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Rome: A beautiful lunch at Hotel de Russie, a Rocco Forte Hotel

PHOTO: Courtyard views from the Picasso Suite level at Hotel de Russie, a Rocco Forte Hotel (c) Sery Kim

Exquisitely designed and conveniently located in the heart of historic Rome, the 122-bedroom Hotel de Russie sits on Rome’s fashionable Via del Babuino, between the Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo. Hotel de Russie is one of two Rocco Forte Hotel in the city and, in my opinion, the better of the two, the absolute perfect respite from a busy tourist day. If anyone loves luxury like I do, then this is an absolute must-stay/must-visit.

Designed by world-famous architect Tommaso Ziffer, Hotel de Russie is probably most well known for its iconic Secret Garden designed by Valadier. This tranquil oasis in the middle of bustling Rome, full of orange trees and antique roses, also has as a soaring backdrop the grounds of Villa Borghese. Indulge in The Secret Garden's Stravinskij Bar, one of the city’s best spots for cocktails and classic Italian aperitivo, and Le Jardin de Russie Restaurant, overseen by the illustrious, Michelin-starred Chef Fulvio Pieranelini, with its superb Mediterranean cuisine.

PHOTO: The impeccable Ravioli Cacio e Pepe, the best thing I have had to eat in Rome (c) Sery Kim

During my recent visit this past Thursday, I had the good fortune to have sensational 70 degree weather for my lunch with not a cloud in sight. This was my first visit to Le Jardin de Russie, and it was the ideal environment to indulge in the best lunch I have had in Rome. While I could have sat outside to enjoy the view, unfortunately all the canopy tables were taken. Since I have been trying hard to take better care of my skin -- so I don't end up with a zillion sun spots as I age -- I sat inside. Having seen my indecisiveness, of course the restaurant team put me at the best table, the one nearest to the windows with views of both The Secret Garden as well as Villa Borghese.

PHOTO: The Hotel de Russie Spritz (c) Sery Kim

I really indulged myself with lunch, and while this may sound completely hyperbolic, it was without question the best lunch I've ever had in Rome.

I binged my way through four courses, with a fantastic Aperol Spritz. For my first course, I had one of the Classic “Focaccine” (pizza bread). All are made with light organic flour and available with a variety of topping. I had the following option "with tomato, mozzarella and basil" (V) €16. It arrived piping hot, and upon the first taste of its light dough with its generous layer of tomato I was transported to a very happy place. The dough, surprisingly, had a closer consistency to the flaky croissants in the heart of Paris, though a bit more dense. I literally could have eaten about a dozen of these pizza breads!

For my second course, I skipped the appetizer/salad section and went for two choices from the pasta section.

PHOTO: Spaghetti “Pomodoro e Basilico” (c) Sery Kim

It was recommend to me by the PR representative of the hotel to try the Spaghetti “Pomodoro e Basilico” (V) €20 so of course I did and was glad to have done so. The pasta, naturally, was perfectly cooked and the tomato sauce which I had just experienced in my foccacia was delightful, hearty yet not rich. If you can say this about tomato sauce, it tasted healthy yet wonderful.

Of course, the best thing I ate at Le Jardin de Russie was the aforementioned Ravioli Cacio e Pepe. The ravioli arrived in an artful presentation and the way the ravioli broke away with the slightest nudge of my fork really surprised me. I am so used to American ravioli which is dense and hard. This ravioli was thin, like confectionary ribbons of pasta, and it looks almost too beautiful to eat ... almost. I must have demolished this dish in 10 minutes, only taking time to put down my fork so I could make every memory of the aromatic taste linger.

If you can eat only one pasta in Rome, then you want to eat THIS pasta at THIS restaurant.

PHOTO: Entree Veal “Milanese” with saffron rice tart and french beans (c) Sery Kim

For my entree I had the Veal “Milanese” with saffron rice tart and french beans €38. Again, I sound like a broken record but this was the best Veal Milanese I have had -- and I have been to Milan! I really enjoyed the softness of the meat battered lightly, and the accompanying vegetables were as good as any dessert I have had. In fact, if every vegetable I ate was cooked so well I would be a skinny supermodel rather than an average American woman.

I skipped dessert, because at this point I was monstrously full, but I can only imagine it is just as good as everything else.

My only regret about my Hotel de Russie visit is that it was sold out so I couldn't stay but I will definitely be returning to stay at one of the two recently renovated suites.

PHOTO: The patio of the Picasso Suite (c) Sery Kim

Led by the Director of Design at Rocco Forte Hotels, Olga Polizzi, the recently re-done Picasso and Popolo Suites were reimagined to further reflect the property’s Italian heritage. The Popolo Suite is characterized by oranges, purples, and yellows that echo papal Rome, but I vastly prefer The Picasso Suite which offers a stunning view of the Secret Garden at the hotel and includes Italian pieces created by Veridiani and some furniture designed by the San Patrignano community.

When I saw the Picasso Suite my first thought was "I want to get married here," which is probably my highest compliment, though I preferred the more muted shades of the Popolo Suite.

PHOTO: View from the expansive balcony of the Popolo Suite (c) Sery Kim

Additional features of the hotel include a spa, with a variety treatments at Spa de Russie. The brand recently launched a brand-wide spa concept, Rocco Forte Spas, and the new program has four components that combine treatments with beauty products, fitness and food.

Whether you come to stay or eat or spa, be sure to not let your Rome experience complete without a visit to this stunning hotel. You won't regret it!

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