Heinz Beck's 'Attimi' delivers haute-cuisine to Fiumicino

The light,spacious, open-plan dining room at Attimi

ROME-  'Attimi' is the latest addition to the impressive armoury of renowned German chef Heinz Beck, providing travellers with a unique dining experience at the Leonardo Da Vinci Fiumicino Airport, tucked away in the ultra-modern food court area of the airport’s Terminal 3-E.

 Speaking at a presentation at the Foreign Press Club in Rome, Chef Beck highlighted his unwavering dedication to his latest project, joking that creating Attimi had meant “no drinking, no drugs and no women.” Inspired by such devotion, I made sure to stop by for lunch on my recent visit to Fiumicino airport.

 Attimi is driven by the concept of time, with the aim of delivering excellence as quickly as possible, therefore taking the stress out of the flying experience. As a result, the restaurant has created three different “time menus” of 30, 45, or 60 minutes, depending on the time constraints of the traveller.

 The restaurant is situated on the upper level of T3-E, past security and passport controls, within just a few minutes walk from the boarding gates. Handily, you can monitor your flight from the numerous screens visible from the restaurant, meaning that you know exactly how much time to allow from finishing your meal to arriving at the gate.

 Having deliberately allowed myself a while before the departure of my flight, I naturally opted for the restaurant’s 60-minute six-course taster menu, complete with petit-fours and coffee.

 Aside from the taster menus, there is a comprehensive à la carte selection, ranging from traditional Italian classics to ambitious modern creations, with influences from styles of cooking from all over the globe. For those particularly time pressured, you can also choose from a selection of Beck’s ‘moments,’ the title of the restaurant, as well as salads and simpler dishes that can be ordered to take-away onto the plane.

 Despite arriving soon after the restaurant opened for service, the first amuse-bouche of ‘an amberjack taco with an apple and chilli gel’ turned up immediately. Beautifully presented, the dish was a refreshing palate cleanser, with the juicy fish combining with the crisp and sharp flavour of the chilli gel, setting me up for the culinary odyssey that waited.

 The opening course had removed any memories of breakfast, and although it was technically still the morning, it felt rude not to sample the extensive wine list presented to me by the manager, Alessandro. As you would expect, the list was dominated by local Italian wines from the nearby regions, but there was also a selection of international options for those looking for something different. The list was extremely long, but the waiting staff were very happy to recommend me a choice and I ended up with a very drinkable white wine from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, near the border with Slovenia.

 The taster menus follow the traditional Italian order of courses, so after my opening ‘moment’, came two antipasti dishes, ‘a fish ceviche made with locally caught sea bass’ and ‘a roasted scallop with spring vegetables, ham crumb and caper sauce.’

 Once again the fish ceviche was wonderfully presented and clearly extremely fresh, but having been spoiled by some of the best ceviches in the world during my recent travels to South America, whilst tasty it perhaps lacked intensity and a cutting edge. However, the roasted scallop was superb, cooked to perfection, and complimented beautifully by the fresh spring greens and saltiness of the ham crumb, no room for improvement.

 As is typical in Italy, the first course brought to me was pasta, the Roman classic “spaghetti cacio e pepe”,meaning ‘cheese and pepper’ in several Italian dialects. Having eaten this particular dish in some of the finest trattorias the capital has to offer, I was initially sceptical that an haute-cuisine establishment such as Attimi could match the depth of flavour and authenticity of family-run joints in the Eternal City. My cynicism was swept aside after one mouthful as the simple, smoothness of the dish took over, underlined by a perfect balance between the salty cheese and black peppercorns; another resounding triumph.

 Waitress Daniela then instructed that I switch to the wholesome ‘Omina’ red wine from a vineyard near Lazio to accompany the main course, “veal cheek cooked ‘hunter style.’” Unsurprisingly at this stage, the veal was melt-in-the-mouth tender and as Daniela said before could have been eaten with a spoon. The sauce was rich and peppery, but not overbearing, and the portion was just right considering the feast I had already devoured.

 All the dishes were coming on time, which you can check thanks to the  hourglasses placed on each table, and so I concluded I still had time for desert and petit-fours before catching my flight.

 The ‘hazelnut mousse, with matcha tea and sesame icecream’ swiftly arrived, and whilst all the courses were well presented, this was the stand-out, resembling an edible spring-garden, not dissimilar from the crazy creations of British chef Heston Blumenthal. The garden tasted every bit as good as it looked, and after polishing off the petit-fours, I headed to my gate extremely satisfied.

 What’s immediately clear from the moment you sit down in the open-plan dining room of  ‘Attimi’ is that this is not a gimmick, trading off a niche concept and the Heinz Beck name, but a high-quality restaurant with Michelin star aspirations. The presentation of the food is as good as it gets and all the dishes have a magical spark, without being overly pretentious. The service is first-class as all the staff know how important a role the timings play in the dining experience. The taster menus are expensive, but worth every penny. Despite this, there are a number of reasonably priced lighter options which still allow you to enjoy the 'Attimi' experience. With Chef Beck himself in the kitchen about three times a week, there is no doubt that this relatively new project will go from strength to strength. Absolutely not to be missed.

The roasted scallop with spring vegetables, ham crumb and caper sauce
The spectacular edible 'spring garden' final course