Having fun in Rome is always possible. But having fun in Fiumicino, a few kilometers from the airport and from Ostia, is a pleasant discovery. There is a magical place that actually contains two or maybe three venues wrapped together, hidden along the river, inside the historic Nautilus shipyard. What Daniele Usai -more lovingly known as “Lele”- was able to create, together with partners Stefano Loreti and Domenico Stillitano, is a “forlorn”and different place that today has become one of the reference points of entertainment and cuisine in Lazio. To define it aptly, we could borrow a very popular term, “musabi”, an indecipherable word, one that for Japanese fishermen indicates a network of symbols, bonds and feelings that accompanies the life of those facing the open sea. Invisible threads that are thrown, knotted, overlapped, untied and reunited, a little bit like those lines that, intertwined with each other, shaped his life and his apprenticeship.
First as a waiter in Ostia, his hometown, and then in London as an assistant chef, following the flow of a single original passion: cooking. He did it and continues to do it, perhaps more so today aftering achieving a Michelin star, to make others feel better rather than himself. In his dishes, authentic creations, smells and tastes that he felt as a child, often mixed with oriental notes.
His two restaurants, “Quarantunododici” and “Tino”, are part of a single structure in which dehors, especially in fine weather, can be eaten by attending a jazz concert or dancing under the moon, until late at night, with music by the best international DJs. The important thing is quality, from the environment to the raw materials used, as well as, of course, people. Usai is uniquely special and, if you visit his restaurants, visibly different but united by the same spirit and professionalism, you will feel equally unique.
On the ground floor, the Quarantunododici goes from breakfast to dinner, with a menu that is proposed based on the auction of the fish of the day, carefully chosen by him at the market and then transformed into well-matched dishes with wooden tables, pastel colours and to that external space that overlooks the dock. On the first floor, instead, you will enter the environment of Tino, which is modern, elegant and minimalist. Eight central tables that look out onto an open kitchen where you can admire every movement of the chef and his “brigade”, including blue backgrounds, soft lighting, portholes, nautical charts on the walls, a refined but strongly local dining. Going down for a drink while listening to good music after dinner is a pleasure that adds to the blissful experience.
In front of you, you have Isola dei Conigli (the Island of Rabbits) suspended between one shore and another, the Tower of San Michele designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti, the Idroscalo and, on the horizon line, the oasis and the stele that commemorates the martyrdom of writer and director Pier Paolo Pasolini, killed in 1975. If you are tired, there are sailboats in front of the venue made available for guests who want to stay the night, perhaps before having had a treatment in the super functional SPA overlooking the garden.
All this and much more is the world of Usai, an eternal boy with a constant desire to discover and get to know new things, a man who loves to get involved, so much to ask and get an internship at Le Petit Nice by Gérarld Passédat, three Michelin-starred chef, to learn even more.
As Anthony Bourdain, his favorite author, writes, the life of a cook “has always been a long love story, with both sublime and ridiculous moments, but like a love story, looking back you recall the happier moments better. The things that attracted you at the beginning and that prompted you to come back for more.”
Il Tino and Quarantunododici by Daniele Usai, Via Monte Cadria, 127 Fiumicino, Rome. Telephone: 065622778.