Italian restaurants outside Italy can sometimes be hit and miss. While many tend to be good, they are not exceptional. Italian restaurants, especially those outside Italy tend to adapt to the culture of the country they are based in making them far less authentic.
Senzanome is the flagship Italian restaurant in Belgium and especially in the Belgian capital Brussels. Giovanni Bruno, of Sicilian origin, has been cooking since the 1980s and has taken over from his parents who opened the restaurant in 1991.
Since 1997, he has been at the helm of the restaurant and achieved an unexpected Michelin star in 2004. It has since then gone from strength to strength and was voted the best Italian restaurant outside Italy in 2011 and 2012. That is no easy feat given the number of Italian restaurants that exist worldwide.
I’ve been wanting to try this restaurant for a very long time despite the fact that I had heard mixed reviews about the restaurant. Some really raved about the restaurant while others were disappointed. So I went to the restaurant without high expectations though also not knowing exactly what to expect.
Since a few months, the restaurant has moved from Schaerbeek to a location closer to the city centre on Rue Royale just off Place Sablon.
Our meal at Senzanome was exceptional. I would bill it as one of the best if not the best Italian restaurant I have eaten at outside Italy.
What makes it so good? Italian cuisine is not as fancy as French cuisine and the showcase is always the produce and the ingredients. When it comes to Italian cooking, there is nowhere to hide if the produce is not good.
So the starting point of any great Italian meal is the produce. If the produce is great then you are bound to eat extremely well.
And it is here that Senzanome excels. The spotlight is on Italian produce. You should not go there expecting something completely new or innovative but that is not the point. What you can expect is a perfect respect for quality ingredients and cooking with a perfect technique that amplifies the flavours.
In this regard the chef has achieved a perfect balance between technique and allowing the ingredients to shine without much fanfare.
We started with a fennel soup with a cream of taggiasche olives.
This was followed by burrata with a basil oil and tomato sorbet. This dish was stunning in its simplicity. The burrata was perfectly seasoned, creamy and tasty and married well with the tomato sorbet and the basil oil.
The chef then served his interpretation of a vitello tonnato. Deconstructed, this was excellent. What followed was an egg cooked at a low temperature and served with a parmesan cream, parmesan crumble and truffle. Again, it was a perfect combination of simple but exceptional produce to produce a dish that had impressive depth of flavour.
The next dish was orecchiete with a sauce of sausage and turnip tops and a foam of pecorino. It was a surprising dish in that you would not expect it at such a restaurant but it worked to perfection. The pasta was perfectly cooked, the ragu great and the foam of pecorino combined well to lift all the flavours.
The fish dish also worked extremely well with a bar served with an anchovy foam.
It was followed by a pigeon with a marsala and soya sauce that lifted the flavours of the perfectly cooked pigeon.
Before the dessert, Bruno served a blood orange granita which cleaned the palate for the last dish of the meal, a deconstruction of the cannolo siciliano which was sublime. This is a restaurant worth visiting.