Archive for December, 2010

A hidden Italian treasure in the heart of Lima

December 14, 2010

My 13th day in Lima and after a wonderful first week of eating great and  drinking better (wine) I fell to the dreaded sickness that afflicts visitors: stomach infection from drinking tap water. Actually, didnt drink it but used tap water ice cubes to make a ceviche, which comes to be the same. Or perhaps worse.

I will leave those laments aside for now and as I recover for my next round of culinary and wine adventures let me tell you about this little place, a bakery-restaurant called Levaggi, which has been around for decades. It sits on a corner of downtown Petit-Thouars avenue, the cross street is Manuel Segura* in the traditional Lince district, a lower middle class neighborhood which has become a must see because of its market and surrounding area packed with affordable, good-quality eateries. Chifas (chinese food restaurants) and ceviche places are everywhere, as well as criolla (peruvian) food and anticucho (spicy meat brochettes) street vendors.

Levaggi started as a bakery only, like many other Italian run bakeries in old Lima. Later they added the restaurant section, which proved to be a great idea. The restaurant is unpretentious in its decoration and retains an air of old times, with its counters and food exhibitors packed with pastries, breads, hams, sausages, home made pasta and bottles of wine. Servings are massive and fairly inexpensive. Although the menu is mostly peruvian, there is a section dedicated solely to Italian dishes. Their basic menu pasta is homemade fettuccini, which you can have with tomato sauce only for 8 soles (approx. 2.50 dollars), accompanied with a basket of bread and butter, dessert and a hot drink. Or you can switch to marinara or pesto sauce for the same price. You can have meat or mushrooms on your sauce or go for ravioli (I recommend the vegetable version, yummy) or other Italian pastas.

Prices for set menus can go up to 25 soles (9 dollars) for fancy dishes or for large servings or generous servings of meat. Worth trying their ossobuco, lomo saltado (peruvian stir fry version) and their butifarras, sandwiches made with house cooked ham.

Wine is a must in an Italian restaurant and they have a modest but competent selection. Nothing outstanding but good enough for this kind of meal. The house wine is an italian Rosso but you can have Chilean Clos de Pirque out of a box. This latter one is pretty good value. Then they have Farnese‘s Merlot, Sangiovese and Montepulciano. They even have a special with two glasses of wine and a set menu for 14 soles. Pretty reasonable, although if you are likely to want more (wine) it is better to go for the half liter caraffe for 15 soles.

There are a few Italian bakery restaurants like this in Lima, all of them worth checking out not only for the food but  also for the experience, to feel that air of the past trapped behind their swing doors, whirling through hanging hams and freshly baked loaves of bread. Look for Cordano, near the main square, Queirolo both their downtown and Pueblo Libre locales or the old Carbone sandwich house, again in old downtown.

*this area is half way between Miraflores district and old Lima downtown