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Restaurant Relais Picasso in Rome
The restaurant with Chef Jean-François Daridon at Hotel Raphael with the roof top terrace Bramante overlooking Rome

Added on August 11, 2009
Please not that the roof restaurant is closed on Mondays, the roof bar however open all week.

Article added on March 15, 2007
Since 1996, the French Chef Jean-François Daridon cooks at the restaurant Relais Picasso in Hotel Raphael in Rome. He offers Mediterranean cuisine and Asian dishes on a high level. Although Italian dishes are in the foreground, the cooking techniques are French. However, he has largely replaced the French butter and cream with Italian olive oil.

In addition to Mediterranean dishes, he offers Asian, especially Thai and Japanese delicacies. He became familiar with Asian cuisine when he was the opening chef for three restaurants in New York in the mid-1980s. At the Relais Picasso, he introduced the exotic Asian touch only in 2003. With Jean-François Daridon, vegetarians are well served.

The menu changes every two to four weeks. Some classics however remain over the years. The chef uses fresh and seasonal produce. The plates at the Relais Picasso were created by Daridon's wife, the ceramic artist Franca Vit; they are inspired by the works of Pablo Picasso.

Since 2005, I have eaten several times at both the Relais Picasso as well as at the hotel's roof top terrace Bramante with its breathtaking 360 degrees panoramic view, ranging from St. Peter's to the Castel Sant'Angelo, from the Tiber to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Piazza Venezia, from the Pantheon to San Luigi dei Francesi, from Palazzo Quirinale to Piazza di Spagna.

In 2005, the Relais Picasso was my favorite restaurant in entire Rome and until today, 2007, it remains one of my hot recommendations. Given below are two short descriptions of dinners in the previous years. L.G.

A dinner at the roof top terrace Bramante
Tested in September 2006 by Mme Bolasco and Louis Gerber (vegetarian dinner)

Only a few places in Rome offer a view as spectacular as the terrace Bramante. An evening up here is a winner even before (lunch or) dinner starts with the usual Prosecco Foss Marai, a recommendable sparkling wine from the Veneto offered to all dinner guests by the house.

As an appetizer, the prawn cocktail with avocado and grapefruit in a pink sauce with cognac, was convincing both in its ingredients and in its composition. The prawns were fresh and fleshy, the pink sauce a hot and unusual composition consisting of mayonnaise, cognac, ketchup and tabasco.

The main course, Thai pork ribs (Mou Phat Priao Wan) with soy sprouts and oyster sauce (with ginger and soy sauce) just needed a little extra of soy sauce by the waiter to be perfect.

The dessert, a chocolate and coffee ice cream was not homemade, but came from Giolitti, at least an excellent choice. The ristretto in the end was perfect, even for a spoilt Italian.

The vegetarian appetizer, a salad of feta cheese, cucumber, pachino tomatoes from Sicily and black olives convinced with the freshness of its ingredients. For white wine, the waiter recommended - as in 2005 - a Pinot Grigio from the Colli Orientali del Friuli, L. Felluga, but this time not a bottle from 2003, but one from 2005. The experience was as enjoyable as in the previous year.

The first course, a springtime risotto (although it was September) with broad beans, zucchini, zucchini flowers, eggplants and peas were best in taste with an extra Parmigiano Reggiano added.

As a greeting, the chef sent a cold, light and fresh Gaspacho, a Spanish tomato soup spiced up with chili, paprika, cucumber and garlic. After this refreshing interlude, the second course was served: zucchini flowers filled with ricotta cheese and herbs (parsley, basil and origano), baked in the oven. A simple but successful dish, accompanied by a glas of Soave Classico from La Rocca Pieropan 2002 from the Veneto, a white wine with a richer body than the Pinot Grigio.

The inspiring warm September evening on the terrace ended with a chocolate mousse with orange and Grand Marnier, unfortunately garnished with unnecessary white chocolate chips, which made the excellent dessert too heavy; I just had to put them aside. My second dessert, a chocolat Liègeois, a chocolate ice cream with hot chocolate and whipped cream was also nothing for people on a diet. But that's what Hotel Raphael has a gym for.

