Jamie’s Italian seeks the balance between class and comfort.
It was only a matter of time: The gastronomic empire of British chef Jamie Oliver has found its way to Vienna, opening its first branch in a German-speaking country at the end of last year. Seating over 200 guests on two floors, Jamie’s Italian, created by Oliver and his mentor, Italian chef Gennaro Contaldo, preaches the TV personality’s ethos of “simple, delicious food” with high quality ingredients and dishes made from scratch. Their sizable menu covers an array of typical Italian fare with a few surprise dishes. Pizza, pasta and antipasti all feature, favoring colloquial, informal descriptors like “oozy” or “garlicky” over more elaborate eateries.
Their ambiance underlines this philosophy of low-key refinement: Upon entering guests are greeted by warm lighting from art deco shades as the bar opens up ahead. Beyond that, the glow from the kitchen illuminates chefs buzzing about, dressing their dishes beneath the overhanging foliage of chilli, garlic and legs of ham. The contrast of the monochromatic tiled floor emblazoned with “Jamie’s” in bronze at the entrance toys playfully with sophistication.
The walls are adorned with photos of their dishes and faded prints of Oliver at a vegetable market, grinning down at the diners. As trendy RnB of the kind you’d expect to hear in a coffee shop played quietly in the background, a middle-aged couple of couples tested their selfie stick and a young woman tore into a lamb chop while her date waited for the ideal moment to take a photo. Slightly overhead, some 200 Campari bottles line a rack running almost the width of the premises.
The staff is friendly and relaxed, guiding patrons through the extensive menu and advising as needed, comfortable in both German and English. I chose Lamb Chops Scottadito (€24.75) and a glass of the house red, an Italian Primitivo (€5.40), which was on the sweet side with a distinct, dark cherry taste. I was told the word scottadito translates to “burned fingers” – because the lamb chops are so tasty you’ll want to eat them straight from the grill.
After a short while, the waiter arrived with two tins of Italian tomatoes. Placing them in front of me, I couldn’t help but wonder whether he was having me on or if I had landed in one of those ghastly joints that scorn plates. A few moments later he returned to place a wooden board on the tins, painted in pastel shades like the front of a seaside beach hut. On top were six terracotta bowls filled with the grilled lamb and various sides – crushed nuts, fresh mint leaves, pickled red onions, creamy homemade aioli with a fresh lemon edge and polenta chips. The lamb, living up to its nickname, was perfectly tender and pink and the DIY assembly of the dish was an enjoyable quirk that highlighted each of the composite flavors. My cutlery went entirely untouched.
For dessert, I ordered the Epic Chocolate Brownie (€8.75). More than satisfying with vanilla ice cream and caramelized popcorn, my only gripe was the improper use of the word “epic.” Still, while it may not have arrived with pyrotechnics, it was well suited to go with the Primitivo.
All in all, there’s much to be said for the equipoise of different styles assimilated in Jamie Oliver’s vision of Italian dining. From the premises, décor and service to the dishes and the ingredients, it’s a well-considered blend of informal sophistication that perfectly illustrates his philosophy: eating well need not be such a fuss.
Jamie’s Italian Vienna, 1., Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Platz 5, (01) 512 16 45, Mon-Sun 11:30-23:00, jamieoliver.com