But Roma has been rising from its ashes in recent years. Savvy investors bought dirt-cheap houses and renovated them, while some of the larger mansions were turned into schools or offices or gay discos. A walk around any square block is a virtual tour of 20th century architecture, from neo-classical to high art nouveau and deco (see Jim Johnston’s Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for an excellent walking tour). Recently some of the more spectacular buildings have been meticulously restored. Others sit waiting redemption. A few mansions, windows shuttered or cloaked in flocked drapes, still seem to be homes to their original Norma Desmond-like inhabitants. A renewed appreciation of the architecture and the area’s proximity to the center and to its pricier neighbor, La Condesa, has made Roma appealing to artists and yuppies alike. Their presence has created a market for more upscale dining options. Aside from the dependably mediocre but glamorous Casa Lamm, there has been little to tempt the discerning palette west of the Insurgentes dividing line. Two new upscale establishments attempt to fill this gastronomic gap.
Padrinos, is located in the lovely patio in the centro at Isabel la Católica 30.
Closed as of 2012) is, as my grandmother used to say, the “ritzier” of the two places. The setting is lovely but out of keeping with down-at-the-heels Plaza Luís Cabrera, a few blocks south of Alvaro Obregón. Its two story ultra-modern design features full-length glass windows overlooking the plaza, a pleasant setting for a Sunday comida. I’m not sure if Roma is ready for a Polanco-style restaurant complete with black-clad hostess and corresponding prices. The large menu is classic Italian, from the Umbria and Tuscany regions – from antipasti to pastas made in situ, rissoti, meat and fish. There are many choices, perhaps too many. I have not yet seen enough diners to justify such a large menu - they should scale down. Nevertheless, the food is well prepared, the choices intriguing. On a recent visit, a classic tortellini in brodo, followed by a duck breast in orange sauce were both well prepared and flavorful. La clásica (ensalada) Caprese, however, was a loser: mediocre mozzarella, tasteless tomatoes, and Mexican basil, which cannot be considered a substitute for the Italian. Why put it on the menu if you can’t do it right? Likewise, a meat and tomato ragú over pasta was dull. They’re trying hard, and given the paucity of really good Italian restaurants in the city, I'll give Sobrinos another chance; I wish them well.
Both places are open for dinner, a real plus for visitors to the area.
Av. Alvaro Obregón 110 (at Orizaba)
Tel. 5264 7466 or 5264 6059
Average $200 per person
Plaza Luís Cabrera 7 (Orizaba, between Guanajuato and Zacatecas)
Tel. 5584 5051 or 5564 1146
Average $400 per person
Text and Photos © 2009 Nicholas Gilman - all rights reserved