A tale of two passions: food and biking at Ghisallo
Ghisallo marries casual Mediterranean dining with fine Italian road bikes.
When you first face Ghisallo on the corner of Reinprechtsdorfer Straße and Schönbrunner Straße, you may perform a double take: it changes depending on which way you face. On one side, you see a dealership for fancy racing bikes; on the other is a contemporary café/restaurant with a relaxed ambiance. As strange as it may seem, the premise behind this concept store-cum-restaurant is quite straightforward for founder Livia Pálffy, who gave up a career in upholstery to pursue her twin passions: “I wanted a place where people can really have a meal – and I saw that specialized stores were dying out in Vienna. But I believe in them; when someone is passionate about something they need a place to talk about it and the internet cannot replace that.”
Taking its name from the Madonna del Ghisallo – the patron saint of cyclists – it certainly delivers on both counts: Step right in and enter the world of premium road bikes, with buyers and enthusiasts ogling ultralight carbon frames. But step left and a sprinkling of tables spells cozy neighborhood hangout – and a great place to discuss the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia. In line with the theme, the tall, whitewashed interior is interrupted only by the occasional cycling picture – except for a full-wall mural in the back, showing fans cheering on racers taking a hairpin bend. As I sit down, the soundtrack to the French film Amélie fills the room; an older Italian gentleman enjoys his last drops of espresso while browsing the paper. Next to him, two young skateboarders sip beers and chat while a couple arrives for dinner.
Meals ‘n’ Wheels
Soon, my starter arrived – a grilled baguette with soft goat’s cheese on a bed of quartered cherry tomatoes (€8.50). Slightly caramelized, the molten cheese paired well with the crunchy bread, the tomatoes cutting nicely through the salty flavor. My main course was grilled chicken breast, juicy with a hint of balsamic vinegar; the mashed sweet potatoes that came with it were a perfect match, intensely tangy and sweet (€13.40). For the final stretch, I treated myself to chocolate mousse topped with apple sauce and chocolate flakes, giving a welcome and surprisingly crunchy texture to an otherwise fluffy desert (€5.30).
Pálffy acknowledges the clear Italian influence, a tribute to the cycling superpower: “I’m not Italian and I don’t pretend I’m in the kitchen. However, Italians make the best road bikes, which is why the three brands we offer are Colnago, Pinarello and Bianchi. And while our cooking may not be strictly Italian, I like to call it a kind of fusion with Mediterranean inspirations.”
As I settled my bill, I noticed the Italian influence extending to the ambiente: no one seemed to be in a rush, despite the suggestion of speed from the high-tech engineering all around. And as Pálffy’s close friends join her for dinner, I make my way home, only regretting that I hadn’t come on my own two wheels.
5., Schönbrunner Straße 97
Shop Tue-Fri 10:00-18:00
Café | Bar | Restaurant
0677 61 29 58 80