Food and wine in Rome

This is a bit long – but is basically stuff I loved about Rome during my 5 week stay there in the summer of ’12. As ever, my taste is idiosyncratic !

Neighbourhoods/hotels:

I liked the Hotel Eden from years of staying there, almost on top of the Pincian Hill, sort of above the Spanish Steps. It is very dear, and even if you aren’t staying there, it’s worth splurging on a drink or cigar, in the rooftop bar; on summer evenings, I’ve seen starlings massing over the Tiber.

For apartments, Rione (District) Monti is unbeatable: just up the hill from Via dei Fori Imperiali, putting it equidistant from the Colosseum and the Quirinale (Presidential) Palace. So very close to the main touristic spots, but relatively few tourists loiter there, as there’s nothing in particular to see. It also means that one can wander around the Forum and the Campidoglio at all hours, which is a lot more rewarding than going there during the day.

Restaurants/bars I tried & liked: for brevity I omit tens of others I never bothered with, once I found below and started cooking. See NY Times for excellent, and fairly up-to-date, tips on Rome.

Pommidoro – in San Lorenzo, it is my favourite. An old working class restaurant, yet with splendid game, some of it from the family’s hunting estate, it was a haunt of Pier Paolo Pasolini, and is filled with some of his artwork as well as old gallery posters. Very few tourists, and a somewhat artsy crowd due to the studio complex next door. Great steak, offal, mushrooms in season. They make & bottle their own oil for sale.

pommidoro
Pommidoro

Trattoria Da Teo – in Trastevere, but slightly removed from the busy bit. Very crowded, mostly regulars, but they try to accommodate. The potatoes mashed with tomato, bacon/lard, onion and garlic is gorgeous.

patate
Potatoes with tomato
pasta_ovoli
Fresh pasta with mushrooms at Pommidoro or Teo

Enzo – in Trastevere. Honestly, I don’t really remember the food, this is a humble trattoria, but I suspect we really liked it, as I retained a clipping from Il Messaggero on the best meatballs in town, and this place showed up.

polpette

Ristorante ai Marmi – in Trastevere, an old pizza joint. Named for the marble topped tables, recalling a morgue, very fast food: pizza and fried things, and precious little else.

Piperno – haven’t been here in a few years as it’s expensive, but the food is excellent, and a great place to try Jewish specialties (it is in Ghetto). Best anchovy stuffed zucchini flowers I’ve had.

piperno
Piperno’s dining room

La Matricinella – via del Leone. Quite touristy, but also lots of regulars/Italians. Food is standard Roman fare, very good, moderate prices.

Al Moro – near Spagna. Excellent food, very expensive, and sometimes requires a bit of spine, as they will try to stuff tourists into a back room. The preferred outcome is to sit in the second room (the front room is mostly regulars and a group of old men playing cards). The waiters are nice enough, the maitre d’ isn’t particularly pleasant (more accurately, he is strafottente…somewhere between arrogant and obnoxious). The food is great. Americans: you will really fit in a lot better if you don’t wear shorts, but do as you please (technically they don’t allow shorts, but a seemingly wealthy family of four were allowed in).

In Monti, on a street parallel to Via Baccina, very near to the Via dei Neofiti intersection (if not actually that), there is a fine little trattoria. Very good food.

Ai Tre Scalini – on Via Panisperna in Monti. Lovely wine bar, friendly staff and customers, they suffer hapless tourists with civility. The food is really good, albeit pre-cooked and warmed up (as you’d expect in a wine bar).

Also on Via Panisperna, further up the hill (going away from Pza Venezia), is a cafe, white I think, very simple, on the left side of the street. There is a very tall Argentine and a short bald man who run it, it’s nothing special, but great for coffee. Not open after 8pm.

Mother India – Via dei Serpenti, very good Indian food, and excellent service. Expensive (for NYC/Ldn conditioned curry-eaters), but pretty few choices if you get an itch… It is a stop on 3-4 coach tours from India, per day, so can get fearsomely crowded, best to call or stop in to check conditions. Sunday night I think was good – one of the few places where a channa masala actually has a burnt-tandoori flavour.

Al Vino al Vino – just across from Mother India, there is a little wine bar that’s perhaps less young and laid back than Tre Scalini, but is still pretty good, and quite possibly, less touristy.

