Divinis: Home sweet home, Italian style

When you enter the Divinis wine bar and restaurant you’re faced with a dilemma as to where you actually are. There’s ‘a little of everything here – a bit of a modern metropolitan restaurant, a bit of the familiar atmosphere of traditional southern Italy, and a bit of the great outdoors.

When the Italian Pino Confessa opened his Prague restaurant last June, he wanted to create a place that people would choose for either a business lunch or a dinner with friends. He and Luciano Belcap, an Italian designer, thus created a simple interior using basic elements: wood, glass, natural fabrics, and light.
The restaurant’s simple motto is consistent with its interior. “When our guests leave, they’ll leave happy,” Confessa says. “I wanted to create a restaurant where diners would feel relaxed and the food would taste home-made – flavorful, fresh, and very simple.” The inspiration for the project was based on his life, and it is reminiscent of his native country in all its beauty. Confessa has lived in Prague for over ten years, and he set up his restaurant mainly to provide what he missed in Prague – real Italian cooking and excellent wines from all over his homeland. The restaurant’s name suggests good times and a pleasant ambience, as Divinis is a play on two words – wine and God.
The restaurant’s main strengths are Italian wines, supplemented by French, Slovenian, and South African varietals. If you haven’t traveled all around Italy, you should ask for help when choosing from about 250 types of wine. Adrian Figura, the restaurant manager, came up with the selection on the wine list. He was inspired by his travels throughout his native land. Confessa’s favorites are Ribolla, a wine that is typical of those from Italy’s border area with Slovenia, and Vitovska. For reds, he recommends Kurni 2001 and Barbaresco DOCG Vürsú Starderi 2000. These are more expensive wines, the dearest being the Darmagi 1990, which costs over CZK 10,000. But if guests want to buy wine alone, disregarding the restaurant’s menu, they can enjoy a 25% discount.

Italians say if you want to drink you should eat, too – and this belief is borne out at Divinis. “Italians always eat three courses, but our guests usually choose only two. So we prepared our menu so that they can taste a little of everything,” Confessa explains. You can have a Parma ham appetizer that comes with Milanese salami, vegetables and cheese, or you can simply try a selection of Italian cheeses, most of which are ripened or unripened Italian types made from sheep, goat, or cow milk. From the main courses you can enjoy excellent pasta with Chinese pea pods, duck breast on oranges, or a seafood selection such as seabass in salt. The dessert menu changes as often as the main menu, with the exception of traditional Italian sorbet. Your sweet tooth will be delighted by the Divinis cake, which is always different and can even be tailored to your own wishes.

On Divinis’s menu the “less is more” rule applies. The culinary team, led by chef Nicolo Ferraro, tries to offer something new every time, so the menu is changed twice a week. In other words, each time you come here you will probably have something different. You won’t find any pizzas here – Italy’s greatest gastronomic export simply isn’t served. That’s because Ferrara has chosen to focus on specialties for true lovers of home-made Italian food, rather than only well-known dishes. This is appreciated by the restaurant’s patrons, who are mainly foreigners living in Prague as well as locals, but also by the tourists who drop in after visiting nearby historical landmarks.

Divinis – Wine bar
Týnská 23, Praha 1
tel.: 224 808 318
Mon-Sat 11-16, 18-24
www.divinis.cz
All cards acccepted

LIMELIGHT – New kid on the block

Photo: Dorothea Bylica

PRAGUE 2 DINING at Prague 9 prices? It may sound too good to be true, but that’s what patrons of this recently opened Vinohrady venue can expect. Owner Bohumil Spěvák and and Petr Tyrichtr have created a casual yet classy environment that caters to discriminating tastes for whom value is also important. Tyrichtr, who is also the chef, studied and plied his trade in the US and New Zealand. While his delicious daily specials are not to be missed, don’t let them keep you from trying menu mainstays like salmon baked in nori with wasabi-ginger mashed potatoes or tandoori chicken in coconut sauce with basmati rice. Bon appetit!

Mozaika, Nitranská 13, 130 00 Praha 3 tel.: 224 253 011

FARTHER AFIELD: Horse Academy

Photo by: archiv

Horse lovers and gourmets who often drive from Prague to Brno have already discovered the remote village of Radimovice, few kilometers off the highway and not far from Velké Popovice. The restaurant at the Horse Academy riding center is famous for its well lit, modern interior with a view of the covered riding halls and the “Celtic” garden, as well as for its home cooking. While the menu changes every week, favorites include stuffed chicken with mashed potatoes and steak with cheese sauce, salad, and home-baked bread. There is a blazing fireplace in winter, and an open terrace in summer. If you prefer eating in the countryside, you can choose from picnic baskets, blankets, sandwiches or meat, or a bottle of wine (about CZK 200 per person). Reservations are recommended, particularly if you want to ride horseback (CZK 700 per hour) before you eat.

Horse Academy
Radimovice, tel.: 724 264 856, 11 am to 11 pm daily except Mondays
Visa, MC, EC, www.horseacademy.cz, info@horseacademy.cz
How to get there: From Prague, take the D1 highway towards Brno, exit 15 – Velké Popovice, Stránčice, after Velké Popovice take your first right, towards Petříkov, Modletice. Horse Academy is in the middle of a field on the right side after Petříkov. Distance from Prague: 20 km.

Photo by: Pavel Veselý

MY PLACE

Petr Fejk,
director, Zoo Praha

“To be frank, I’m no gourmet. I don’t exactly live to eat, and I like what I know and am used to. Also, I’m not willing to spend too much on food. So I choose restaurants more for pleasant ambience, good staff, and willingness to allow dogs inside and tolerate little children. For all these reasons I go with my family to, for example, La Rustika for chicken dishes, or to Cantina for Mexican cuisine. Another of my favorites is Století, which features sophisticated European cuisine. I typically have an engaging chat with the managers of all three restaurants about life, work, and food, so I’m always satisfied on my way out.”

La Rustika - Donská 11, Praha 10, tel.: 271 740 474,
Cantina - Újezd 38, Praha 1, tel.: 257 317 173,
Století - Karoliny Světlé 21/320, Praha 1, tel.: 222 220 008

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