Between cute and real. Style and substance. Modern and old-fashioned. Trastevere and Monteverde.
That is what I’ve been doing for the last 15 days. I moved (not the VinoRoma wine studio, which remains in its gorgeous Monti location - also straddling some lines, with the 21st century tasting room and the 11th century cellar, as I am just now realizing). I have been eating out a lot - returning to places I’ve known and loved for some time but also discovering new venues. Here is a round-up.
On the day before the move, we needed a break from all the packing. The sun was shining, we were in a good mood, we wanted to sit outside, but not be in the maddening crowds. This place lured us by its almost complete lack of tourists although being only steps away from one of the main thoroughfares and surprised us by its really acceptable food (which is something you learn to appreciate in Trastevere). The fried artichoke was crisp and tasty, the spaghetti vongole fresh, just like the paranza, and service was very nice, if a bit slow. Would return (but not run).
On the day of the move, furniture in place but no boxes yet unpacked, we had to have dinner. Ai Marmi is close, cheap and an institution. If I have to restrain myself from saying anything negative, I can only say: The pizza is thin, as the Roman style dictates. But I can’t restrain myself from saying the negative if it is the truth: We had heartburn all night. I remembered why we did not include it on The Rome Digest. Will not return.
The place I do keep on returning to. It is inconsistent, but mostly very good, and this pizza with anchovies, capers, olives, pinenuts and oregano sang to my umami-loving palate during my last visit. And Gatta has a great craft beer and wine selection, too.
The first few days after the move were filled with boxes, pizza and panini. Looking for a place to eat some vegetables without really committing to a sit-down restaurant, we remembered this tiny organic shop run by a very friendly couple. They prepare great salads and other small dishes you can eat there, perched on stools, or take away. Almost anything can be customized to your taste (or allergies). Have returned, and will return!
As we slowly unpacked and found our plates and cutlery, we moved on to having picnic-style meals at home. Along with Antica Caciara, which we love and has supplied us with great ewe’s milk ricotta and bread, we also relied on this new discovery just around the corner from us. In the past, we have had great problems finding consistently good mozzarella (i.e. fresh, not gummy, not dry, not stinky, not full of chemicals) in Rome, so after 5 tries I can pretty confidently say this place delivers. Their burrata is good, too and the buffalo milk ricotta is the creamiest we’ve ever had. They are not organic, but local and have a pretty good quality. We keep on returning.
We went in because I didn’t verify my initial research and thought a specific chef was working here - which was not the case any more, as it turned out. Luckily it was only a lunch, which we tend to do at places where we are not 100% sure, so we could escape without breaking the bank on a worse than mediocre meal. The amuse was dry (panzanella) and tough (octopus); the pasta had past its prime vongole and was devoid of any taste otherwise, the frittura di paranza was bordering on inedible. Not returning.
First Sunday after the move was a beautiful day - we had opened all boxes but didn’t feel like cooking, being outside was far more attractive. After a walk through Villa Sciarra (never been? Go right now, when everything is in bloom) and the beautiful residential area of Monteverde Vecchio, we walked by this place and were immediately taken. All fresh, local and seasonal products; nice service that handled our critique on some plates very well; and a promising execution in the kitchen (if a bit salt-free at times). Will go back, as we’d like to support the great idea and the effort.
I have written about the “typical Roman trattoria” before (Reatina, which I used as a bad example); and this is technically not a Roman, but a Sardinian place; but it fits the bill in that it is close to our home, it is the nonno & nonna in the kitchen as well as in the service, the TV always runs showing a slightly porn-y 70s movie, there is bad art on the walls and not everything is good (skip the unnaturally-textured and -tasting creme caramel as well as the spaghetti with bottarga that has no chance against the burnt garlic that reportedly is always included) but you know you will get a pretty decent meal on a night when you are too lazy to cook. Will return.
I believe I was the first to write about this trattoria in English (almost exactly 2 years ago!) and though admittedly I was at first mostly taken by its awesome wine list (occupational hazard), I soon came to regard it as the best trattoria in Rome. I still think so. Leonardo, the owner and sometimes chef, is the perfect host, the food is consistently very good and the wine list is stellar (i.e. offers a great selection of very good - mainly “natural” - wines at very affordable prices). We never shied away from the 1 hour / 2 bus commute to Cesare, and now it is just one short tram-ride away. Would I return? Friends joke I must have a designated table there already.
Find of the year. Within a week, I have been there four times already. We joke that we moved because of Cesare (see above) but discovering that the much-hyped litro is so close to us was definitely the bonus. Great coffee, nice selection of pastries, carefully sourced (mostly D.O.L.) cured meats and cheeses and a small but very nice, all-natural wine selection (what’s with the prices, though?) kept pulling me back. And the really very nice staff. Now I just have to try the famed mescal-based cocktails. Have to return.
we have to talk about this wine. come taste with me at VinoRoma.
on the check back / check out list (T: Trastevere / M: Monteverde):
Taverna Trilussa T
Le Mani in Pasta T
Dot. da Simone T
Le Lumie di Sicilia (great expectations on this one) M
Il Focolare M
Il Cortile M
L’Antica Roma M