I had the pleasure of dining twice in a two week period at the recent addition to the Chorrillos restaurant scene, Ballaró Ristorante. Italian chef, Elio Gulino (hailing from Ragusa, Sicily) and his Peruvian wife, Jenny Durand Falcone, are partners at Ballaró which has been open for five months. Previously, they were located for several years in Cusco with their restaurant, Pasta Nostra.
Balleró is located in a very unassuming white building and you could easily have a difficult time locating it. As you enter Balleró, you step into the elegant bar area and immediately feel relaxed. The decor inside of the two-story Balleró is simple and charming and has a Mediterranean feel with clean, minimalistic white walls throughout, sparingly placed Italian-inspired photos and tables with white tablecloths. The capacity of the restaurant is for 40 people, but it feels much larger. All of the tables are spaced out and not crammed together which allows for “conversation-friendly” discussions. Several areas inside of the restaurant are ideal for private meetings and a few with a beautiful view of the ocean and the rustic fishing boats. The third floor rooftop has lots of future potential for al fresco dining if they should ever decide to expand, along with more spectacular ocean views.
_(Photo: Marco Simola)_
We enjoyed a couple of excellent chilcanos with ginger and a glass of crisp white wine while we waited to experience the first dishes at Ballaró. If you are not in the mood for alcohol, the _limonada de hierbabuena_ (spearmint limeade) is a pleasant, refreshing option.
At Ballaró you should not expect big, heaping portions that you might typically find in Italian-style restaurants in Peru. Expect European-sized portions, which are moderate in size, but huge on quality of ingredients. All of the pastas are made fresh on the premises. Most menu items are made to order as well.
We began our dining experience at Ballaró with a couple starters. The carpaccio di filetto was delicious and satisfying: tender, raw slices of filet mignon drizzled with extra virgen olive oil and accompanied by capers, arugula, generous Parmesan Reggiano cheese shavings and a squeeze of lime juice. It was well seasoned and not one ingredient overpowered any of the others. Too often I have been served carpaccio that has an over abundance of salt or cheese, or is drowning in olive oil. This version of carpaccio fit the bill.
The parmigiana de melanzone consisted of roasted eggplant, tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and Parmesan Reggiano cheese baked until the cheese was melted. This was a glorious bowl of Italian comfort food. Our photographer, Marco Simola, who hails from Italy, told us that this dish was “almost” as good as his Mama’s version.
_(Photo: Marco Simola)_
I am always gravitating towards dishes with fresh mozzarella and Balleró’s version of caprese salad (insalata caprese) was perfect in every way for me. Excellent quality fresh mozzarella balls, ripe tomatoes and basil were drizzled with the perfect amount of extra virgen olive oil and seasoned perfectly with salt and pepper. The salad, for me personally, was ideal in its simplicity.
A large portion of the menu at Balleró is devoted to pasta. They offer at least 15 pasta dishes, not including the gnocchi, ravioli, lasagna and risotto. Many of the ingredients used in the dishes at Balleró have been imported directly from Italy. The linguine alla Bottarga is one such dish. I actually requested this dish since I had it before at other Italian restaurants and found it to have unique flavor. Bottarga is the dried, pressed roe of mullet, tuna or swordfish which is sold in blocks and is shaved or grated over Italian dishes. It is sometimes referred to as “poor man’s caviar”. It is vacuum-packed for import. Balleró serves an excellent bottarga using a tuna version which was imported directly from Sicily. They finely grate this over their fresh linguine along with extra virgen olive oil, garlic and parsley. This dish is aggressive in flavor with a salty, briny flavor and is not for the faint of heart. That being said, this dish was one of the favorites at our table.
The Linguine al Frutti di Mare is a popular Italian seafood pasta dish and we found it to be simple and flavorful, incorporating the typical ingredients of fresh linguine, tomatoes, calamari, shrimp, sea scallops, and parsley.
