For the best carbonara, forget Italy - it's in Brussels!

Remember that famous advert by a Dutch beer company proclaiming that they brewed (probably) the best beer in the world?

Well, there is an equivalent in Brussels, not for beer but a particularly popular Italian dish.

Osteria Romana, a stylish Italian restaurant located at the top end of Avenue Louise, has gained a reputation for serving the best carbonara in the world.

If you pay a visit to this delightful eatery you will see that this is no idle boast: their carbonara really is fantastic.

It’s the work of the restaurant’s co owner, Filippo La Vecchia, a highly talented Italian-born chef. In fact, the carbonara is so good – and popular – that Filippo has reprinted the recipe for it on a whole page of the menu.

His mission is to bring the finest Italian cuisine to his adopted home (Belgium) and there can be no doubting that he has succeeded brilliantly. The quality and freshness of the delicious food is very high. The dishes are all typical ones from a Roman kitchen but prepared with a modern twist, with attention to the detail.

Filippo opened the restaurant about six years ago and, more recently, has been joined in this endeavour by Cedric Gilot, an entrepreneurial-minded 33-year-old who has now joined Filippo as a partner.

The pair were previously mere partners at the local gym they used. Then, one day, Filippo called Cedric out of the blue asking if he was interested in a new business venture: purchasing and transforming a rundown kebab joint adjacent to the restaurant.

“At first, we did not know what to do with it,” recalls Cedric. “We considered a sandwich bar or a pizza place.” In the end they decided to turn to space into a wine bar and, after very carefully and tastefully restoring what was a dowdy looking room, Cedric and Filippo have not looked back. Like the food they make a dream team.

Diners are now given the chance to pop into the very cosy wine bar for a pre-meal drink or call by after their meal for a glass of the very tasty Italian wine selection served here. Alternatively, you might just want to stay the whole evening as the bar also serves tapas-style small portions of some of the restaurant’s favourite dishes.

That’s an idea but, really, you should not miss the restaurant because to do would be a real shame!

The restaurant now has a new entrance which affords more privacy to diners and also means you are afforded a very pleasant greeting on entry. It is now slightly larger than before, seating up to 40, including four spaces at the bar.

With the nicer weather here, the good news is that there is also the chance to eat outside in one of two rather pleasant and private gardens at the rear.

The interior is equally lovely, featuring loads of fascinating artefacts – like Michelin guides going back to 1961, that Filippo (and now Cedric) have acquired, mostly at markets.

In intimate, yet cosy and relaxing, surroundings you can enjoy not only the said superb carbonara but some other great dishes such as tongue which rarely features on the menus at restaurants here these days.

This is so special it even comes presented in its own “cage” – just to add to the occasion – and is accompanied by a small note for the lucky diner.

If the carbonara is a customer fave so too is the artichoke starter- served very decoratively as a flower – which is another speciality and is cooked twice so as to enhance the taste. It is crispy on the outside but soft inside – a delicious way to start the meal.

Carbonara is a relatively simple dish but standards can vary widely. You won’t find any better than here though. Luckily, Filippo has kept many of the contacts in the culinary and food sector from Rome – his home town – which means he’s now able to source many of the products and ingredients used in the dishes available here (including the carbonara) direct from Italy. And, for an Italian restaurant, there cannot be any better testimonial than that, surely.

There’s some great wines here (as well as next door at the wine bar) and to round off the meal, some mouth watering deserts.

Cedric is used to success - he  used to run a popular cocktail bar in the St Gery part of town – and his link up with his pal is proving a great success. Word has spread about the quality of the food here but if you are yet to discover just how good it (and the carbonara) is, then do so. You won't be disappointed.

Osteria Romana, Av Legrand 11,Brussels

02 648 1395 www.osteriaromana.be

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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