Amstel 2, 1017AA, Amsterdam
020 423 36 81 firstname.lastname@example.org
A la carte
Antipasti €18 - €21 | Primi Piatti €20 - €29
Secondi Piatti €24 - €36 | Dolci €12 - €15
Cooking 7.5/10 | Service 5/5
Flavour 4.5/5 | Value 5/5
How can anyone fail to love the Italian language? It has resonance; it has rhythm; it has style. I enjoyed it from the very first lesson, but I was hopelessly hooked when I learned that the word for greengrocer was il fruttivendolo. Over a number of terms my first Italian class used to used to have a Word of the Week competition.
So let's consider incanto. I didn't know what it meant, but I guessed it would be something magical. I was therefore a little nonplussed when my dictionary's first definition was auction. Whit! Fascinated by the auctioneer's lure? But then it came up with enchantment. That's more like it. Chef Nicolo Rossi weaves his spell over everything which comes out of the kitchen.
Look at some parts of the menu and it may seem quite basic, with risotto of the day and spaghetti cacio e pepe for example, Well, you may say, keep it simple, don't muck about with the classics. But you'd be wrong. There might be octopus with pumpkin, grapefruit or capers, or toast with veal tongue, black garlic and salsa verde.
Diving into the primi piatti I had gnocchi (not normally a favourite) all'astice, that's to say with a lobster sauce. Oh, such a sauce, the base a stock made from the shells, delicately seasoned with just a hint of herbs, then topped with generous chunks of crustacean. The menu changes four times a year, so the chill weather seemed absolutely the right time to have fettucine al ragout di cinghiale, a sauce of wild boar. Showstoppers both.
The tone of the mains varied widely. You could go decadent with a classic Filleto Rossini, foie gras and truffle atop your beef fillet: or you could go simple - fish of the day: or somewhere in between. Pigeon, redcurrant, pearl onion and Jerusalem artichoke, for example, or my selection, braised veal cheek with celeriac and mushrooms, a gloriously earthy winter concoction. L was equally delighted with a sea bream which came with veg and a butter sauce.
Incanto serves dinner only. It's a rickety, rackety place on two levels above the street. Following the style of the food, the serving staff are Italian, from as far afield as Naples, Puglia and Sardinia. You reach the top floor via a vertiginous staircase. I'm certain that a few of them had some sort of mountain goat genes in their ancestry. There was an older server, a lean, stylish gentleman. Which part of Italy are you from? I asked. Amsterdam, came the reply. Another remarkable discovery was the this quintessentially Italian place is wholly owned by Roelos, a suave Dutchman, who has been in the restaurant game for years. Covid was, of course, disastrous for Incanto, but when it was over, all the staff returned. Not only is Roelos getting the food right, his staff relations must be spot on too. I've seldom encountered a more cheerful front of house brigade.
Any off notes? None, unless you count one of the stupider customer moments. A group of four arrives, with a very young child in a large, modern style pram. Their table is on the top storey. I watch with horror as they try to negotiate the stair by manoeuvering the chair vertically - with the child still in the basket! Take the bairn off first and fold the chair, I scream silently. Thankfully sense prevailed in the nick of time. The only moment of tension in a remarkable restaurant experience.
Incanto? Well named. This place is magic.