We decided to sample one of the five dishes offered from the main dishes section and were advised that the Scaloppine al Marsala was quite popular. The thinly sliced, round, tender slices of beef in a rich Marsala sauce was quite delicious. We opted for the mashed potatoes (puré de papas) as our side. All of the main dishes come with your choice of mashed potatoes, fried potatoes or a green salad. This dish was most definitely comfort food. The beef had been roasted between 6 to 8 hours and was tender. The Marsala wine sauce was delicious and the mashed potatoes were perfect to get every last drop of this decadent sauce.
Both of our desserts were the perfect way to end our dining experience at Ballaró. The vanilla panna cotta (Panna Cotta di Vaniglia) was exquisite and definitely the table favorite. This traditional Milanese flan had a vanilla base (a generous amount of vanilla bean was visible) and was accented with aguaymantos and a light vanilla sauce. It was perfect in consistency and texture as well as both light and creamy. This is an ideal dessert for any panna cotta lover.
The tiramisu was prepared with Italian sponge cake (pan di Spagna), coffee, mascarpone cheese, cocoa and fresh whipping cream. I found this to be an excellent version. Many times ladyfinger cookies are used to prepare the tiramisu, but incorporating the sponge cake made this tiramisu more compact and dense. The flavor was wonderful.
_(Photo: Marco Simola)_
I returned a week later to Ballaro with a group of five people. We ordered five of the starters on the menu. Besides the carpaccio and parmigiana di melanzone and the caprese salad, we decided to also order the antipasto platter (Antipasti All’ Italiana “Ballaró”) and the cheese platter (Selezione di Formaggi Italiano). Both of these platters come with slices of grilled baguette. The antipasti platter held a variety of Italian meats such as: mortadella, salami, prosciutto, cured ham and coppa (a cold cut of dry-cured sausage). The cheese platter consisted of a variety of semi-soft and hard Italian cheeses such as: taleggio, provolone, Gorgonzola, pecorino and gran padano. Both platters used a very high quality of meats and cheeses. To be honest, after enjoying all of these starters, we could have probably ended our meal, but we decided to order several pasta dishes to share.
A couple of us at our table are fans of pasta carbonara so we ordered the Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Ballaró’s version had the flavor components of the dish, but I felt a few things were lacking for my taste. The spaghetti could have been more tender and prepared a bit more al dente. I also found the sauce to be a bit too mild, I have been preparing and perfecting this dish in my own kitchen for many years and perhaps I prepare mine with a heavier hand. I felt the sauce was missing a bit of the acid from a touch of white vinegar and could have been richer and creamier by perhaps using more butter or cream. Ballero’s version lists bacon, egg, black pepper and parmigiano reggiano.
Our table also ordered and shared the ricotta and spinach ravioli served with a butter, sage and parmigiano cheese sauce as well as the gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce. The soft texture of the ravioli and the sauce enhanced the simplicity of this dish. If you are a fan of gnocchi, do not skip them at Ballero. This was a perfect rendition of gnocchi and the creamy Gorgonzola cheese sauce did not overpower the dish, but only enhanced it for me. If you are not a fan of this cheese, there are a couple other sauce options available. On my next visit, I will definitely order either one or both these dishes. They were spectacular and it was quite obvious that they were homemade by their incredible freshness.
The quality of the ingredients and the care in the preparation of the dishes at Ballaró has inspired me to return soon to explore their menu further.
Malecón Grau 1157
Lunch: 12:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Evenings: 7:30 p.m.-11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
Capacity: 40 people
Starters/Appetizers: S/. 18-45
Pastas: S/. 28-34
Lasagnas: S/. 30-36
Gnocchi: S/. 26-32
Risottos: S/. 36
Ravioli: S/. 29
Main Dishes/Secondi: S/. 34-49
Desserts: S/. 15-20
Beer: S/. 8-12
Cocktails: S/. 16-18
Liquors: S/. 10-40
Non-Alcoholic Beverages: S/. 4-8
Wine list available