Brussels, the capital of Europe, is the hometown of restaurant La Truffe Noire of founder Luigi Ciciriello for already 31 years. This one-of-a-kind restaurant is unique in every sense of the word. The traditional and innovative cuisine of founder Luigi and his team takes black and white truffles to new heights through passionate cooking. At La Truffe Noire, they truly believe that truffles, the exceptional diamonds of the culinary world, need a first-class setting to make them stand out. Each of their original creations with this product is the expression of the passion that they like to share with their guests. In short, La Truffe Noire is a restaurant dedicated to elegance and refinement, and to the magic of this extraordinary ingredient.
Next stop of our S.Pellegrino Hungry Chef-tour 2019
Each year, the S.Pellegrino-guide leads us to a number of unique restaurants in Belgium and Luxembourg. Today, we have the honour to discover the cuisine of La Truffe Noire, the restaurant of founder Luigi Ciciriello where the truffle is the diamond of the kitchen or as he likes to describe this product: “The truffle is the authentic jewel of the gastronomic universe”.
A classic, yet luxurious interior with a touch of truffle
Located in a beautiful eclectic building at the heart of our capital city, restaurant La Truffe Noire is a permanent fixture in the streets of Brussels. Being one of the few restaurants that still offer the service of a real voiturier, the staff of La Truffe Noire welcomes you as a royal every day. Inside there’s a classic interior, yet the setting feels very luxurious. Truffles play not only the leading part in the dishes, but also in the interior design of the restaurant. Every aspect has a little ‘touch of truffle’, like the decoration on the wall, the light fittings and even the napkins. The dining room already sets a high standard as a set of real silver cutlery is used and the plates are all custom-made, unique pieces of art, designed by talented artists. Some of them are even created for a particular dish on the restaurant’s menu.
On the first floor, you’ll find the fumoir where you can relax in a pleasant and comfortable setting. The room is decorated with artworks of the Belgian artist F.man that she designed especially for the restaurant’s 25th birthday. What’s so special about her paintings is that they have different faces, depending on the light or darkness intensity of the room. They literally bring you into a different world and a new dimension that you’ve never experienced before. So, when you’re enjoying a cigar or a pousse-café in the fumoir, the portrait of Carla Bruni, Monica Bellucci or Marilyn Monroe may suddenly appear on the paintings in the room.
Hungry Chef: meet founder Luigi Ciciriello
Originally being from Italy, Luigi Ciciriello feels totally at home in Belgium and particularly in Brussels. He studied at the culinary school of Monte Faito, a little town near Naples in Italy, and worked in several Michelin starred restaurants in Brussels, mainly as a maître d’hôtel and sommelier until he realised that he’s true passion was in the kitchen. “I adore being a chef. I always say to my staff that I don’t work, it’s really my passion. Even after all those years, I enjoy every minute of it. And after all, it remains a profession that you have to be passionate about, because you have to be prepared to work hard, very hard. But if you do what you love to do, you will succeed”, says Luigi Ciciriello.
In 1988 he started his own restaurant La Truffe Noire near the Bois de la Cambre in a residential area of Brussels. After one year, he got his first Michelin star and in all those years, La Truffe Noire has managed to keep it. And just like the Michelin star became a loyal family member of the restaurant, the staff became also an important part of the family. Since 1988, both chef Aziz Ur-Rehman Bhatti as chef Erik Lindelauf have worked in the kitchen of La Truffe Noire, as well as other staff members who’ve already been working there for many years.
Hungry for More: How would you describe your own cooking style here at La Truffe Noire?
Founder Luigi Ciciriello: I think the best way to describe our cuisine is to call it a well-balanced combination of the Italian and the French one with a unique “Luigi-touch”. And that “Luigi-touch” is a crucial part of our style. Throughout all these years, we’ve managed to stay true to the classic cuisine, but we’ve always tried to be innovative. At La Truffe Noire, we serve for example more than 50 different dishes, so our guests can really choose what they would like to eat and they don’t necessarily have to follow the chef’s suggestions. In many restaurants, they only serve 1 menu and the only variation is the number of courses. In recent years, the restaurant business has developed a new style and I certainly don’t mean this as a form of criticism, after all everyone does what he or she wants, but we’ve chosen to stay true to our own style which is recognizable for our guests. I think that’s one of the reasons why we have a loyal clientele. Some of our customers come here already since the beginning and now bring they children and even grandchildren with them. Another reason that might explain La Truffe Noire’s success is that everything we serve is homemade, as from the bread to the sauce and the desserts. I find the artisan way of creating dishes also very important.
Hungry for More: Why are you so passionate about truffles? Where does your love for this product comes from?
Founder Luigi Ciciriello: In the 1980s, I worked at restaurant La Cravache d’Or. During that period, Gault&Millau and Michelin were just founded and the restaurant business was evolving quickly. The chefs back then were chefs who really had something to say and one of them was Abel Bernard, a great French chef. It was in his kitchen at the age of 33 that I got ‘illuminated’ when I got to know truffles, because before I didn’t even know they existed. I immediately fell in love with them, the preciousness and rareness of this product really intrigued me from the beginning.
