Lorenzo Lisi, owner of Rome’s Pierluigi and co-owner of Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s Antica Pesa, always has full plate, whether he’s juggling the daily grind of running two restaurants on two different continents, or serving up a bit of fun in Rome’s lively social scene. A born-and-bred Roman, Lisi loves his hometown whole-heartedly. Here’s the lowdown on a day in the life of this Italian restaurateur, from how he spends his time to where he goes to eat and imbibe in this Italian city.
After the first homemade espresso, the 32-year-old Lisi is out the door in his Campo de’ Fiori neighborhood. Whether in need of a little chitchat or some sun, Lisi’s stomping ground is Rome’s Via dei Banchi Vecchi. The roughly 1,640-foot street is full of great shops such as Laura Urbinati, BiblioTèq and AGU Kitchen & Design, antique stores and the beautiful, 19th-century Farmacia Celestini, where shop owners know everything, and Lisi knows everyone. Lisi’s usual walk winds up at the corner bar Caffè ai Banchi Vecchi for the second coffee of the day. “Owners Marco and Nando make great coffee, the bar is relaxed and has the best sun exposure. Here’s where I can take a second to catch up before the day begins,” explains Lisi.
By 10 a.m., Lisi is at Pierluigi, where the next few hours are filled with deliveries, emails and meetings — in other words, all the expected and unexpected duties of restaurant life. Conveniently, the always busy restaurant is located in Piazza de’ Ricci, a quiet and open square just around the corner from Lisi’s Campo de’ Fiori neighborhood, so if necessary, there is always an escape. Although in Lisi’s case, there never really is. “For the most part, I am in the restaurant and the kitchen all day and evening. Most mornings, I am with the chef, reinterpreting traditional Italian recipes with a little touch of innovation. No matter what, tradition remains the soul of the dish. In the evenings, I’m with our staff and clients celebrating engagements, weddings, birthdays, breakups, any event — I’ve seen it all,” he says.
When Lisi can, he gets out of the neighborhood, too. In the late afternoons, he likes to grab a Hendrick’s gin martini at Stravinskij Bar inside Hotel de Russie before going back to the restaurant. “I like [Hotel] de Russie for the impeccable service of the waitstaff, the cool atmosphere and the amazing cocktail menu.” And when Pierluigi’s closes at 1 a.m., Lisi heads to Salotto 42 for an after-dinner Sazerac. “Salotto 42 is like my second office. It’s got a great DJ, great music, a relaxed atmosphere perfect for friends, clients, girlfriends — and of course, great drinks,” he explains. If Lisi hasn’t convinced you to join him, some friends and his favorite piano player belting out tunes at Pierluigi, he’ll wind down a late evening around Via Veneto at historic lounge Jackie O’ or Elle Restaurant.
On those few Monday nights when his restaurant is closed, Lisi has a list of other favorite dinner spots to meet up with friends. Across town in foodie neighborhood Testaccio is La Fraschetta di Mastro Giorgio. Owned by one of Lisi’s friends, La Fraschetta focuses on traditional Roman cuisine, serving Lisi’s all-time favorites such as coppiette (a kind of pork jerky), porchetta, fritti (fried antipasti like zucchini flowers), pasta such as bucatini all’amatriciana and meats such as bisteccona di maiale con cotenna (pork steak with a savory, crunchy rind). Or he just walks down the street to the intimate Il Drappo, where chef “Valentina [Tolu] follows her Sardinian origins, making amazing dinners based on pasta with lobster and suckling pig. I love it, and the ambience is perfect for dates,” Lisi says. And if Italian isn’t on the mind, there are still plenty of other options, too. “When I want something different, I go to Taki Sushi,” a Japanese restaurant in Rome’s Prati neighborhood.
Photo Courtesy of iStock-Maui and Rocco Forte Hotels