Pizza – close to Vino al Vino is a pretty good pizza place, mainly for takeaway. Get pizza there, some beer from the tough old Filipino (I think) lady across the street, and grab a spot in the little square across from the church (with the fountain)

On Via Leonina there is a splendid paninoteca , I think the outside is a little garish and there are black-and-white pictures plastered inside; she makes super sandwiches, particularly with vegetables (marinated, as well as sauteed), anchovies (in oil or marinated), etc. I et there most days.

Ristorante Relazioni Culinarie – check before you go, but I think this was a Sicilian-inflected place, which is actually really nice once you’re sick of lard, pecorino romano, tripes, etc.

Bar Fico – for aperitivo a very chic bar/cafe with a found-object aesthetic inside, nice staff. There is a restaurant of similar name (probably the same business) around the corner, I prefer the bar, which is under a fig tree, and in the evenings has a gaggle of old men playing chess.

Shabby chic at Bar Fico
Shabby chic at Bar Fico

Pizza – at, or very close to, 284 Corso Vittorio Emmanuele is a takeaway pizza place. I shouldn’t rush across town for it, but I thought there pizza was great, and (it might be a chain) they took great pains to explain about their dough etc and it’s great digestibility/lightness !

Across from Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, on Via di San Michele, there is a little white bar/cafe with good drinks, very good food, that is mostly local office-workers. Is great for a cocktail while watching life in the, relatively tranquil, Piazza. The staff are nice and negronis good.

Bar Camponeschi – Piazza Farnese, very pleasant to spend a summer evening here watching the square. The staff are wonderful, the clientele rather posh (after all the restaurant/bar is in the ground floor some elderly Principessa’s palazzo).

Vineria Reggio – Campo dei Fiori, the journalists bar, and a touch more sophisticated than the others. Have a drink watched over by Giordano Bruno – Heretico, impenitente, pertinace, e ostinato, and stop by Fahrenheit 451 bookstore

Roscioli – there are two, one is a pizzeria/takeaway, one is a very fancy businessman/diplomat place serving simple food. I prefer the informal one, and there pizza marinara is outstanding.

A little enoteca on Via dei San Martino ai Monti, have a glass under the monastery and the big tower. Almost magically quiet, only 5 minutes from Cavour.

Dabbous Restaurant London

Apparently impossible to get into, one of the hottest openings of 2012, can’t get through on the phone, etc etc. I was lucky enough to get a space for lunch, on a snowy day in Fitzrovia. Main takeaway: flawlessly executed food with great ingredients, some innovative touches in the recipes, good but not especially warm service. IMHO, falls between two stools: it is neither true to any particular culinary tradition (as are St John, River Cafe, Kikuchi, etc.), nor is it aggressively innovative (such as Wylie Dufresne’s places, Viajante, etc.). So while it is very good food, at a somewhat above-average price, served mainly to businessmen (at least on a Friday lunch), so hardly worth the effort of getting into for the average hipster.

Detail of the set lunch menu:

The martini was excellent, floral, served in an old-style wide champagne glass. The bread, studded with walnuts, was super. The whipped butter, while very pretty on its slate plate, was unremarkable.

A salad of speckled endive in a bergamot, gingerbread, and mint dressing was wicked – textures of leaf and crunch, married to distinctive fresh yet complex floral flavour. However, an absurd tall bowl, almost a small glass, that was very hard to eat from. Duly mentioned to the waitstaff.

Skate with mustard and molasses (picture) had a fantastic texture, as skate should. The sweet and citrus sauce were great for the skate. The pickle was pointless and cloying.

Suckling pig belly with acorn praline, turnip tops & apple vinegar. Archetypical as far as pork belly goes, crackly, stinky, porky , meaty. The praline adds texture, and the vinegar is great, again for cutting richness. Turnip top is in such a small quantity, that, compared to an Italian contorno, it is pointless, and closer to decoration than an accompaniment. Nevertheless, very well executed – though one really must love the smell of pork, which I’m indifferent to, at best.

Waffle with smoked fudge – pretty awesome, the fudge tasted (and glistening globules under the spot lights made it appear) almost like a meat-glaze.

Wines: didn’t have any, seems like an okay by-the-glass and bottle list

Skate
Skate with mustard, molasses and pointless pickle