The sudden closure of Lagoa’s Bistrô 66 became the subject of its devotees’ bewilderment at the end of 2011, before word got out that a Claude Troisgros Italian was set to open in its place. Unveiled in May 2012, the famous chef’s signature Brazilian touches remain all over the menu of Italian staples courtesy of son Thomas, but for an authentically lively Italian dinner there aren’t many in the city that come close to CT Trattorie.
Inside, walls may have come down but the glorious patchwork floor and tiled ceiling remain (State-preserved) proof of what went before. If the queue isn’t too long (in other words, you have arrived before 8pm), grab a table on the upper level and watch as the booth-style seating fills and the noise levels increase to a veritable thunder. Rather refreshingly, bookings aren’t taken and the queue system is rigidly adhered to even, it would seem, for the plethora of musicians and television faces that appear on the doorstep.
To begin, the antipasti selection (R$32) is wide and comprehensive, spread out in white dishes in the centre of the room and featuring hearty chunks of crumbling parmesan, creamy mozza balls, mushrooms and plump, tangy sun-dried tomatoes. The uncluttered menu encourages further appetisers with four types of tempting polenta combinations (R$24-$32) better shared than attempted solo lest the main course become a struggle. The shiitake mushrooms and truffle foam made for an enjoyably soft opening gambit, unashamedly rich flavours oozing out in all directions.
The house special Polpettone (R$48) is a tender roll of minced beef in a tomato sauce that might as well have been shipped in direct from Bologna but somewhat over-cheesed, making what would have been a great lasagne-y alternative a touch heavy going. Seafood fetuccine (R$64) and smoked haddock ravioli (R$52) are among the ten enjoyably uncomplicated pasta dishes on offer.
The carbonara (R$48) also enjoys a Brazilian remix courtesy of light, crispy sun-dried meat sprinkled on in place of pancetta with only a subtle creaminess to the sauce. The result is less stodgy than most carbonaras, and probably better for it, though fans of the classic will need to approach with an open mind. Take a glass of the family's Côte Roannaise red, however, and enter a select group to have sampled its drinkability; only Troisgros restaurants sell this particular drop, so only his customers and those invited for what are presumably some very long lunches at the family château will have tried what is a very friendly touch indeed.
For those who really cannot bear to say goodbye to the French connection, some of Bistrô 66's more popular dishes including moules marinière (R$36) and Dijon mustard chicken (R$48) have deservedly found their way back onto the menu, but Italy has taken over, and on the strength of the chattering masses' faces, long may she reign.