La vita e bella

Italian Fest at Ristorante Sebastiano

Once in a while, an evening will come when home cooking loses its charm; or maybe you just simply run out of ideas.

In such a case, I throw on a pretty dress and head for one of Vienna’s many restaurants, to enjoy a fine meal without having to do the dishes. This was just such a night and so my cousin, her gourmet boyfriend and I ventured out to our favourite Italian restaurant: Risto  rante Sebastiano.

This insider eatery is located at Mayerhofgasse 22 in Vienna’s Fourth District. I cannot quite believe I am sharing this with all of you – crowds would ruin it –but its simply too wonderful to keep to myself.

Upon entering, we were greeted by a characteristic Italian décor: The corners are stuffed with dried flowers, candle-wax covered wine bottles and other quirky items of Neapolitan kitsch. Our table was in the smaller of the two rooms; it is our favourite, as it is close to the  kitchen. The always pleasant waiter immediately suggested the customary large bottle of sparkling water as well as the fantastic Bruschetta-Crostini as a sort of ‘amuse gueule.’

There are no menus, instead the maître d’ brings a decorated blackboard, describing each dish as he reads it to us.

All three of us decide to have the oven-baked scallops as appetizers followed by a Filetto di Manzo (steak on rocket salad), the fish of the day (a grilled sea bream with lemon and olive oil) and the Spaghetti di Vongole (pasta with mussels in a white wine sauce). With the most important part settled, we chose the recommended dry white wine (Tocai Friulano 15) to complement our food.

The atmosphere animated our conversation and soon we were laughing, telling stories and feeling blissful. Each course, brought swiftly and simultaneously, we greeted with ‘oohhs’ and ‘aahhhs.’ The creations are kept simple with no nouvelle cuisine fuss, each element tastes of the high quality ingredients and careful preparation, and the portions are pleasing to both the eye and the stomach.

We finished the meal with a lemon sorbet and a glass of their delicious Grappa di Prosecco.  After a heated discussion of the subtleties of the food – comparing tastes to other evenings, other seasons – as well as a diverting chitchat about Italian and German football, we received the bill, accompanied by a round of Grappa on the house. The check was presented in a tiny wooden box and like the food, is thoroughly agreeable for our wallets. The price-performance ratio at Sebastiano was, as always, excellent.

After many good-byes and equally many promises to return soon, we took our leave. To meet and feast in such a place, we decided, is surely what city life should be. There is more to culinary culture in Vienna than Schnitzel and Sauerbraten.

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