Buzzy Italian cuisine in a five-star hotel setting.
Once one of the most electric rooms in town, during its heyday Biscotti was packed with movers and shakers sitting at tables so close together that you were privy to the celebratory conversations of your neighbors. The cavernous room’s bare walls also echoed the sounds of cooks at work in the open kitchen, while the stylishly attired floor staff were constantly in motion, dishing out plates of pasta with military-like precision. Now, however, its once trendsetting signature contemporary minimalism no longer dazzles. From a “special occasions” kind of place, the Biscotti of today is casual and convenient enough for any night of the week. But there are advantages to being “just another” hotel restaurant. For one, it is possible to get a table even on some Fridays without advance booking. Another surprise to diners who haven’t visited in a while is how affordable it is. The food is still by no means “cheap,” but over the years competing Italian venues have equaled Biscotti’s once relatively high tariffs and, in most cases, topped them. Main courses are in the B600-800range, while pizzas and pastas will cost you just B300-400. Meanwhile, though far from perfect, the kitchen’s standards remain high, and the service—the jewel in Biscotti’s crown—is still deft and charming. We began a recent meal with fritto misto and Parma ham pizza. The pizza, with salty-sweet ham, rocket leaves and thick flakes of Parmesan cheese, was nearly as good as any in town, although we wish that it had been served fresh out of the oven instead of letting it sit to be brought out with the crisp-fried seafood; as for the fritto misto, with a lighter batter it would achieve greater heights, but Biscotti’s version is still dependably delicious, especially with the inclusion of salty capers. Hearty meats, such as the braised veal shank, can be good here, but for our money the kitchen’s strongest point is its pasta dishes, such as the signature cavatelli, a shell-like pasta with porcini mushrooms, fresh basil, tomatoes and mascarpone cheese. Another winner on this night was rigatoni with savory veal ragout, broccoli and cauliflower. The only hiccup was an overcooked filet of sea bream in an otherwise lovely dish of risotto, but the situation was gracefully handled by the manager, who offered us a replacement even though we had already polished off the rice and most of the fish. It was just one instance of exemplary service that keeps us coming back. Biscotti may no longer be the flavor of the day, but, where it matters, it is still epitomizes good taste. Corkage B500.