Geneva’s “La Bottega” Breaks New Ground in Italian Cuisine
August 28, 2016
La Bottega was launched in May last year by the creative duo Paulo Airaudo and Francesco Gasbarro – two highly regarded chefs in their respective culinary circles. The restaurant, which serves contemporary haute cuisine inspired by the Italian tradition in an informal setting, has already attracted significant attention from Switzerland and beyond, and is quickly becoming one of Geneva’s favourite gastronomic hotspots. The success of the restaurant has drawn the attention of the Michelin team, who have already awarded the restaurant its first star – a testament to the quality of the establishment and no doubt a sign of greater things to come.
The beauty of La Bottega is the welcoming understated elegance of the interior – designed in a minimalistic fashion by Italian architects – coupled with the exceptional quality of the culinary delights. As a guest, you will be presented with a set seasonal tasting menu (typically featuring ingredients from small local producers) paired with fine wine. The whole sensory offering is something quite remarkable and certainly deserves a visit. In fact, considering that the restaurant is situated in the cultural heart of Geneva (only steps away from the Grand Theatre), perhaps the ultimate complement for your dining experience would be not only the wines, but also one of Geneva’s many opera performances.
My partner and I were fortunate enough to be served by the head chef Paulo during the evening, along with his sommelier and staff. Taking the recommendation of five dishes paired with wines, we knew we were in for a treat.
Our first taste was a refreshing lemon and rosemary sorbet with a gin and tonic jelly base, all served in a large lime. Following this, we were presented with raw vegetarian ravioli (made entirely from radishes), rösti accompanied with Swiss caviar from a Bernese sturgeon (widely considered the freshest tasting caviar in the world), an exceptionally succulent Swiss Simmental beef tartare with fresh oysters (served in the oyster shell), Scottish crab with cucumber spaghetti and avocado, a remarkably tasty pigeon ravioli and thyme dish, a delicious codfish, and pickled Swiss pork with charred carrots and spinach. After these plates came the “pre-dessert” – sorbet with pumpkin and goat cheese, and then the dessert itself – a sample plate of strawberry jelly compote, lemon meringue pie, pecan tart and hazelnut praline. Each of these plates was partnered with exceptional wine, chiefly of French or Italian origins, from the champagne with the first dish through to the muscatel at dessert.
Suffice to say that this culinary event was truly an experience. It was a journey through flavours of food and wine that told a story of the region and left you desiring more. But that desire was certainly not backed up by necessity, despite the small serving plates, for if you’ve been counting, the five plate menu turned out to be closer to a nine plate menu – apparently a nod to the Italian tradition of serving more rather than less.
Upon reflecting, the elements that truly stood out for me were the presentation, the unique creative combinations that I would have never imagined and, of course, the exceptional flavours (particularly the pigeon, Simmental beef, Swiss caviar and pumpkin sorbet).
The service also deserves an independent mention. The staff were immensely knowledgeable about the ingredients and the wine and were more than happy to share this with us (in English). The in-house sommelier, for example, used the maps hanging on the wall as props to demonstrate the origins of the wines we were drinking and describe how they were chosen to partner with the tasting plates.
In sum, this is a restaurant experience that even the most discerning gastronomist could not forget or regret. As Paulo says “our secret is sourcing the finest products – usually the small producers – and then creating a unique menu with these exceptional ingredients and presenting them with creative flair. That way the dining experience in its entirety is at a standard which is simply in a category on its own.” Paulo is right – it is an exceptional experience to dine at La Bottega – so do yourself a favour and schedule a tasting journey on your next trip to Geneva.