Review: Marzapane.

I’ve been wanting to come to Marzapane, a fairly new tiny modern Italian restaurant in Rome, since last September but they were always booked! I finally got a reservation and I was curious to try their creative takes on traditional Italian flavors.

The young Spanish chef, Alba Esteve Ruiz, offers three different tasting menus and an à la carte menu; we opted for the à la carte menu so we could both order different dishes.

Focaccia, Tomato Bread, and Kamut Bread.

Focaccia (8/10), Tomato Bread (6/10), and Kamut Bread (7/10).

Amuse Bouche: Caramelized Onions with Cheese Foam and Polenta (8/10).

Amuse Bouche: Caramelized Onions with Cheese Foam and Polenta (8/10).

Red Prawn Tartare with Burrata Cheese, Smoked Eggplant Cream, Candied Tomatoes with Mustard, and Pistachio Cookie (8/10).

Red Prawn Tartare with Burrata Cheese, Smoked Eggplant Cream, Candied Tomatoes with Mustard, and Pistachio Cookie (8.5/10).

Beef Tartare with Buffalo Milk Cheese, Mixed Garden Vegetables, and Cumin Emulsion (7/10).

Beef Tartare with Pickled Mixed Garden Vegetables and Cumin Emulsion (7.5/10).

Close Up of the Beef Tartare.

Close Up of the Beef Tartare.

Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Plin with Basil and Tomato Water (6/10).

Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Plin with Basil Foam and Tomato Water (6/10).

Close Up of the Plin.

Close Up of the Plin.

Squid Ink Linguine with Fried Calamari, Fried Artichoke with Burrata Cheese, and Spicy Pepper Sauce (7/10).

Squid Ink Linguine with Fried Calamari, Fried Artichoke with Burrata Cheese, and Spicy Pepper Sauce (7/10).

Roasted Langoustine with Sea Urchin, Jerusalem Artichoke and Coal, and Crème Fraîche (7.5/10).

Roasted Langoustine with Sea Urchin, Jerusalem Artichoke and Coal, and Crème Fraîche (7.5/10).

Roasted Langoustine.

Roasted Langoustine.

Lamb with Chicory, Chimichurri, and Spicy Pepper Sauce (6/10).

Lamb with Chicory, Chimichurri, and Spicy Pepper Sauce (6/10).

Pre-dessert: Fior di Latte Gelato with Crumble (6/10).

Pre-Dessert: Fior di Latte Gelato with Crumble (5/10).

Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Cinnamon (7.5/10).

Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Cinnamon (7.5-8/10).

Caramelized White Chocolate Millefoglie and Licorice (7.5/10).

Caramelized White Chocolate Millefoglie with Licorice (7.5/10).

Petit Fours.

Petit Fours.

While all the dishes were absolutely beautifully presented, some of them either lacked in flavor or creativity.

My least favorite dishes of the meal were the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese plin, the lamb, and the pre-dessert. First, the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese plin (a type of stuffed pasta) seriously lacked flavor; the sharp nutty flavor of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese wasn’t present and the tomato water and basil foam diluted the entire dish making it bland. Next, the lamb was slightly uninspiring compared to the other dishes on the menu. While the lamb meat was tasty and tender, the accompanying sauce was a sad excuse for a chimichurri; chimichurri is supposed to be a pungent sauce made from fresh parsley, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and white wine vinegar and their version had no resemblance of that. Lastly, the pre-dessert of fior di latte gelato (milk gelato) had no sweetness (maybe that’s what they were going for?) which I didn’t care for.

Now onto the dishes that I enjoyed: the red prawn tartare, beef tartare, and the chocolate dessert. The red prawn tartare was probably my favorite dish of the night. Sweet minced red prawns with creamy Burrata cheese and smoky earthy eggplant cream topped with a delicious sweet yet salty pistachio cookie. The beef tartare was also a great appetizer with an assortment of vibrant pickled garden vegetables and a creamy spiced aioli. Lastly, the chocolate, hazelnut, and cinnamon dessert was so satisfying with moist pieces of chocolate cake, creamy hazelnut cream (a better version of Nutella), and crunchy praline all swimming in a cinnamon peanut butter liquid. Yummy.

Overall, I think Marzapane takes some risks in creativity but still needs improvement in some of their flavor profiles. Perhaps if they didn’t make their own breads and petit fours, they could truly focus on the menu and tweak many of their dishes to become stronger. Therefore, my overall rating is a 6.5-7/10.

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