Not only does Ristorante Da Agnese have a superb view over Lake Albano and the encircling hillsides, it is also surrounded by towns famous for their top-quality produce: buffalo mozzarella from Circeo, porchetta from Ariccia and local prosciutto and salumi to name but a few. The restaurant opened in the 60s when Rome hosted the summer Olympics and chose Lake Albano as the location for the canoe race. It has remained a popular place to eat and pulls in the summer crowds who come to this scenic town for a day at the ‘beach’. The restaurant looks nothing special from the outside – wooden benches, paper-covered tables and plain white plates. However, this devotion to simplicity translates into authentic, well-made dishes that let the ingredients shine. Da Agnese is great if you’re looking for a quick plate of pasta, however, the antipasti are where they truly excel and they’ll adapt their menu to suit exactly what you want to eat.
I went to Da Agnese with a group of friends for a casual light lunch after a morning at the lake. We left it up to the waiter to chose our dishes, simply asking for a selection of ‘sharing things’. We could not have been more vague, but the amazing waiter produced the most wonderful platter of complimenting dishes and even selected a crisp white wine to go with them. We had meats, cheeses, seafood, legumes, vegetables and bread, and just the right amount for our party of 5 – the waiter didn’t take liberties with his freedom and bring us a far-too-big selection of the restaurants most pricey items.
The bright and fresh tomato bruschette whet the appetite for the dishes to follow. The toasted bread had a nice smokiness and pleasing-to-the-eye char lines from the grill and the tomato topping was injected with fresh garlic and a smooth and mellow olive oil.
The simple butter bean salad was one of my favourite dishes; the beans were rich and creamy, spiked with pieces of salty celery – a beautiful match. The fresh octopus salad comprised of fresh octopus; expertly prepared, not rubbery, fluffy cubes of potato and a generous sprinkling of fresh parsley.
The vibrant roasted red peppers bathed in a fruity olive oil were equally as spirited in flavour. Capers added saltiness to balance out the peppers’ sweet flesh. The mix of sweet red, zesty yellow and slightly bitter green peppers danced on the palette. Their flavours had infused into the oil, which was delicious soaked up with the bread.
Thankfully, the waiter had ensured there was a slice each of each meat, or we would have had a fight on our hands. There was delicate and ultra-thinly sliced prosciutto, robust jamòn Iberico, peppery salami, fiery chorizo and wonderfully succulent, fatty and fragrant with sage porchetta di Ariccia.
The cheese plate was equally diverse, with balls of juicy buffalo mozzarella, and a range of flavoured pecorino cheeses: plain, peperoncino (chilli) and herb. The chilli cheese was wonderful; the heat cut through its richness.
Our final plate was aubergine two ways: the first breadcrumbed and fried, the second topped with tomato and Parmesan, then grilled. The breadcrumbs were mixed with herbs and garlic which went wonderfully with the mellow, creamy aubergine, as did the peppy tomato and piquant cheese on the latter. The meal came to around €15 a head, which isn’t bad considering the restaurant’s holiday-spot location, the amount of food we ate and the use of locally-sourced quality ingredients. And of course, the wine. Post-meal I was ready for a little siesta back at the lake. It was a charming way to pass a lazy weekend day.
Via Spiaggia del Lago
T: +39 (0)6 9366 8233
Open 9:00-23:30 daily