It was Saturday afternoon and for the first time ever I felt like a tourist off one of the cruisers. Why? Because I was sitting in Ló Ristorante, an Italian place renowned for its authentic cucina milanesa and I was ordering (I feel embarrassed to admit this) a paella mixta. How did I come to be ordering this emblematic Spanish dish in an Italian restaurant?
Actually, there were some logical reasons involved. It was by no means a temporary aberration of a heat-exhausted mind. I got to the office very late on Saturday to read the day’s papers and it was 2.30pm when I left. I decided to do a review meal at one of the restaurants on the other side of Paseo Mallorca. At the back of my mind was the notion that I rather fancied a paella. However, after looking at the menus of half a dozen places, I decided to go Italian and have a fritto misto and ravioli at Ristorante Ló. Both dishes sounded right for the kind of hot weather we’ve been having. But before I could give my order, a Spanish woman who had been eating on the terrace came in tell the owner’s wife they had had a lovely meal and the paella was “muy buena”.
The paella notion that had been lurking at the back of my mind suddenly was right up front. If the paella was very much to the liking of this Spanish woman and the people she was with (presumably also Spanish), then that was a good enough recommendation for me. When I gave my order it was for a fritto misto and a paella mixta. But the owner’s wife suggested I have only a half portion of fritto misto because the full Monty plus the paella would possibly be too much for one person. The paella was very much to my liking — and for several reasons, the main one being that it was very much a dish of rice. The majority of cooks, both professional and amateur, forget this and add so many bits and bobs in the way of chicken, pork, fish and shellfish that there isn’t enough rice. That is a big mistake but it didn’t happen here. The rice was plentiful, properly cooked, slightly moist and with a nice touch of oil. It was also well populated with squid, cuttlefish, little langostinos, nuggets of monkfish, shelled mussels and some clams in the shell. Sitting atop the rice, and done separately, were some mussels in the shell and a biggish langostino and a cigala. They were juicy and not overcooked. That Spanish woman was right: this paella a la italiana is “muy buena”.
When you think about it, there’s no reason why a paella cooked by an Italian should be anything less than very good. Theoretically, we should be able to get a fine risotto in an Inca ‘celler’: good cooks simply interpret a recipe. A pianist doesn’t have to be Austrian to give a fine performance of one of Mozart’s 21 piano concertos. So if you’re in the centre of Palma and feel like a paella, don’t think twice about Ló: you’ll get a good one there. The fritto misto di mare wasn’t just a fine one, it was the best I have ever had and it was worth a great big 10.
Ló Ristorante, Paseo Mallorca 18, Palma. Tel:871-852018. Closed for dinner on Mondays and all day on Tuesdays. If you want to eat on the terrace, especially for dinner, then it’s always best to book because terraces can fill up either for lunch or dinner on any day of the week.
· Fritto misto, 9 euros
· Paella mixta, 17.50 euros
· 1 large caña, 3.50 euros
Total cost with VAT: 30 euros.