Beirut power lunchers zigzag in the midst of Mar Mkhayel’s graffiti walls, mechanics shops, and happening art galleries, to an unexpected glazed façade exposing a slick Milanese style ‘trattoria chic’ décor at Marinella’s, for a taste of upmarket southern Italian specialties.
One of Lebanon’s best well kept secrets amongst its regulars, it is located in a small alleyway, and its owner and chef Sophie Shoucair, dressed in an apron, speaks modestly of what is in fact a little Italian gem, closely run by this finely seasoned cordon-bleu. A cross-generational attraction, the place draws an eclectic crowd of professionals, artists, travellers, and other fine food connoisseurs who come here for a catch-up, a business lunch, a cliquey get together or a cozy celebration. I particularly enjoy sitting at the bar and having a good meal on a weekday.
Her fresh gnocchi, ravioli, and other delicate yummies are prepared at home in a specially dedicated space. Indeed, homemade is often the first word that comes to a fan’s lips when asked about the place; her carefully chosen seasonal products are cooked in an open-plan kitchen at the restaurant. Risotto, fish, and other daily specials are casually written on a couple of boards. One dish that definitely singles Marinella out is the fresh, homemade gnocchi di patate that melt in your mouth as they rightfully should and would in Italy, but don’t normally do so around town..
For your inspiration, here are some delicious moments spent at Marinella’s:
Try an all-time favorite antipasti, the Vitello Tonnato, thinly sliced dry veal prepared with celery, carrots, and white wine, with a tuna mousse tossed in anchovies, capers, and to finish a drizzle of lemon.
Gnocchi salvia with fresh sage straight from Sophie’s garden and parmeggionao reggionao, very lightly buttered. Sophie believes that, in every dish, one product is king- others just serve the function of enhancing its taste. She avoids superfluous or excessive mixes.
Tagliolini Cipriani with fresh baby artichokes and thinly diced courgettes, in a very light buttery sauce: The artichokes are marinated in garlic, rosemary, and sage. They are delicately cut, and stir-fried in artichoke oil. Minute-made dishes such as this one are not on the menu. She absolutely loves coming up spontaneously with new recipes for her gourmet clients. Of course depending on the ingredients of the day, and workload. That’s why people feel ‘a casa’!
Sophie oversees every single dish that comes out of her kitchen and continuously follows up on the service with her subtle presence between the tables. The simple menu, ‘comme a la maison’, undergoes tight quality control up until it reaches the pallet. A selection of fine wines can be ordered both by the bottle and by the glass. Here, a boutique vibe transports you far from the city’s hustle and bustle- it’s a place to ‘disconnect’ from chores and enjoy high-end products such as quality vongole, in ‘simple dishes’ as she calls them, ‘with no sophistication’. Well, our Lebanese version of ‘simplicity’, let’s put it that way.
Dress code Sport Chic!
Price per person is approximately 35 USD, depending on wine and order.
Reservation +961 1 442 342
Serving Lunch, Monday to Saturday, 12:30pm to 4:00pm
Address Rue de Madrid, off of Rue d’Armenie, Mar Mikhael, Beirut