The high-rise Hotel Presidente InterContinental sits on the edge of Mexico City’s upscale Polanco neighborhood, a place of tree-lined residential streets and chic shopping avenues. The marble floors and towering metal sculpture in the hotel’s soaring atrium welcome guests into modern Mexican luxury. Polished dark wood stairs lead visitors up to the second floor, where, behind waist-high granite walls surrounding another atrium, Alfredo Di Roma’s glass walls with sleek black metal frames beckon diners to enter.
Inside the entrance, a wall of wine leads into the 205-seat restaurant. There is an open area with tables and leather-backed chairs; an enclosed space with brown leather–clad booths; and a covered terrace with a living green wall. Along one wall, there is a glassed-in area stacked with 75-pound wheels of Parmesan cheese, imported by the restaurant. At lunchtime, the rooms fill with businesspeople and government officials, while dinner attracts Mexico’s wealthy families and affluent international tourists to enjoy what is considered one of the city’s best Italian kitchens. Alfredo Di Roma has been open 23 years, and now has earned the first Grand Award in Mexico.
The wine list offers 2,600 selections, backed by an inventory of 33,000 bottles. According to Luis Morones, who oversees the hotel’s wine program, the cellar also serves three other excellent restaurants: Pied au Cochon, the Palm and a Mexican restaurant called Chapulin. Together, they sell more than 70,000 bottles a year; Alfredo Di Roma accounts for more than 23,000 bottles a year. The cellar remains at a constant 62° F, with low-intensity lighting to protect the wines. The inventory control system is state-of-the-art.
“We are always traveling and visiting wine regions and looking for wines that we don’t have in our cellar,” Morones says. He oversees 16 sommeliers, three or four of whom are always stationed at Alfredo Di Roma, including the restaurant’s head sommelier, Eduardo Gonzalez. The staff meets for tastings three or four times a week to review new wines, and “we must have a consensus of at least 85 points before we consider putting the wine on our list,” Morones adds. His sommeliers also conduct special wine dinners and three-day wine courses each month.
There are always 2,500 bottles stored at Alfredo Di Roma itself, focusing on well-known Italian and Spanish wines, the latter category a favorite of Mexican wine drinkers. Any wine on the master list is available as well and will arrive in five minutes or less from the main cellar, according to Morones.
Stellar selections from Italy include super Tuscan and Piedmont producers. From Bolgheri come Masseto 2008 ($1,615) and 2014 ($2,340), and Sassicaia 2009 ($6,330)and 2015 ($527). Gaja is represented by 10 selections, including Barbaresco 2004 ($521) and 2013 ($349), and Sperss 2011 ($1,072).
For those thirsty for Bordeaux, the list includes 14 vintages of Château Lafite Rothschild, including 2005 ($3,819) and 2009 ($4,406); five vintages of Château Latour, including 2010 ($5,357); and Pétrus 2009 ($16,769) and 2010 ($16,768). California Cabernet is well-represented, with Screaming Eagle 2010 ($5,179), Caymus Special Selection 2012 ($357) and Joseph Phelps Insignia 2011 ($899). Burgundies include Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 2014 ($7,428) and Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanée 2014 ($1,876).
There are 40 wines by the glass, including high-end pours such as Sassicaia 2013 ($99) and Stag’s Leap Cabernet 2012 ($47). The wine selections can be viewed on an iPad, updated daily, or a paper list that is revised monthly.
Kitchen specialties include a perfectly executed fettuccine alfredo ($12), a creamy risotto with black truffles ($16), grilled Mediterranean branzino ($26) and a prime bistecca alla Fiorentina for two ($51). Chef Mauro Chiecchio’s signature dish is a full-flavored ravioli stuffed with beef and spinach and blanketed in tomato sauce ($13). A favorite dessert is a deliciously light and fluffy tiramisu ($7).
Alfredo Di Roma’s sommeliers and waiters take pride in matching classical Italian cuisine with the restaurant’s diverse wine list. Their efforts create a perfect oasis for wine lovers, with the sleek European decor echoing Mexico City’s formality and providing a haven for the city’s power elite.
—Contributor Gordon Mott is based in Mexico.
Read the entire 2019 Restaurant Awards package, including the cover story, “Sharing the Table," in the Aug. 31, 2019, issue of Wine Spectator.