Underground restaurant

Underground restaurant

An underground restaurant is an illegal eating establishment, generally operated out of homes or apartments by people looking to offer something that isn't available in the legitimate restaurants of the community, generally bypassing local zoning and health code regulations. Most such places are advertised by word of mouth or guerilla advertising, and often require references to make a reservation. Very popular in Latin America where they're known as either a paladar or a restaurante de puertas cerradas (locked door restaurant) - while still generally technically illegal, they're historically built into the culture, and often actually have higher standards than many licensed establishments.

As written by Ed Charles in Victorias Herald Sun Newspaper on Tuesday May 22 2007, in Melbourne Australia:

"What's the most difficult restaurant to get in to in Australia? It's one you've never heard of - Zingara Cucina. Where entry is invitation only and it is booked out well in to 2008. From friends entertaining friends, it grew in to an underground restaurant. Once a month food nuts meet at obscure locations to eat."

From Ian Mount in The New York Times on December 17, 2006:

"But perhaps the most exclusive place to flaunt one’s status are the puertas cerradas (or restaurants with closed doors) that have recently boomed in Buenos Aires. Among the insiders’ favorite is Casa SaltShaker, held twice a week at the ground-floor rear Recoleta apartment of Dan Perlman, an American chef and sommelier, and his Peruvian companion, Henry Tapia. The five-course menu is built around a theme, often wacky, like the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, or the film "Babette’s Feast."

From Larissa Dubecki in The Age Newspaper, Epicure Section on September 03, 2007:

"MELBOURNE'S hottest restaurant isn't in The Age Good Food Guide, it changes location weekly, and with a waiting list of 4000, it's booked out for the next year. Zingara Cucina — Italian for "Gypsy Kitchen" — is Australia's first "underground" restaurant. It is unlicensed, illegal and transient, but has won the kind of word-of-mouth accolades most legitimate establishments only dream about. And with the identity of the people behind it a secret, it's also the city's biggest culinary mystery. It began almost three years ago when dinner parties held for friends by the operator and chef developed a cult following. Now, Zingara has developed into a weekly dining experience, roaming inner-city locations from car parks to lanes, rooftops, bridges, beaches and galleries. The chef will not reveal his identity except to say he is not a professional, was taught to cook by his Italian grandmother and mother, and works in an advertising agency during the day. He says that "fine dining has become boring". "The whole concept is around conviviality and creating that feeling you get when you have a nice meal with like-minded people. It's not about making money, but about enjoying good food and good wine," he says. Entry is by invitation only — each guest gets two referrals to pass on to friends — and diners are told the location via email or SMS the night before. A diner who has experienced Zingara Cucina — he asked to remain anonymous, although he will reveal he is a chef at a well-regarded CBD restaurant — described the experience as "phenomenal". "I'd go once a week if I could, to be frank, because it's an incredible experience … the presentation, the food, which was as good as any two or three-chef's-hat restaurant in Melbourne." At this particular dinner, held several months ago in an obscure city lane, guests were fed rustic Italian fare including handmade ravioli in sage butter with crushed pinenuts, and whole suckling pig — "all really simple flavours that were extrapolated in a beautiful way" — and serenaded between courses by an opera singer. The diner estimates the meal would have cost $150 in any other restaurant, although Zingara diners are asked to pay what they see fit."

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