Da Mimmo: La Dolce Vita

Louis Verstrepen, owner/chef of Da Mimmo © David Olkarny

Catherine Feore visits the award winning Italian restaurant which has recently been revitalized.

The residents of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert will not be strangers to Da Mimmo, for many years it has been a discreet presence on the corner of Avenue du Roi Chevalier and Avenue de Couronnement. It was swept up by the Litvine family in 2018 when its future looked uncertain. Chef Gerardo Metta took the helm in the kitchen, maintaining its illustrious Michelin star.  Since September 2022, chef Louis Verstrepen has become the owner and he is already making his mark and raising the bar; Gault & Millau recently designated Da Mimmo as the best Italian restaurant in Belgium, describing the cooking as “refined and creative”.

Louis Verstrepen is not the most Italian of names, but he explains that though he is 100% Belgian – but with a German Swiss grand parent – he has developed his craft in the south: “My influences and cooking have been formed by Mediterranean produce and traditions. We sometimes see a very cliched view of Italian cooking, pasta and pizza, but it’s so much richer and it isn’t very well known.” He is particularly passionate about sharing his love for Italian produce with a menu that is diverse and seasonal.

“Verstrepen has honed his skills in some very prestigious kitchens”

Verstrepen has honed his skills in some very prestigious kitchens including that of three-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic. He also worked with Joël Robuchon helping him to establish his restaurants in Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy. The menu has the refinement that you expect from a Michelin star restaurant, but maybe a selection of ingredients that you might not always associate with Italian gastronomy, for example there’s Saint-Jacques, Colombo (a spice mix from the Antilles), white truffle, quince, mango, coconut and coriander. Verstrepen says that Italian cuisine has moved with the times and been influenced by other cooking styles.

“Da Mimmo’s sommelier brings an encyclopedic knowledge of Italian wine”

I enjoyed an aperitif of Franciacorta, recommended by Da Mimmo’s sommelier Alesandro Brullo, who brings an encyclopedic knowledge of Italian wine from the top (Lombardy) to the toe (Calabria). The Arcari & Danesi Dosaggio Zero Franciacorta has no added sugars and uses the second fermentation method, it has a light and minerally ripeness. 

I chose a carpaccio of Saint-Jacques with caviar as an antipasti, delicately flavoured and matched with a wine from Puglia produced from the Fiano grape, which is only cultivated in Puglia and Campania. For the primi piatti, we had tagliolini with black truffle – a signature dish – which was served with medium-bodied Barbera d’Alba (Paolo Scavino), a veritable Piemontese feast. There was so much to celebrate in this menu, but the cheese plate deserves a standing ovation: a Piemontese goats cheese with a chestnut cream; a Gorgonzola from Lombardy infused with saffron; a pecorino from Sardinia with black truffles; a fontina and a cheese from the Venice region with lavender.

Verstrepen is a chef with vision and ambition. I ask him if he is seeking a further star, given his training he knows what it takes: “It’s never the chef who decides, but we have the team and the level of cooking. I wouldn’t say that this is not something we want, but we won’t change how we work. We will continue to do things the way we want to do them, we take pleasure in the way we work. What is most important is that our clients are happy.”