“ Address: Neunkircherstr. 70, 66583, Spiesen-Elversberg „
On a recent trip back home to visit my parents we got caught up in a small cards tournament. Now, I am a terrible looser but an even worse winner. Having had a lucky streak that night I bet a dinner paid by me if I was to loose the final game. And of course I lost - and deservedly so given how cocky I had been all night.
Our choice fell on the Porta Romanaa Italian Restaurant in Spiesen-Elversberg. Spiesen-Elversberg is a tiny 16000 people community in the southwest of Germany. The region of Saarland is famous for its extensive broadleaf forests as well as good beers and wine. Traditional food here is, well, I would say it is very German - sausages, potatoes and cabbage. The Porta Romana is a lively Italian restaurant just off the main road through town that offers a tasty alternative to the usual German dishes.
We did not pre-book a table as we assumed that the restaurant would not be too busy mid-week. Surprisingly it did turn out to be quite full but with it being a lovely summer's night I guess most people felt more like going out than staying in and watching TV. When we arrived we were given a choice between sitting inside or in the conservatory that opened up to an outdoor area. With it being the height of summer we opted to sit in the conservatory which turned out to be very tastefully decorated and having a lovely view on the garden area. The rest of the restaurant was equally nice with light wooden furniture and plain colours. Thankfully the owner did not feel the need to use red and white checkerboard fabric or gaudy pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The waited that greeted us was perfectly lovely and had a gorgeous Italian accent. He took our drinks order and then quickly bought us the food menus. The soft drinks were all reasonably priced with around 1.50£ each for a big bottle of water and a medium coke. The restaurant also sports an extensive wine menu but with all of has having to get up early the next morning we stuck to soft drinks all night. The selection of red and white wines (mostly Italian for the former and German for the latter) were priced between 10£ and 30£ per bottle with a few cheaper house wines thrown into the mix.
We were enjoying our evening so far and I was pleasantly surprised by the low volume of the music. I just hate places where you have to scream to be understood over the cheesy pop music coming from the radio. Here we all really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere with people having a laugh during a good night out. There were a few children eating there as well but nobody minded and the restaurant is spacious enough to not be bothered by the conversations on the tables next to you. Porta Romana is certainly a more casual place with a homely atmosphere. No need to dress up to enjoy your pizza but still nice enough for a more fancy night out or a date.
Choosing food from the extensive menu was rather difficult given all the excellent sounding options. There is a big selection of starters, salads, meat dishes and of course pizza e pasta. We decided on a Chef Salad - I asked for a started size which was not on the menu but they were happy to prepare it for me; escargots in garlic butter and tomato bruschetta. All starters arrived within ten minutes and were all certainly much bigger than expected. My parents were happy with their choices and my salad was simply divine. The big bowl contained a mixed leaf salad with cabbage, carrots, salad cucumbers and boiled eggs. The whole thing was topped with grilled chicken stripes and warm mushrooms. The meat was perfectly flavoured and the mushrooms are certainly classed as an all-time favourite of mine from now on. However, the highlight of my salad was certainly the creamy dressing. By this point I was certainly regretting not to choose this as my main course.
The mains turned out to be an equally hard choice. Eventually we settled for Tortellini a la Panna (filled pasta in a creamy sauce with ham) for my mother; steak and peppercorn sauce for my father and Rigatoni a la Chef for me. The wait was a tiny bit on the long side but they really did have a busy night and the waiters were doing their best to work as efficiently as possible. We were having a great time and with the enormous size of the starters the half hour wait went very quickly. The mains arrived all at the same time and were - just as expected - huge. I guess this is very typical German; portions are very hearty and quite big. If you are on a diet than a holiday on Germany is certainly the wrong choice.
Anyway, back to the food. My pasta dish was one of the nicest tasting pasta dishes I had tasted outside Italy. The rigatoni were perfectly al dente and the creamy sauce incredibly tasty. It was flavoured with some sort of dark spirit (whisky, maybe brandy?) with grilled steak bites and mushrooms. No word of complaint here and even though it was a struggle I did finish the whole portion of it. Given that I was hardly able to walk back to the car after the huge portions I had that night it was a good thing that there was not more pasta on my plate.
My mother enjoyed her pasta as well but found the dish to be slightly on the rich side. She did like the sauce a lot but said that she would probably choose it with an unfilled type of pasta to make it a bit lighter. Although my dad enjoyed the sides and the peppercorn sauce a lot he found his steak to be too well done although he ordered it medium rare. To be honest, I am sure that they would have prepared him a new steak if he would have complained about it but he was a bit stubborn and ate it anyway. Both of them finished their dishes and we agreed that there was no way of fitting any dessert into our well-filled tummies anymore.
Towards the end of the evening we did not feel rushed to leave and staff did not push us to order further drinks or dessert. The bill came promptly when we asked for it. With under 50£ for three starters, three mains and various soft drinks we really could not complain about the value for money. All dishes were very tasty and prepared with fresh, high quality ingredients. I am not completely sure but I would say that all the pasta was home-made as well. The portion size was more than generous, making it almost pointless to choose starters. Next time we go we will probably have a couple of starters or a salad between us so we don't spoil our appetite for the main course.
Porta Romana is definitely one of my favourite restaurants in the area and we will certainly go there again. Although it is a bit out of the way of bigger cities it is certainly worth a detour if you find yourself in the region looking for a good dinner option. The great food and the relaxed atmosphere made for a very enjoyable and not too expensive evening. Staff had been kind and attentative throughout the entire night.
A couple of things that I would criticise are the toilets that are down a flight of step stairs. I pulled my calf muscle the week previous to our visit and manoeuvring the stairs was not fun. So unfortunately that is a No for wheelchair friendliness. My main complaint would be the lack of on-site parking. With it being a busy main road it can be a bit tricky finding a parking spot close-by.
Tel.: +49 (0) 6821 740880