As any great chef will tell you, the key to good Italian cooking is the ingredients you use.
No matter how good the recipe, your dish just isn’t going to turn out right if you try to substitute real San Marzano tomatoes with Mexican tomatillos or switch the Salerno buffalo mozzarella for a less expensive Monterrey jack.
Plainly put, Italian cooking is all about great ingredients lovingly prepared in accordance with simple recipes passed down from generation to generation, usually in the family kitchen which is the heart and soul of every Italian household.
And it is precisely with that vision of authenticity and quality raw materials that the newly opened Mercato Ballarò restaurant in Colonia Roma Norte has staked its future.
Housed inside a refurbished mansion dating from Mexico’s Porfirio Díaz era and graced by pastel frescos copied from Pompeii in Italy, the restaurant is a combination of bakery, pastry shop, pizza parlor and cocktail bar, with sleek wood furnishings and an open kitchen where guests can watch their meals being prepared.
The name Ballarò — which is borrowed from Palmero’s main market — is a hint as to the type of gastronomy the eatery has to offer, mainly downhome Sicilian cooking with a touch of upscale flair.
“What we have tried to do with Ballarò is make it a place where every bite of food transports our guests to Italy,” explained Pierantonio Falorio, the restaurant’s head chef, during a press preview of the Ballarò a few days before its opening last month.
“All of our ingredients are authentic, and we follow traditional recipes to the letter.”
Not surprisingly, pizzas dominate the menu, all made from fresh dough and baked in a brick oven.
The wild mushroom pizza is superb.
All the pastas and breads at Ballarò are handmade from high-end semolina flour imported from Italy.
There are specialty breads, including some made from dough with Bordeaux wine, coffee beans from Chiapas and basil, all of which are available to accompany your meal.
For starters, try the panelle e crochette, a Sicilian favorite composed of small squares of chickpea flour batter sandwiched around a filling of prosciutto and deep-fried.
Another worthwhile appetizer option is the melted fortina, mascarpone and brie melted cheese pie served with polenta.
The three-cheese ravioli and the baked lasagna with spinach are both utterly sublime, and the grilled fish with lemon and basil is not to be missed.
For a hardier meal, try the grilled steak in chianti wine sauce, gently kissed with garlic and rosemary.
There is a wide variety of oven-fresh pastries to choose from for dessert, including an amaretto-soaked coconut cake and cream-filled profiteroles.
Ballarò has its own bar downstairs for more casual dining, and an ample wine cellar heavily weighted with Italian and Mexican labels.
Before you leave, go upstairs to Ballarò’s bakery shop and buy a baguette or some fresh rolls to take home for the next day.
Ballarò is located at Durango 216 in Colonia Roma Norte.
It is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight.
All major credit cards are accepted.
Valet parking is available in front.