Copenhagen's new Asian wave
Some of the most talented chefs in Copenhagen are leading a new wave of Asian restaurants, combining principles from the New Nordic Food Manifesto with Asian traditions.
Influenced by the New Nordic food principles, yet free from dogmas and rules, young Italian chefs are combining Italian inspired cooking with Copenhagen's open-mindedness and creativity.
In recent years Copenhagen has experienced a trend of innovative Italian inspired restaurants popping up around the city. This could be a result of the New Nordic Food scene, which has dominated in Copenhagen for the past 20 years. The New Nordic Kitchen, which originated in 2004, quickly received international recognition and inspired, among others, young Italian apprentice cooks and food enthusiasts to move up north and settle in the capital of Denmark to experience and learn from some of the world’s best restaurants.
The first chef to challenge the Italian traditional dogmas was Christian Puglisi. After working at the legendary El Bulli in Spain, he became noma's sous-chef. In 2010, Puglisi was one of the first noma chefs to start his own restaurant, Relæ, and in 2014, he started the first innovative Italian restaurant in town, Bæst. Producing his own Italian inspired cheeses in Copenhagen and serving their own take on the Napoli style pizza, Bæst was awarded 2nd best pizza in Europe outside of Italy and 20th best pizza in the world in 2023. Christian Puglisi is also behind Mirabelle bakery, an institution in Copenhagen's sourdough revolution, which has been reinvented as a Sicilian inspired restaurant, Mirabelle Spiseria.
Other young Italian chefs started working with their own take on Italian food after experiences in Copenhagen or abroad. A few examples are Giuseppe Olivia, who - coming from a bakers' family in Sicily - started his pizza baking career at the pizza joint Tribeca. Afterwards, he was headhunted by Puglisi himself to start up Bæst, with great success. The opening of a new district - the Carlsberg city district - gave Giuseppe the opportunity to open his own pizzeria, Surt, with focus on fermentation and small producers.
Another example is former Mirabelle baker Chiara Barla, who started a collaboration with the Danish design brand Frama to open up an Italian inspired Scandi style bakery at their flagship store: Apotek 57. This popular understated bakery in Copenhagen's design district combines cardamom buns with Italian style focaccias and Copenhagen light-roasted coffee from Prolog.
Other chefs come with a background from abroad, like Riccardo Macron, who was brought from London by Noma's René Rezdepi to work at his restaurant 108 and started up his own Italian inspired wine bar and restaurant, Barabba - an industry favorite by Noma themselves and other big names from Copenhagen's food scene. Riccardo is known for his antidogmatic take on Italian food, combined with an incredible knowledge of natural wines and good service.
Today, Copenhagen can reap the rewards of the Italian relocation. The Italian chefs and food enthusiasts, who have stayed in Copenhagen, have slowly started to open their own restaurants tapping into their Italian roots.
What then characterizes most of these Copenhagen Italian restaurants is their way of taking inspiration from one of the world’s most tradition-based kitchen and food cultures to combine it with the innovative, free-spirited Copenhagen approach.
In Copenhagen, Italian chefs have experienced a setting in The New Nordic Kitchen, where it is allowed to break down dogmas, creating a possibility to innovate and experiment with even the most traditional kitchens.
The Italian chef and a former baker at Mirabelle, Chiara Barla, runs the eatery Apotek 57 in cooperation with the dynamic studio and design store Frama in the Nyboder District. Apotek 57 features a rotating menu serving in-house seasonal breakfast and lunch. The eatery stresses simplicity, seasonal and organic produce, and the highest quality when they make their house-made sourdough baked goods, snacks, and other food, while their coffee is brewed using the Danish coffee roaster La Cabra.
The vibrant and casual Barabba is located in the centre of Copenhagen. The Michelin-recommended restaurant is widely renowned for incorporating Danish ingredients like seaweed into Italian cuisine. Barabba offers a sizeable natural wine menu from a wide array of terroirs worldwide in their rooms furnished with their characteristic mint green chandeliers. Trying to keep in touch with Italian cuisine, they handmake their pasta and limoncello.
To this day, it remains a gastronomical hub for other chefs of Copenhagen and is frequently used as a dinner spot for entire kitchen crews after a hard day’s work.
In the cultural hub at Guldbergsgade in Nørrebro, the ambitious and high-quality Italian pizzeria BÆST is located. The restaurant was opened in 2014 by former noma sous chef and Michelin chef Christian Puglisi as an homage to Puglisi’s Italian roots. The restaurant is acknowledged for its sourdough pizzas made from a combination of great Italian produce and the best local produce sourced from talented organic Danish farmers. Now BÆST can also boast of serving Europe's second-best pizza, according to the guide Top Pizza Europe. High quality is vital at BÆST, which produces its own cheese and charcuterie in-house from Danish cows’ milk and organic free-range pigs from the famous Hindsholm-farm. BÆST features a well-curated wine list consisting mainly of natural wines from small Italian wineries to accompany their pizzas, as well as classic Italian cocktails and Danish beer from micro-breweries Kølster.
