, is the best Italian food restaurant in all Mexico, bar none.
Whenever I have a craving for real Sicilian spaghetti or almond-pesto fettuccini, I head out to María 138.
Now I have added it to my roster of favorite brunch venues.
María 138 is located at Santa María de Ribera 138 (hence the name) in Mexico City’s Colonia Santa María la Ribera (tel: 55-7159-2039). It is open Monday through Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. All major credit cards are accepted and prices are extremely affordable. The restaurant does not have its own parking, but there is a public lot just a few feet away.