Samuel Porreca, General Manager of Rome’s newest chic hotel, JK Place Roma, invited his good friend Bruno Papaleo, who runs Palazzo Manfredi, a Relais & Châteaux luxury hotel right next to the Colosseum, to come round for dinner. Conversation ranged from Rome’s newly-increased tourist tax – now seven euros per person per night, at five-star level – to the help brands are giving in restoration. The gal knew Tod’s owner Diego Della Valle is paying for the Colosseum renovation, now partly finished, says Bruno. Apparently Prada is paying for the Trevi Fountain repair and Bulgari is doing Fontana della Barcaccia, at the foot of the Spanish Steps.
Talking of which, the Spanish Steps are only five minutes’ walk from JK Place Roma, via Via Condotti and its shops. Walk in the other direction, and you are at the river just as quickly …. anything to work up an appetite. We start our evening with Bellavista 2008, one of the two top Italian sparkllings – this one is owned by Vittorio Moretti (who paid for the renovation of Milan’s La Scala – he also owns L’Albereta in Erbusco, and L’Andana, a 5,000-acre Medici hunting lodge now run by Alain Ducasse).
We moved a few yards, for dinner in JK Café, three connecting rooms that typify glamour, with highly-polished veneer and great art that contrast with the simple one-sheet menus held on clipboards. JK Burger is a best-seller, says Samuel Porreca, but I go for spinach and red cabbage salad with avocado, walnuts and passionfruit, and follow with a local specialty, cace & pepe, gnocchi with pecorino, black pepper and smoked cardamom powder. The more adventurous could have tried a JK Sour, Amaretto with passionfruit and lemon…
It was all, simply, not only good but outstanding. Every mouthful (yes, I had another of those divine deep-fried mozzarellas that seem to be a Rome trend right now), every mouthful was great. At breakfast, the story continued. A chic young lady from Peru bustled around, setting several different buffets, one in front of the bright-back bar, another – with the cakes and tarts Italians love at breakfast – looking through to the hotel’s central lounge. And then, very sadly, it was time to leave this so-stylish luxury hotel.