After Hours: Ristorante La Cantina, Weinheim, Germany
Stars and Stripes August 9, 2009
With a couple of thousand years of civilization under their belts, the Romans are expert in many of life’s finer things: fashion, food, wine and motor scooters, to name just a few.
And they’re not exactly known for naivete.
So after the brothers Ferrarese moved to Baden-Württemberg, it didn’t take them long to realize that owning a restaurant with a disco was not the way to go, even if it was the swinging ’60s.
"People just wanted to drink and dance," said Domenico Ferrarese.
By 1974, the disco was gone. People started to come to Ristorante La Cantina just to eat. And through all these years, they kept coming back.
"Clients who’ve been coming for 40 years — they celebrate their birthdays here," he said.
It’s not for the comfortable chairs or plush decor: La Cantina doesn’t actually have those. What the restaurant offers is terrific food, simply and expertly prepared with a few, choice ingredients.
The spaghetti frutti di mare, for instance, consists of homemade pasta, a sauce of olive oil, tomatoes, wine and spices, and loads of fresh shrimp, mussels, crawfish and, last time I had it, lobster. The spaghetti cozze e vongole is loaded with mussels and clams. And for diners who prefer risotto, there is one with shellfish, one with Pfifferlingen (chanterelle mushrooms) and one with Steinpilze, (porcini mushrooms). Seafood and mushroom fans are happy here.
The menu isn’t big but covers all the bases. Fish such as monkfish and dorade are grilled then simply dressed, and there’s a sea bass roasted in a salt crust. There is also a grilled veal chop, lamb, chicken and rabbit.
All the fish and meat dishes include sides — vegetables and salad — including the most expensive item on the menu, steak Florentine — a big, thick porterhouse with porcini mushrooms for 35.80 euros.
Domenico, the wine expert of the brothers, and not the only one working there — most all Italians — who is reputed to sing opera quite well, said they call around every day to Mannheim and Frankfurt to see who has the best, freshest ingredients.
The food at La Cantina is best enjoyed outside, under big, white umbrellas, sitting on folding chairs with cushions, at tables that tilt on the cobblestone hill in Weinheim’s exquisite market place, with one of the town’s two castles in view.
In winter, inside is fine, too, but even here the chairs tend toward the severe. There isn’t a cozy booth in sight. But the food makes that irrelevant.
Ristorante La CantinaLocation: Marktplatz 16 69469 Weinheim, Germany.
Directions: From Heidelberg, take the A5 toward Frankfurt. From Mannheim, take the A659 East toward Weinheim. Follow signs for the Aldstadt.
Hours: Noon to midnight every day.
Food: Italian; Roman regional cuisine. Lots of seafood; meat, risottos and pasta. Seasonal and daily specials.
English menu: Not yet, although the owners, who’ve been in the same spot since 1967, say they’ve been thinking about one. Menu is a mix of Italian — spaghetti frutti di mare (spaghetti with seafood) — and German − Bandnudeln mit Lachs (wide noodles with salmon).
Cost: Main courses run between 14 and 36 euros. Appetizers are about 14 euros.
Phone: +49 (0) 6201 62434