Published on July 6th, 2020 | by James Drew0
‘Go-ahead’ spirit still alive in virus-ravaged horeca sector
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the restaurant trade to change their business models in a way none could have ever imagined, writes Martin Banks.
Two such people are Filippo La Vecchia and Cedric Gilot whose restaurant, Osteria Romana, has only just been able to reopen after the long lockdown.
Since the reopening, the place has been packed every night, so much so that they’ve had to introduce, for the first time, two sittings on the busiest nights.
However, Filippo and Cedric will soon be closing again – this time out of choice.
The reason, though,is again directly associated to the health crisis.
They have decided that they now need to change things with a total transformation of the business.
This will involve the wine bar adjacent to the restaurant being turned into a traiteur with a private dining room behind it. This can be booked for private functions or if the restaurant is full.
The restaurant itself will be reduced in size by about one third, a necessity brought about by the social distancing rules now imposed on all restaurants in Belgium (and elsewhere).
It is all a costly business and having to close again so soon after reopening is not ideal.
The good news is that some of the delightful ingredients and products used in the restaurant’s kitchen will be available for purchase in the shop when it opens in September.
Cedric explained why they were making the changes, saying, “It’s all as a result of the pandemic which has been hellish, of course. It has not been an easy decision but we, as is the case with so many in the trade, have just had to adjust the way we do things.”
During the lockdown, the restaurant still managed to operate a takeaway service, albeit just three days a week with Cedric adding, “we had to do this just to ensure our survival and keep us alive.”
Staffing levels have also had to be cut but Filippo and Cedric are hoping they will soon turn the corner with their ambitous plans for a revamped business.
The two men met just over three years ago which is when Cedric joined Filippo who launched the restaurant seven years ago.
During that time it has become famous for its Roman-style carbonara.
Filippo makes it a point of honour to offer only the best and carefully selects the products used in the preparation of his cooking. In terms of pasta, he only uses fresh egg tonnarelli and dried Benedetto cavalieri spaghetti.
In another example of how the pair are diversifying in the post-coronavirus world, they are offering customers the chance to make the carbonara at home. It is now possible to order a carbonara kit for 4 people. The kit, priced €50, includes the carbomix, pork cheeks, pecorino romano, pepper, pasta and the recipe and can be picked up at the Osteria Romana during operating hours.
The restaurant’s reputation has been hard earned and has won it a place in that “bible” for food lovers, the Delta Guide which is known for objective, accurate and detailed analysis of restaurants of all kinds and types.
Filippo, who hails from Rome, has some highly innovative creations on his menu and everything is very fresh and very tasty, including the pasta dishes which are delivered in the same pan in which they’re cooked.
The interior is as nice as the food, 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.
Cedric used to run a popular cocktail bar in the St Gery part of town and Filippo spent six years working in Cape Cod but has made Belgium his home.
They are good examples of how, in spite of the terrible impact the virus has had on the hospitality sector, the city’s entrepreneurial spirit is still very much alive and kicking.
Osteria Romana, Av Legrand 11
T. +32 (0)2 648 1395