For that reason I’m focussing on just two, that provide a real service to the traveller off-season and on – great food all year round.
My local contacts recommended two restaurants to check out during my August visit.
Il Tano, a homely yet elegant family restaurant serving Italian cuisine and Franca, a trendy seafood joint overlooking the sea from up the hill overlooking PDD.
Il Tano – open all year round, family-run
Run by Argentinian Luciano and his Montevidean partner, Ximena, Il Tano is set in the pine forests about five blocks back from the ocean, in a gorgeous wooden house with a deck lit with candles in the evening.
During the winter months, there’s a roaring fire, the atmosphere is laid-back, many of the guests are clearly friends of the family and little ones fall asleep on the sofa in front of the fire.
Il Tano particularly stands out for their sense of service to visitors to PDD. While most seaside eateries close off-season, not only does Il Tano stay open, it is open every day of the week.
In a country like Uruguay where more often that not people involved in the tourism field prioritise their free-time over service I applaud them.
Franca – cool sea views
Franca is a very cool-looking restaurant set on the hill overlooking PDD with a view of the sea.
Franca is run by Karina, a young Argentinian who’s worked all over. She’s also committed to keeping Franca open on extended weekends throughout the low season.
While the restaurant is perfect for impressing your partner for a romantic night out, Franca is also family-friendly. The fabulous whale logo (“franca” is Spanish for the Southern Right whale – seen frequently off the coast of PDD) is known gets turned in to colouring-book material.
Also of note, there’s cinema (projected movies) on Sunday nights during winter.
So, let’s get to the food.
In each place, I asked the chefs to choose what to serve, so that you can get an idea of their specialities, and included the names as they appear in Spanish on the menu.
Specialities: Homemade pastas, parrilla (Uruguayan style barbecue), seafood
Luciano’s organic kitchen garden provides most of the herbs and veggies during the winter and he forages mushrooms.
We were served:
- Sauteed mushrooms (hongos silvestres) – this is not on the menu, but you could ask!
- Crab croquets (croquetas de siri) – siri is a local crab and this is a typical seafood dish in Rocha.
- Fresh seaweed and ricotta ravioles in a prawn cream sauce (ravioles caseros rellenos de algas y ricotta en salsa de camarones) – Pastas are Il Tano’s speciality. All the pasta is handmade.
- Goat’s cheese and squash ravioles in a mushroom sauce (ravioles caseros rellenos de zapallo y queso de cabra en salsa de hongos silvestres) – the wild mushrooms were foraged locally. An alternative sauce (see photo above) is butter and sage (manteca y salvia). Il Tano is a delight for vegetarians or carnivores who have OD’ed on meat.
- Brownies or apple crumble – so comforting
Luciano is also a sommelier and prefers to stock Uruguayan wines from smaller vineyards (he is building a cellar). They also stock craft beer by Volcanica including a special edition Belgian IPA (unfiltered and unlabelled) which was pretty special. I’d definitely recommend going for the craft beer over the commercial brands.
Sample prices: The crab starter was 290 pesos, the pasta main course 350 pesos
Low season: Every day 12am-4pm, 7-10.30pm for dinner
High season: Every day 12am-4pm, 6.30pm-1.30am for dinner
January 1-10: Open all day
One of the only restaurants which will continue to serve holiday makers on December 25 and January 1.
Note: Because Il Tano’s owners stay open all year round, of course sometimes they need to take a break. If you are visiting during low season and want to be sure they are open (yes really, you could end up eating there every single day!), do contact them via Facebook to avoid disappointment.
We were served:
- Cocktails (tragos) – the evening special was an apple juice/vodka/fresh ginger concoction. I had a delicious caipiroshka.
- Bread – oh the bread…. made by the chef, it was superb. It made me understand why Franca has publicity shots featuring the bread-making process.
- Prawns in white wine and garlic (camarones) – perfectly cooked, with large prawns
- Salmon capelletis – homemade pasta filled with chunks of firm pink salmon
- Seafood risotto (risotto de mariscos) – fragrant rice dish with a hint of curry and full of mussels, squid, octopus and shrimps which were so fresh
- Crème brûlée (crema catalana) – for dessert which was superb
Sample prices: The crab starter was 290 pesos, the pasta main course 350 pesos, cocktails 150-170 pesos.
Winter opening hours: Friday to Sunday 8pm till 12pm
October until mid-December: Wednesday to Sunday 8pm till 12pm
December 15 until mid February: Every day 11am-4pm, 8pm till everyone’s gone
From mid-February on: October opening hours, depending on demand
Franca will be open on December 24 and 31 (the big celebrations here) with supper specials. December 25 and January 1 opening to be confirmed.
For more info Franca on Facebook
* Today I just found out that a French bistro with budget prices run by long-time PDD resident François will be opening in December on a five-year lease, so I’ll keep you updated about that.
* Coming soon: PDD off-season, when the beaches are empty and you can rent a house for a month for less than 500 dollars. Sign up using the form in the sidebar to never miss Guru updates.
Photos: Franca, Il Tano and Catalina Campos R
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