Chef Antonio Salvatore has set free his artistic flair for lovers of fine cuisine, introducing a new gastronomic concept at one of Monaco’s oldest and most respected restaurants, Rampoldi.
Ideally nestled in the heart of Monte Carlo’s glamorous Carré D’Or, Rampoldi has been a favourite among the Princely family, celebrities and locals since 1946.
And it’s not hard to understand why.
The restaurant welcomes guests through its doors like an Italian family opens its home to loved-ones. Plush lounge seating, crisp white table cloths, an “open” kitchen, a large bar straight out of an Italian trattoria… the atmosphere is retro, classy and cosy.
And like every good Italian home, food is at the heart and soul of Rampoldi – much like chef Antonio Salvatore himself.
Born in the southern Italian region of Basilicata, an area famous for its produce, Antonio was already working in restaurants by the age of 12.
“In my village of around 2,000 people, everybody knew how to cook something and everything was handmade – tomato sauce, pickled vegetables, wine…” says the chef fondly. “Tradition is the basis of everything I do here, I just do it with finesse and the finest ingredients.”
At age 14, Antonio went to hotelier school to learn everything he possibly could about the industry. From there, he quickly rose through the ranks, eventually working under Michelin starred maestro Juan Pablo Felipe at Madrid’s El Chaflán, then was head hunted by Italy’s Nino Graziano to run Semifreddo-Mulinazzo in Moscow.
“I did a lot of travelling – London, Spain, Canada, Moscow,” reflects Antonio. “I think it is important for a chef to understand many different cultures.”
These experiences are played out on the plate in his creative reinterpretation of traditional Mediterranean recipes, like the “Rampoldi” beef tartare topped with premium caviar.
For me, it was the gazpacho, elevated by a medley of Spring vegetables and sauteed prawns; the deliciously plump scallops with subtle hints of vanilla and black truffle; and the citrus mouse disguised as a picture-perfect Menton lemon.
The menu is as generous as you would expect from an Italian, with everything from pizza and pasta to lobster and flame grilled, 35-day aged, Prime Black Angus Tomahawk steak.
But anyone who knows Antonio understands that he will always propose something special, a dish created from the day’s freshest ingredients, served just how you like it.
“It is very important for me to look after the locals,” says Antonio. “Monaco is small, you know everybody, so it is impossible to have a restaurant and say ‘I will only cook what I want to cook’. My concept is a family restaurant, and the door is open for everybody.”
But as delicious and delightful as Rampoldi is, Antonio Salvatore wanted to offer something more, something intimate and special, something that could take him one step closer to his dream.
In the depths of the restaurant, where once lived Rampoldi’s exclusive Cigar Club, is now a seductive dining room for guests of La Table d’Antonio Salvatore.
Featuring just five tables, each dressed with exclusive Rampoldi-signature tableware, La Table d’Antonio Salvatore promises intimacy, privacy and a whole lot of gastronomy.
“I saw the potential in this beautiful room, so I created something exclusive, with only a handful of tables and a higher level of cuisine. A very small number of people in the world were brave enough to open a gastronomic restaurant during Covid, and I was one of them,” smiles the chef.
The room is still lined with stunning wooden chests reserved for club members to store their prized cigars or favourite whiskey. Look closely and you will find the Royal Crest of House Grimaldi on a chest belonging to Prince Albert II of Monaco, further confirmation of the Princely family’s long held ties with Rampoldi.
It seems only fitting, in this regal setting, that Antonio takes the opportunity to elevate the cuisine that he so passionately serves upstairs.
Guests can choose from an a la carte menu or be surprised with a six or eight course degustation menu and matching wines.
“It is the same food, the same quality, just delivered to the plate more creatively,” reveals Antonio. “Upstairs, for example, we serve a classic tonnata, but downstairs it is a little more refined. It is gastronomic.”
The service is also next level, with two servers for just five tables and a wine fridge filled with the finest French and Italian labels.
It all just begs the question: “Does this mean you are chasing a Michelin star Antonio?”
“Yes, of course I want one,” he answers without hesitation. “For upstairs as well. But down here, I feel like it is an evolution. I don’t want to give up my traditions, but I want people to know about Rampoldi.”
If anyone doesn’t know about Rampoldi, which I find a little hard to believe, then La Table d’Antonio Salvatore is the perfect excuse to discover, or rediscover, this iconic restaurant where heritage meets innovation, where one falls in love or closes an important business deal, and where Antonio Salvatore’s artistic flair is able to shine brilliantly.
Gallery: Click on the photos below to enlarge…
Photos courtesy of Rampoldi