A taste of Italy in the middle of Copenhagen

TEXT: LOUISE OLDER STEFFENSEN | PHOTOS © PIZZERIA 54

Back in 2011, childhood friends Morten Kaltoft and Emil Alsbo decided to take the leap and open up an Italian restaurant in a former tanning salon cellar in Vesterbro, realising a dream that the chef and the artist had shared for many years. Today, they are the joint owners of three Italian restaurants in Copenhagen – Pizzeria 54, Osteria 16 and Spaghetteria – and that is just the beginning of their dolce vitae.

“Morten has trained in Italy, and we’ve both travelled there extensively,” Alsbo explains. “We love the Italians’ relaxed, casual approach to food as well as to life more generally, and it was something that we wanted to bring to Copenhagen. The food scene here has been excellent for many years, but it tends to get caught up in the nitty gritty and obsess about fine dining. Here, we want everyone to just relax and enjoy some good food and company.”

The restaurants are related in their culinary styles and simple decorative approaches, but each comes with its own twist. Antipasti and pizzas are in focus at Pizzeria 54, while Spaghetteria offers diners a set course of antipasti offerings before a concluding pasta dish, all of which regularly change in accordance with the seasons and trends from Italy. Osteria 16, meanwhile, provides a more casual dining experience but boasts an equally kaleidoscopic menu. Like its siblings, it is the benefactor of ever-changing dishes and seasonal ingredients imported directly from Italy: one of the pair’s latest ventures was the acquisition of a vineyard in Piemonte, the fruits of which are naturally also served at the restaurants in Vesterbro.

“Managing the vineyard and having to source all our ingredients in Italy is a great excuse for us to go there often,” Alsbo admits, “but the full, sun-sweetened Italian flavour palette really is integral to our restaurants. Morten’s dishes capture the simplicity and honesty of the traditional Italian kitchen, and they simply wouldn’t work as well with Danish ingredients: the colours, smells and simple elegance of Italian dishes are little artworks in themselves.”

A few favourite dishes have become steadfast placements on the menus, including Alsbo’s recommendations of bitter puntarelle salad and squid-based polpo carpaccio. New thinking both inside and outside the kitchen is key to the pair’s success, however. “Continual development is what continues to make it fun both for us and for our regular customers,” Alsbo concludes. “There’s always a new dish or a returning seasonal favourite to look forward to.”

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