On The Front Line...PG's Restaurant and Wine Bar is the New Gem of Tower Isle


On The Front Line...PG's Restaurant and Wine Bar is the New Gem of Tower Isle

Thursday, June 04, 2020

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Pierluigi Ricci is no stranger to the local culinary scene, nor, for that matter, the one in London where, in his early teens, he began working with his father at the celebrated Italian restaurant Bianchi's in Soho. Ricci, PG to his loyal customers and friends, was the chef at Harmony Hall destination Toscanini for 21 years. Late last summer it served its last caprese. Now, he's back at it! Cooking excellent food made with top-quality fresh ingredients in the kitchen of a restaurant that bears his name.

PG's Restaurant and Wine Bar is located on the same side of the road, 300 yards from his former stomping grounds. The landlords, who are long-time customers, wanted two things — a restaurant in the area and to keep Ricci and his food close by. Thursday Food can't blame them. If you're ever able to spend an afternoon with Ricci, do it. He is, in a word, fascinating! His stories about his life in the kitchen — across the Pond and on The Rock — will have you mesmerised.

When asked what some of the highlights have been since the opening of PG's, Ricci shared, “There's a couple from Rhode Island who winter in Jamaica, and they have dined here every night of their stay.” There are repeat customers then there are loyal customers; Ricci tends to produce the latter. The couple mentioned above will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary with friends and family at PG's later this season. Ricci loves seeing “old faces” from his days at Toscanini; however, what thrills him is welcoming first-time diners who immediately return the next day. Which happens a lot. Yes, folks, the food is that good.

The menu at PG's is driven by seasonality, availability and freshness. There are the mainstays; however, the specials chalkboard bursting with daily gems — like sprat cakes in marinara — are inspired by what the chef's network of local fishermen and farmers provide that day. Note, all the seafood served at PG's is caught in local waters, and if customers don't see something they want on the menu, as long as Ricci has the ingredients, he'll make it. To complement the menu is a wine list that, in addition to Ricci's private collection, boasts 111 bottles sourced from CPJ Wines, Arosa, and Select Brands. “Eventually, I want to have the best wine cellar in Jamaica,” said Ricci.

Thursday Food's meal comprised homemade focaccia with herbed butter, tuna tartare, pappardelle with rucola pesto, snapper acqua pazza, herbed lobster, duck with pineapple and ginger, profiteroles and tiramisu. We don't have to mention that everything at PG's Restaurant and Wine Bar was expertly executed. We are talking about a veteran chef here. What Thursday Food will wax poetic about are the flavours of Ricci's dishes, some which left us in a meditative state all the way back to Kingston.

Thursday Food maintains that it's in the simplicity of things that you find true beauty and PG's homemade focaccia with herbed butter will tempt diners to fill up on bread before the meal. Pillowy, salty, and chewy, the focaccia was perfect with and without the accompanying compound herbed butter. The tuna tartare was divine and sensuous. Put it this way, were it personified it would easily get half of the assets in a divorce settlement! In essence, it's the MacKenzie Bezos of dishes. The creamy unctuousness of the fresh-caught tuna combined with the sharp acidity of citrus and earthiness of herbs made this such a joy to eat.

The fresh handmade pappardelle enrobed in a bright marinara sauce and topped with generous shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano and rucola (arugula) pesto was a carnival for the mouth. An excellent pasta dish isn't afraid to allow the sauce to shine. Think of it like Denzel Washington: He knows he's who you're here for but will always give the co-star room to shine. The co-stars here were the marinara and peppery pesto that honestly deserve an award nomination.

When the seafood is this fresh, it doesn't have to be gussied-up. The snapper was prepared all'acqua pazza (a simple Italian preparation that traditionally uses seawater, tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil). The fillets were gently poached in a tomato broth that was as light as the fingers of a Roman pickpocket. The dish was elegant as it was delightful; simply prepared with herbs and drawn butter, the plump lobster dish was excellent.

The duck was juicy and satisfying. The pineapple-ginger sauce (during Christmas Ricci serves the duck with a sorrel sauce) sang beautifully, and the nuanced notes of warm spices combined with the richness of the protein made for satisfying forkfuls. Even the vegetables that accompanied the mains were delicious. Hot tip: ensure that you order extra sides of the roasted pumpkin and potatoes. You're welcome.

Profiteroles and tiramisu rounded out the meal. Ricci uses a pastry cream recipe that's, in our estimation, evocative of zabaglione (a divine Italian custard) and isn't too sweet. The tiramisu replaces ladyfingers with sponge cake, and that isn't obvious until you're staring at the last bite and utter “Huh!” before savouring.

PG's Restaurant and Wine Bar feels like being welcomed into Ricci's home. “I am not married, but I have 14 children,” he quips, referring to his staff. Fun fact: he kept his team from Toscanini, ensuring that they were financially stable until the opening of this venture. The combination of food (there, too, is a casual pizzeria at the front of the restaurant), service and atmosphere don't make you miss Ricci's past; it makes you excited to join him as he embarks on a bright and delicious future.



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