Rome’s Hotel Hassler – reliving a moment in time
I was recently asked by a friend what my favourite culinary experience was during my travels. After giving it some thought I realized that my favourite experience was not as much about the taste of the food as it was about the setting and how it was experienced.
And my most memorable food experience was here in Rome many years ago when I was still in my 20s.
I was visiting Rome by myself and remember walking up the Spanish Steps to Hotel Hassler to have lunch at the restaurant on the top floor with stunning views over the city. The row of windows on the top floor of the hotel in the picture above is where the restaurant is still located.
It was an elegant restaurant and I enjoyed my surroundings, contemplating the menu, when I noticed a naturally elegant young woman dining by herself at a table nearby. The staff were fussing over her and she seemed very comfortable there, at home in the world.
She had a plate of steamed green asparagus in front of her that she proceeded to eat with special asparagus tongs. She had a glass of white wine with it, I assume a Pinot Griggio. The scene was so elegant and sophisticated, it was just how I wanted to be. I remember being so inspired by her, by the scene.
Of course, I proceeded to order the same dish and lunched on a plate of asparagus that I picked with the tongs (I may have invented the “I’ll have what she’s having” line).
Funny how some things remain with you. I thought about that scene often through the years and told the story to my children many times. I thought that now that I am older, next time I am in Rome in the spring I will return to that hotel and order a plate of asparagus and savour it slowly using asparagus tongs, enjoying a chilled glass of wine. Perhaps I will then provide an inspiration to another young woman who may be watching me.
And the opportunity came now with this epic trip to Italy. Our daughter Jade was joining us in Rome for Christmas and I booked a table for the three of us for Christmas dinner at the same restaurant at Hotel Hassler.
The elegant hotel was beautifully decorated for the holidays and at 8:00 pm we took the elevator up to the restaurant on the 6th floor. We stepped onto the marble floor with antique wood inlay, into soft lights and music and the stunning view of Rome from every window. Staff took our coats and the Maitre d’ soon led us to our table. To my absolute astonishment, out of the dozens of tables in the restaurant they sat us at the very same table where the young woman sat back then, so many years ago. How can that be? I clearly remembered the scene, it was the same table.
My husband, our daughter and I proceeded to have a memorable evening with gorgeous views of Rome, wonderful champagne, impeccably prepared and presented food and discreet and elegant service. It was winter, so asparagus was not in season, but this did not detract from the experience. The evening will be etched in my memory for time to come. I was there again, this time with my beautiful daughter Jade, recreating a time in place in a way that was meaningful to me. What are the odds that we would be seated at that very same table?
Today, the restaurant has earned a Michelin Star and lunch is no longer served there, only dinner. Things do change, but for me, for one memorable evening, time stood still.
Hotel Hassler Roma
Piazza Trinita del Monti 6