A dinner at the restaurant Relais Picasso
2005 tested by Mme Bolasco (dinner) and Louis Gerber (vegetarian dinner)

As always at Relais Picasso, an evening begins with an excellent glass of Prosecco Foss Marai extra dry from Valdobbiadene, offered by the house. Later, on the recommendation of the sommelier, we chose a Pinot Grigio from the Colli Orientali del Friuli, L. Felluga '03. A very fresh, aromatic and dry wine which comes from near Udine. In addition, three types of bred were served (white, pizza and olive bred).

The refined exotic salad with tuna showed the Asian influence in the restaurant, a well-studied composition of aromas. The following filet on green pepper with broccoli and eggplant was extremely tender and prepared to the point. The pepper sauce was well-balanced and aromatic, without taking away the filet's taste. The final chocolate mousse was as brilliant as the rest of the dinner.

The vegetarian dinner started also with an excellent exotic salad, just without tuna. Among other ingredients, it was composed of pineapple, currants, palm hearts and mozzarella. The first course consisted of ricotta-ravioli with walnuts and rocket pesto, which left no desire unfulfilled. The second course, a Trevisan radicchio and eggplants backed with parmesan on fresh tomato demonstrated that, at Relais Picasso, only the best ingredients are used. The dessert, a creamy black and white chocolate mousse, garnished with chocolate chips, was as subtle and perfect as the stracciatella and chocolate ice creams with pistachio. Among the three fine restaurants tested in Rome in 2005, Relais Picasso was the winner.

Biography of chef Jean-François Daridon

Jean-François Daridon was born in Rennes, in the Bretagne, on April 24, 1949. Already as a ten year old boy, he came into contact with the cuisine. Returning from school, before doing his homework, he  preferred to make himself a brioche and to read cookbooks. From 1964 to 1967, he obtained his cooking diploma (C.A.P.) at the Collège Technique Clemenceau in Rennes. He spent his years of apprenticeship (1964-67) at the restaurant Le Relais d'Alsace in Rennes. From 1967 to 1968, he worked as commis de cuisine under chef Jacques Benoît at the restaurant Le Hameau de l'Elysée in Paris. In 1968, he was the private chef of the Countess De Sesswalle on her Italian castle in Chiusa-Bolsano. In 1969 and 1970, he was the private chef in the castle of General Saint-Hillier. In 1970 and 1971, Daridon worked as chef de partie in the restaurant Ippocampo in the Italian city of Ponza. In addition, in 1971, he also had his first appointment as chef de cuisine in a public restaurant, at Les Genets in the French city of Carnac. In 1972, Jean-François Daridon became appointed head chef at the famous hotel Eden Roc (Relais & Châteaux) in Ajaccio in Corsica. In the winter seasons of 1972-73 and 1974-75, he was the head chef at the four-star luxury hotel Le Zenith in the fashionable French ski resort Courchevel. During his time, the hotel and restaurant were frequented by the Kennedy and the Onassis families as well as the families of the royal house of Denmark and of the Netherlands. In 1974, Daridon was the chef at the restaurant La Bocca Mia in Perugia where, from 1975 to 1978, he worked as chef and owner of the restaurant. From 1979 to 1984, he was the chef and owner of the restaurant Le Golf in Perugia and, from 1984 to 1996, of the restaurant Le Coq au Vin, also in Perugia, where he became a friend of the famous pasta family Buitoni. In 1984, he was also the opening chef of three restaurants in New York. Since 1996, Jean-François Daridon is the head chef at the Restaurant Relais Picasso and the connected roof terrace Bramante, both in the quiet and elegant Hotel Raphael in Rome. L.G.

The roof top terrace Bramante. Photo © Hotel Raphael, Rome.

View of the restaurant Relais Picasso. Photo ©
Hotel Raphael, Rome.

The hotel façade c
overed with bougainvillea and ivy. Photo © Hotel Raphaël, Rome.

French chef Jean-François Daridon.
Photo © Hotel Raphael, Rome.
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