Had been hearing great things about this new-ish trattoria (almost 2 years with the new chef) through the Italian grapevine. It is a bit out of the way, so it took us such a long time to finally eat there - this past Saturday we were ready to take visiting friends to a new place and chose to go to Cesare al Casaletto.
Chef Leonardo Vignoli has worked at another favorite of ours, Guida Ballerino, some years ago - as a sommelier! He is now cooking up a storm at Cesare - traditional dishes, some new ideas, good raw material and the best wine list we have ever encountered in a trattoria (and better than some starred places, too).
We found the fritti to be best dishes on this day. In the picture above: polpette di bollito con pesto (fried meatballs made from boiled meats, a typical “second usage dish”), polpette di melanzane (fried eggplant-balls with a spicy, smoky tomato sauce) and gnocchi fritti cacio e pepe (homemade fried potato gnocchi with a cheese & black pepper sauce). We also had the bacala (fried salt cod filets) and fried anchovies. The anchovies were a bit limp but impeccably fresh and tasty, everything else was perfect, with great flavor combinations.
Our pasta courses disappointed us a bit, but we think it might have been a temporary lapse (both carbonara and coda alla vaccinara - oxtail - sauces were oddly mild, almost saltless), the cacio e pepe with the seasonal artichoke bites were a lot better.
By this time we were so stuffed that we only tried one secondo (veal) and some contorni (the roman artichoke and cicoria), which were all lovely, good ingredients, treated respectfully.
We drank Angelino Maule’s Sassaia, Ciro Picariello’s Fiano and Arianna Occhipinti’s Nero d’Avola at laughably low prices (the whites for 12 euros a bottle and the red for 25). The wine list (there are also some rapidly changing wines that don’t make it into the printed list but are in shelves & fridges for the guests to peruse) has a strong emphasis on organic / bio-dynamic / natural wines - no matter what you think of these, the examples at Cesare are all very good wines in their own right, let me assure you.
Service was very nice, attentive but not obtrusive , ready to answer all questions, making clever suggestions, not up-selling. The almost all-white no-nonsense clean atmosphere is cheered up by a colorful mix of water glasses. The patio looks like it might be very nice to sit in the summer, maybe under some vines?
I also would like to mention that Cesare is one of the 12 restaurants participating in the Sapori Diversi project that gives the handicapped a chance to learn jobs in the kitchens or service of restaurants so later they can be employed and support themselves.
6 antipasti, 4 pasta, 1 secondo, 4 contorni, 3 dolce, 3 bottles of wine, water and 4 cafe cost the 4 of us ca. 190 euros (scontrino provided without asking). As you can see we ate & drank a lot, you can definitely be perfectly happy at around 25 euros. We heard they have the “pinsa”, a not very famous, thicker, type of Roman pizza, in the evenings, which is supposed to be good.
Do not let the location (Via del Casaletto 45) scare you, it is very easy to reach - hop on the tram number 8 from Largo Argentino in the center and get off at the last stop. It is few steps away. Reservations a good idea (under 06.536015, open lunch & dinner, closed wednesdays).