Hungry for More: Do you have a favourite when it concerns truffles?
Founder Luigi Ciciriello: I always compare truffles with beautiful women. As white truffles are only available during the months of October, November and December, they are like the women who appear all of a sudden into your life and with whom you experience a short, but passionate relationship. Then, they disappear as quickly as they’ve entered into your life. Black truffles are more common and more versatile, so you enjoy them all year long. That’s why I compare black truffles with more loyal and faithful women, women who are always by your side. If I really have to choose between those two, then my heart would go out to the black one. That’s why I also called my restaurant ‘La Truffe Noire’ and not ‘La Truffe Blanche’. (smiles)
Hungry for More: Where do you find the inspiration to create new dishes, again and again?
Founder Luigi Ciciriello: I get inspired by many things around me, even if they’re not so extraordinary: by seeing a particular photo, by being on holiday or by opening the fridge and seeing different types of ingredients in front of me. Sometimes, the inspiration can even come in the middle of the night. But what’s the most important is that I always create my dishes around flavour. Flavour and truffles, those two together are always the common thread in the creation of my new dishes.
Hungry for More: After all those years, don’t you miss Italy?
Founder Luigi Ciciriello: Ever since I was a child, I wanted to leave the small town in Puglia where I grew up. So, when I was 16, I left, all by myself. I adore traveling and getting to know different languages, so that’s how I ended up in Brussels. This city has given me the possibility to meet so many people and cultures and I’m very grateful for that. I really feel like a prince in Brussels, because everyone knows me here. So no, I don’t miss Italy but that doesn’t mean that I feel less Italian. I will always remain Italian in heart and soul. After all, I still have Italian blood running through my veins and that’s quite powerful.
Hungry for More: You’ve already achieved a lot, but do you still have certain ambitions or dreams for the future?
Founder Luigi Ciciriello: I’m currently studying the Chinese language, because we have plans to open a restaurant in China. Here in Brussels, we’re limited in space. I’m very thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to open a restaurant in this a beautiful building, but it’s an old house and so we don’t have the capacity to expand. In China, they’re working on a project called ‘Hainan’ at this moment. It’s an artificial archipelago (still under construction) in the shape of a lotus flower in the middle of the ocean. They intend to create 3 independent islets with lots of hotels, museums, gardens, shops, … and hopefully a 2.0 version of restaurant La Truffe Noire.
Menu: chef’s suggestions
At restaurant La Truffe Noire, guests can enjoy different kinds of menus like a diamond or privilege menu, or choose to fully experience the cuisine of Luigi Ciciriello by eating à la carte. We follow the chef’s suggestions and sample the richness of the truffle and how this luxury product plays the leading part in every single dish.
A selection of appetizers:
Culinary foam of fresh maize with salmon and popcorn.
Madeleine of dried tomatoes.
Velouté of pumpkin, topped off with some truffle.
Luigi’s Weakness: Carpaccio of Bleue de Prés and parmigiano “Luigi style” with sliced black truffles. Luigi Ciciriello’s carpaccio is the signature dish of La Truffe Noire for over 31 years now. Each carpaccio is prepared live at the table in front of the guests. A true spectacle.
Lukewarm lobster salad on a carpaccio of roasted eggplant, on a bed of sliced fresh avocados with a sorbet of fresh tomatoes and red pepper.
Luigi’s Weakness: “Checkerboard” of Brittany scallops and fresh black truffles, drizzled on a celery mousse with olive oil truffle juice and basil.
Tagliolini made of hard wheat flour and Christopher eggs seasoned with farm butter, with sliced black truffles. To describe it in founder Luigi Ciciriello’s words: “This dish is very simple, but it’s the best way to experience the rich flavour of truffles and all of the ingredients are super fresh.”
Ravioli stuffed with slices of black truffle.
Périgord truffle “A la Croque au Sel”, cooked in its truffle juice and Port wine, served with “truffle butter” and toasted fresh bread. A truly one-of-a-kind dish, where you each get 25-30 grams of the rare Périgord truffle. This is not just a dish, it’s a true experience.
Brazil – Belgium: Fresh fruits in maracuja sauce enrobed in a sunflower meringue, with coconut ice cream.
Africa: Black chocolate truffle in a spun sugar nest, served with fresh raspberry sauce.
Dôme au chocolat: White chocolate, pears with salted caramel and three different fruit coulis.
A selection of mignardises that goes perfectly well with a real Italian espresso.
At restaurant La Truffe Noire, you truly enjoy a unique dining experience where the truffle is the diamond of founder Luigi Ciciriello’s cuisine. Located in a beautiful building in the heart of Brussels, the chef and his team serve a well-balanced combination of the Italian and French cuisine with a personal touch in a classic and elegant setting.
La Truffe Noire, Boulevard de la Cambre 12, 1000 Brussels, Belgium | +32 2 640 44 22 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.truffenoire.com | facebook.com/RestaurantLaTruffeNoire | instagram.com/latruffenoire_restaurant
Interview & text: Carline Roggeman
Photography: Adriaan Van Looy