Facciola: Come for the Food and Wine, Stay for Aurora and Brando
By Andrew Cottrill . June 9, 2016
“Buona sera!” she says as we walk into the place, and grabs my hand. Now, I don’t know her. Until that point I thought Buona Sera was that guy from Arrested Development, and there I am, shaking her hand as she pulls me into her restaurant. Does she know I’m there to review it and is trying to grease my sweaty palms? No. She doesn’t find that out until a few minutes later. She’s welcoming me as she does everyone else that enters Kreuzberg’s Facciola. She’s Aurora Facciola and she’s not phased by the idea of someone reviewing her restaurant (“it’s not a restaurant”, she corrects us, “it’s a wine bar!”) because she knows what they do is good.
Do you ever get bored of hearing about the “passion” behind Italian cuisine that makes it “the best in the world”? You won’t hear any of that from Aurora, your fast-talking, straight-talking, instantly-your-friend host at Facciola. She’ll tell you everything you need to know about their food and wine without trying to sell you a dream. The judgement, of course, should be left to your taste-buds. Her force of personality and natural charisma is, in fact, all you need to know about what those food-writer hacks try to describe when they talk about Italian eateries.
Facciola is foremost a wine bar. The empty wine crate and bottle corks become part of the decoration. Aurora is a qualified wine expert and, whilst her expertise was wasted on me (I’d happily take a €2 bottle of Dornfelder…), I trusted her recommendations at every step. But looking around, you could see every table in the small bar was full of people all enjoying different wines which Aurora had personally recommended.
“So, you guys are writing about us?” enter the second part of the team. Their chef, Brando. He and Aurora have known each other since they were three years old and have had a “co-operation” together at Facciola for 2.5 months. He disregards the menu and says, “I’ll bring you something. You can try my food.” Now, isn’t that the most Italian thing you’ve ever heard?
We steal a few minutes from Brando to learn about the food Facciola serves. He’s honest. Maybe too honest (especially to some critic who’s writing about him). “I’m not a trained chef.” he states. “I have a few recipes. They’re my grandmother’s.”
Whilst having a few meat dishes, their menu is very vegetarian and vegan friendly. I asked him if there’s any ingredients he can’t find here in Berlin. Without thinking he states: “Tomatoes. I’ve still not found any. At least not ones which taste like those from my field back home.” Brando exudes a good-humoured warmth… we like him already… and then disappears back into the kitchen to prepare our meal.
On his way back to the kitchen, he whispers something to Aurora. It’s what he’s going to cook for us. Aurora starts choosing the wine she’ll serve to accompany each course.
“Vegan, bio wine… When I first heard of it I thought: pah! No filtrates?”, Aurora’s at our table showing us our first wine bottle, “but when I tried it… I thought: okay, it’s good!” A few seconds later, a pot of olives (“they’re Sicilian!”) and mini bite-size puff-pastry pizzas arrive.
Aurora tells us that the wine may taste too acidic, but that the olives will balance all that out. She wasn’t right about it being too acidic… it was delicious… but she was exactly right about the two flavours changing each other as they met. Aurora went on like this for the rest of the night (in fact even not letting us leave until we’d tried “just one more glass”) and she was never wrong.
Suddenly, Brando places three main courses in front of the two of us. Lasagna, parmigiana and gnocchi.
The lasagna is pure comfort food. Heavy on the bechamel sauce and cheese, it’s soft, rich and pleasant in your mouth. It’s like (in the best possible way…) your favourite food when you were a child. You shovel it into your mouth, hardly needing to chew, and reach for the next fork-full.
The parmigiana comes in the little terracotta dish it was baked in. Roasted aubergine in a wine sauce baked with a (un)healthy layer of cheese on top, heavily seasoned and with lots of basil. You dig your fork in and watch the molten cheese stretch out as you bring it to your mouth.
The gnocchi was served in a light tomato sauce and with sweet and sour red and yellow peppers. The heavy gnocchi was perfectly counterbalanced by the zing of the peppers.
All good, uncomplicated, home-cooking food with big flavours, all elevated by Aurora’s choice of wine.
Brando’s honesty is infectious. “Did you like the lasagna?”, he asked us after we’d finished. When we both nodded yes, he said “No. It wasn’t good. I just made it. You should come back in three days, then it’ll be ready.”
He continued to tell us how he leaves the lasagna overnight in the warm oven, staying at 60°c, and about the joy of coming into work the next morning to the smell of still-warm lasagna. An insider tip: when you go to Facciola, ask Brando what HE thinks you should order.
“Do you like tiramisu?” Brando asks. “Who doesn’t like tiramisu?” I countered. “Me”, he responds, “I hate coffee. Everything about it. I don’t want to live in a world with the stuff.”
When the tiramisu was placed in front of me, it was perfect. All the textures were there, the cream, the cake, the coffee… wow the coffee. Brando wasn’t afraid to make it strong and it really worked. Nicest tiramisu I’ve ever had. When I asked Brando how he gets the flavours right without trying it, he pointed to Aurora and said, “I make her try it.”
Facciola is an idyllic little place that serves inexpensive home-cooking paired with a great wine selection. Perfect for vegetarians and vegans, perfect for people who want a little more personality out of their dining experience, perfect for anyone who wants to sit down with friends and enjoy a good glass of wine or two.
Facciola is taking part in Eatalian Food Week Berlin, between the 13th-19th June. Head down there between these days to get a 3-course menu especially devised for the week plus wine for only €20. All you have to do is mention Eatalian Food Week when you order. Alternately, you can also book a table via phone, email or by using the online booking systems of the participating restaurants. We strongly recommend making reservations though as places could fill up fast. You can find out more at Eatalian Food Week’s Facciola website.
Facciola’s Eatalian Food Week Menu
Asparagus puréed soup with marinated shrimp or marinated tofu.
Lasagna alla norma circolare (round lasagna with eggplant, tomato, basil and ricotta salata).
Rhubarb pie or Mint and cherry pie.
Let Aurora suggest for you.
Forster Str. 5
10999 – Kreuzberg
Facciola on Facebook