The well-attended Italian pasta joint Fabro is known amongst Copenhageners for its simple homestyle pasta dishes at an accessible and fair price. Fabro calls themselves "the pasta pusher" around the corner and has brought their love for pasta and recipes from Italy to share their food culture. Being a drop-in place only, Fabro embraces the informal way of dining.
Restaurant Levi explores the unique fusion and craftsmanship of the traditional Italian and Japanese kitchen, believing both cuisines share the same DNA in transforming high-quality, simple, season-based ingredients into something spectacular. The fusion lives on in the restaurant’s art deco interior, where designer Johannes Torpe has combined traditional old Italy with the sophistication of modern Japan. The kitchen is run by Sicilian Gabrielle Rizzo, who has a past at the Michelin restaurants Jordnær and Geranium, which was also the world's best restaurant in 2022. As a result of curiosity and constant seeking of new ways to surprise their guests, the menu changes weekly. The founders, Jesper Boelskifte and Peter Traboth, are both wine connoisseurs and have a past as wine advisers for Alchemist and Geranium, and together, they fill the basement with wines they like. Inspired by the grappa master Romano Levi, they have a large selection of grappa, an Italian grape-based liquor, in addition to their wine. In 2022, the restaurant was also named the best restaurant in Copenhagen by the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende.
Lĭquo is an Italian wine bar located in a small square in The Carlsberg City District. It is Surt’s Italian Giuseppe Oliva, who is behind the bar, and the place also originally functioned as the storage facility of Surt until Giuseppe realized the uniqueness of the space. Lĭquo continues the Italian focus from Surt, specializing in Italian wine from all 20 regions of Italy to show the diversity of the Italian territory. The wine bar additionally serves drinks such as vermouth and negroni and a selection of charcuterie, cheese, and snacks. The name Lĭquo means ‘to liquify’ in Latin and refers to their products being liquified from grapes, tomatoes, and olives. At the same time, ‘to liquify’ also refers to the liquid heritage of Carlsberg’s brewery.
The Sicilian classics are revived and combined with Copenhagen-styled breakfast at the eatery and wine bar Mirabelle Spiserìa. The eatery was opened by former noma sous-chef and Mirabelle bakery owner Christian F. Puglisi with a wish to combine his Southern Italian roots and the traditional Italian trattoria with his gastronomic experience in the Nordics. While the Nordic kitchen dominates the morning menu, the kitchen switches to Italian during lunch and afternoon, consisting of classic Sicilian food combined with a modern cuisine influenced by Southern and Mediterranean flavours – everything based on local and organic ingredients. For their wine list, Mirabelle Spiserìa has stuck to selling Sicilian wines only with a focus on smaller producers.
Inspired by the Roman classics, Rufino Osteria treasures the authentic concept of an Italian osteria and daily freshly produced homemade pasta, combining it with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. The traditional Italian dishes are made with ingredients sourced from small artisan producers imported from Italy, whereas small local farms supply the osteria with fresh and tasty ingredients every day. The kitchen is run by Italian chef Alessandro Polledri, while the wine selection is curated by sommelier Felix Chamorro, who handpicks wines from all over Italy.
The pizzeria Surt, meaning sour in Danish, makes Neapolitan-style pizzas with a strong focus on sourdough pizzas, fermentation, and locally sourced products. With their approach to making pizzas relying on the process of sourdough without using any industrial yeast, Surt has found their perfect location in the Carlsberg City District being a historical fermentation site with beer. As a result of their method of kneading and the sourdough’s daily disposition and identity, every pizza served is unique. The place is owned by Italian Giuseppe Oliva, who has a history in places like Tribeca, NV and the renowned pizzeria Bæst in Nørrebro. And with his own pizzeria Surt, Giuseppe desires to pay a homage to raw materials and his gastronomic roots served in casual settings.
Topicàl is the newest entry in Copenhagen’s Italian food movement, led by young creative chefs experimenting with one of the most beloved food traditions. Their take on Italian cuisine consists of maintaining the Italian mindset, restricting themselves to 3 main ingredients per dish, not compromising the structure of taste and offering generous portions. The head chef, and former chef at BÆST and Mirabelle, Davide Laudato, is bringing modern Mediterranean cuisine from Naples and adding a colourful nuance to the Post-New Nordic scene of Copenhagen and doing so by establishing a vegetable-focused menu. The ingredients served at Topicàl are locally grown in nearby farms along with the fresh day’s catch from the Danish coasts. Topicàl is located in the space formerly hosting Michelin-starred restaurant Relæ.
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