Review by Ciaran Kelly
I was tipped by an Italian friend that this place served the best Italian food in all Prague. He schooled me in the proper Italian way to enjoy a meal: at least three hours, covering appetizer, two main dishes, and dessert. Wine is an absolute must, “to properly enjoy the food.” Imagine my surprise when I found the place (beside the entrance to František Gardens on Jungmannovo náměstí), and outside is a small green and white sign saying “Pizza to go, take away food.” Looks deceive. The entrance is one long and steep stairway, at the bottom of which one makes a right hand turn and viola! Instant Tuscany. A rather large room with plenty of pastel painted walls, light greens, tourqoise and gentle orange all covered by a bright white ceiling. Not to mention a three part aquarium that is a solid 4 meters in length and a large-screen TV showing clips of the beauty of Italian sea and beach lifestyle. A very inviting environment.
My friend had told me of the varying foods at this restaurant, and from which part of Italy they originated. Specifically, Sardinia, Naples, Tuscany, Sicily and Lombardy were all represented by local dishes.
I started simple: Minestrone Soup (80 CZK) and three types of Bruschetta (120 CZK). A very large and satisfying bowl of home made soup actually had veggies in it that were larger than the spoon. The cook spared no oil either. The soup was perfectly complimented by fresh bread, which was homemade on site. The 3 x Bruschetta were mushrooms, red peppers and tomatoes, and each had varying amounts of garlic. I actually debated with the waiter which was the best. We couldn´t decide (he liked tomatoes and I preferred the mushrooms), but all were tasty and carried more flavor than I expected. As an added touch, I was given an Italian Olive Oil that, the waiter insisted, was made within 12 hours after the olives were harvested.
For the main course, I chose Melanzane parmesan (baked eggplants with a tomato and basil sauce covered by parmesan cheese at 210 CZK). I also ordered the Filet branzino acqua pazza, which was fresh sea bream served with potatoes and cherry tomatoes and sprinkled with Rosemary (350 CZK), and it was smothered in onions. Both dishes were delicious. The eggplant was very well baked and soft, which I appreciate. It was covered with freshly shaved parmesan. I thought that a nice touch. The fish was flaky but still moist and tender, and it was not overpowered by the onions as I originally thought it would be. The restaurant has that same multi-plate agenda, in the true Italian tradition, of making meals last. I was never rushed by the staff.
I had a house wine, a chardonnay costalunga (130 CZK for ½ bottle) that was not merely chilled, but down right cold. I thought it refreshing on a warm Summer´s day.
For a dessert I chose Parfait alle mandorle (90 CZK), which was home made ice cream with finely ground almonds and covered with caramel. It was full, rich with flavor and topped off an outstanding meal and experience.
The restaurant offers a full salad bar, and has an extensive Italian wine list (more than 70 wines were offered to me) that ranged in prices from 400 CZK to 2000 CZK per bottle. Mineral water and wine are imported from Italy, and the beer is Czech.
Ambiance is bright enough for children, although there is no specific child menu nor play areas for the kids. Not to worry, the menu had plenty of pizza to keep children content. Real young ones will love the ground-level aquarium. The restaurant is air-conditioned, and the bathrooms were Disneyland-clean.
The service was terrific. I deliberately spoke in English all through the meal and both waiter and waitress had excellent English. It seems an exaggeration, but they were stopping by my table every five minutes. They took an interest in my meal, patiently answered all my questions, and they smiled every time they came to the table.
Incontro also offers take away and full catering services. Each weekday, the restaurant offers a business lunch from 11:00 to 17:00, price is usually under 200 CZK.
Their website says it is a no smoking restaurant, but it is a smokers´ restaurant. I was told exactly this when I asked why there are ash trays on every table. Staff cleared away all tablecloths for a fresh replacement after every customer left a table. Teal color on the chairs was a nice touch but the chairs are definitely worn and need replacing. That is the only criticism I can think of.
The restaurant is not wheelchair accessable.
I didn´t quite spend three hours for the meal. It was 2 1/4hrs, but afterwards I had the complete satisfaction of feeling that I was spoiled. Isn´t that what fine dining is all about?
Jungmanovo nám. 19
110 00 Praha 1
11 til midnight, Mon thru Sun
Tel-420 2249 48 650
Fax-420 2249 48 659