When three friends decided to open a restaurant in Denmark in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, they asked themselves what flavors they felt were missing from the Copenhagen food scene.

The answer was something unique. “A place where the cuisine is based on the Italian virtues and combines them with the Japanese. It does not exist in Denmark. Both kitchens focus on simple, good ingredients and don’t combine a whole lot of different flavors — they keep it simple,” explained Andrea Calducci, Head Chef of the new Restaurant Levi, in an interview with European media.

Calducci, a renowned chef who has run prestigious restaurants in Shanghai, London, and Dubai, was persuaded to come to Denmark by Restaurant Levi founders Jesper Boelskifte and Peter Trauboth. They named their new place, built out of a former parking garage, after their muse, famed Italian grappa master Romano Levi.

“Romano Levi managed to create his very own universe, where both the product and the packaging were completely unique,” the owners say on their website. “That’s what we strive for with Levi. We want to make something completely clean and personal — a restaurant and a kitchen that doesn’t hide behind anything.”

The fusion of Japanese and Italian food is meant to be a seductive surprise with every visit. “Every time we (re)visit the honest and simple Italian cuisine, we are overwhelmed by how little it takes to create an irresistible taste. At the same time, we are captivated by the elegance and constant balancing on a knife edge that we find in Japanese cuisine. We are thrilled by the exotic ingredients and the many unexpected flavors,” the website explains. “When our chefs pull on the apron, they are forced to experiment in the meeting between the two approaches. Thus, the weekly menu at Restaurant Levi is the result of a constant search and curiosity that characterizes our kitchen.”

The company’s Instagram feed highlights pictures of dishes like pasta covered in crispy octopus, lamb, and artichoke in a salty Japanese broth, and fine cuts of wagyu beef over risotto.

The bistro’s interior design was crafted by restaurant partner Johannes Torpe with an eye towards the warmth and comfort of old Italy and the sophistication of Japan. The color scheme of jade green and natural wood is soothing and sumptuous. The custom banquettes curve around the restaurant, flanked by window views of the bicycle-lined avenue of inner-city Copenhagen. The green-swirled marble countertops and the terrazzo floors bring in extra Italian flair. Public reception has also been overwhelmingly positive. Since its opening in March, Restaurant Levi has boasted fully booked weekends.

“The future of the Danish gastronomic scene is bright. Copenhagen is — rightly so — among the most hyped food cities in the world, and so it will continue,” adds Jesper Boelskift. “In the run-up to the coronavirus pandemic, we [were] once again seeing a resurgence of new places and new concepts. The lockdown was tough, but it also gave room for new thoughts and ideas. We also felt that it gave time and space for the development of our restaurant, which is why today we stand here with Levi.”