The Upstairs Vegetarian and I were touring about on Italy’s Labour Day, 1 May — more on that to come — and it being well past the lunch hour, we ducked into a place we’d been hearing about from various friends: La Dogana Food. The restaurant, which opened in February, is in Ostiense, a formerly industrial area that seems to be supplanting Monti as the in place to eat (I still stand up for Monteverde though). La Dogana translates as customs house and maybe that’s what this place once was because it is ginormous — 1600 square metres — and close to the river. It’s more or less across the street from another place I wrote about recently. The restaurant is broken down into a number of large dining areas (including two outside) and it’s light and airy so it doesn’t feel oppressively crowded when it’s massively jam-packed (as it was on 1 May).
The food is served a la buffet, the likes of which I have never seen, certainly not in Italy. The buffet offers Italian, Asian and supposedly Brazilian options (I saw no feijoada) grouped by category (appetizers, pasta/noodles/rice, vegetables, desserts) on different tables. A large area is devoted to sushi, steamed dumplings (I’m off carbs but man, did they look good) and mini hot pots. You can select a piece of meat or fish to be grilled and brought to your table. There’s a big turnover and the food is often renewed so it stays nice and fresh (although we got there close to the end of the lunch service and they were letting stuff run out. The quality of the food was very good. The sushi was excellent. Did I mention that it’s all you can eat?
The best part? The prices. Lunch from 12:00-15:00 M-F is €12.90 (€5.90 M-F if you only take one plateful — the plates are a decent size; €13.90 on Sa-Su and holidays). Happy Hour runs from 18:00-20:30 every day. €7.90 gets you an unlimited run at the cocktail buffet, which, knowing Italy, probably consists of cous-cous and green salad. Dinner runs from 19:00-22:30 and costs €18.90 (€19.90 0n weekends and holidays). Drinks in each case are separate.
The second best part is the English-language website, which showcases Google Translate at its best. Here’s what we learn about the restaurant from the site: Our restaurant is modern and international character, as it combines the culinary traditions of different nationalities, to offer to all its customers a taste of unique and exclusive…We deliver in a unique and full of new impressions located in the heart of the Ostiense neighborhood in History, Memory and Industrial Archaeology. Sweetly, the site quotes the immortal George Bernard Shaw: There is no love sincerer than the love of food. Of course, in La Dogana’s version it reads There is love more than sincere about the food. Hee. I probably should not enjoy that as much as I do. Never mind. I enjoyed the lunch even more.
Via del Porto Fluviale, 67b
00154 – Roma Italia
Phone: (06) 57.40.260