Despite my love of cooking, when I got home from a long week away this afternoon the last thing I wanted to do was go to the grocery store and make up something for dinner. So Matt and I headed out with Leo (our beagle) into the Bohnenviertel (the "bean quarter" next to our apartment) to get some food. Shabu Shabu has been a long-time favorite of ours for their delicious Asian food (post to come soon), but since their patio was closed, we opted for another local favorite: La Bruschetta.
You won't find La Bruschetta in any guidebook, and you may even have trouble finding the location. It's just down a side street off of Charlottenplatz. There's no website for the restaurant, and the sign is barely visible next to the loud advertisement for the Chinese restaurant that dominates the sidewalk. We found the location quite by accident ourselves when we were walking with Leo one day.
The restaurant itself is smaller than our apartment. When you walk in, you see one long bar table that barely seats eight people right next to an open kitchen of about the same size. When the whether is nice (from about May-October), you can find two or three tables in the building entryway and another two or three along the sidewalk. Just this past winter we were pleased to see that the restaurant had purchased the empty space across from the kitchen and added another two rooms of dining.
It seems business must be doing well, and it's no wonder. Despite the rather low-key exterior and cramped space, the food is some of the best Italian that I've had in Stuttgart. The owner, primary waiter, and only chef is a lanky middle-aged woman with graying hair who makes every dish fresh on the spot from her tiny kitchen.
On this occasion we had Leo with us. We were the first diners of the evening, and after asking to sit along the sidewalk, the owner brought out two menus for us and a bowl of water for Leo. (She was even kind enough to give Leo some extra ham later during the meal, which might explain why Leo has become a bit chubby from dining out with us in Germany.) The owner/chef chatted with us about the specials and about Leo, and then gave us some time to peruse the extensive list of offerings. The menu easily has 50 dishes on it, and while we often find this overwhelming and impossible to maintain in terms of freshness, I think the opposite is the case here.
La Bruschetta offers several kinds of pizza, spaghetti, tagliatelle, gnocchi, cannelloni, and salads, all with simple, fresh sauces. The most complicated dish on the menu has maybe five ingredients, and you can find those same five ingredients across various dishes on the menu. The key here is choosing the combination that you feel like having, just as if you were telling your grandmother what you wanted to eat for dinner based on what was growing in the garden at the time.
On this occasion, I chose a spaghetti dish with eggplant, peppers, capers, and grated parmesan, while Matt chose tagliatelle with a prosciutto cream sauce. Since we were both rather hungry, we also shared a spicy salami pizza. The portion sizes are perfect for one person, so it was easy to order the pizza as a kind of appetizer or bread basket to share.
Ever since Matt started cooking more pastas at home, he's been obsessed with the proper way cook pasta so that it comes up firm, but crunchy, and La Bruschetta has got the cooking time nailed. My pasta came out a perfect al dente. I was able to taste each ingredient in my dish separately, but together they made a garden symphony, much like the scene in Disney's Ratatouille when Remy learns to combine a strawberry with cheese and we see the flavors blend in sound and color.
The pizza was not the thin crusts that I've come to associate with Italian pizzas, but rather a thicker bread layer with the perfect ratio of cheese, sauce and salami. That said, I've had thinner pizzas from her in the past, and I get the impression that because of the nature of home cooking, no two dishes are ever quite the same. The point here is that the ingredients are fresh and all homemade.
As a mark of approval, I might add that we took my mother to La Bruschetta when she visited us back in July. Her visit had come shortly after a two-week stay in Italy. Her verdict? She thought the food was easily as good as anything she'd had in Italy. She was quite impressed.
The owner/chef also offers several seasonal specialties, including a pumpkin cannelloni and truffle gnocchi. I've read that truffle season starts in northern Italy around this time, which might explain the number of truffle dishes on the special menu. An older woman sat down at the end of the table from us shortly after we arrived and ordered a simple truffle gnocchi. The earthy smell wafting to our side of the table made Leo sit up and smell the air, and almost made me want to order a second pasta dish to go with our feast. We'll have to go back soon.
Again, this is not fancy dining, but La Bruschetta does offer the best range of home-cooked Italian food around. And since most dishes are relatively inexpensive (6-11€), we can eat at La Bruschetta for little more than what we would spend purchasing groceries at the store to cook at home.
The menu is exclusively in Italian (names of dishes) and German (descriptions), and I don't get the impression that the owner/chef speaks much English. In fact, I find her German accent quite difficult to comprehend for my untrained ears. That said, she is incredibly friendly and helpful, and I remember her making a wine recommendation to us on a previous occasion when we were bewildered by the selection. I'm sure she would be more than happy to help other linguistically challenged customers.
You can get to La Bruschetta by getting off at the Charlottenplatz U-Bahn stop and walking up Charlottenstraße towards Olgaeck. Then turn right when you get to the Chinese buffet down Weberstraße. The restaurant will be just past the patio for the Chinese restaurant on your left. The restaurant is open lunch through dinner from 12:00-22:00.