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Franco's favourite ... Roman food & restaurants

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Rome is a marvellous spot for food addicts: other than being a capital with plenty of great haute cuisine restaurants, also the traditional fare of Rome is one of Italy’s best. This traditional fare, btw, is not using any fish or seafood; after all, Rome is 15 miles from the sea, and this is being considered inland in Italy (just compare this to contemporary restaurant usages, involving the catering of king prawns and the like literally everywhere, from alpine villages to cities 1000 miles inland!). Rome's traditional cuisine is a cucina povera, a poor cuisine, with plenty of cheap ingredients like notably entrails, in fact, even literally bowels: one of Rome's most refined delicacies is the (still filled) bowel of baby veals, having suckled their mother's milk and nothing else for their whole (short) life – which means their bowels are filled with a sort of cheese. Sounds awful, tastes delicious.
But if you'd rather not eat such traditional Roman fare, you won't starve in Rome; I repeat, there are plenty of excellent restaurants serving more elegant food, and also Rome's own cuisine has of course its richer dishes: first of all, abbacchio, baby lamb, nowhere else to be encountered in similar quality.
A thorough exploration of food in Rome would easily fill a book, which I don't intend to write; I'll limit myself to just a few hints, thus. My favourite restaurant is a simple, casual, rustic osteria serving hearty, ingeniously prepared food: Osteria dell'Angelo, via G. Bettolo, 24 (in the far surroundings of the Vatican – surprise!, as this is normally Rome's worst area for eating out). The owner is a former (famous!) football player, and the waiters are his like, so the social graces there may seem a little rude. This is one of the last osterie in Rome where you're getting a set menu in the evening, which doesn't exist in any written form; you can't choose much, you're getting whatever they have prepared for you (there is a choice between two or three pasta courses, and sometimes between two main courses, they'll tell you by word of mouth). You can't skip a course. You can't choose the wine, it's included in the price, and it's their house wine. Everyone pays the same price (25 Euros per person for dinner, which is incomparably cheap for a four-courses-dinner in Rome). And if you're ordering a coffee after your meal, it will come already sweetened TO THEIR TASTE. All this may be strange, but the food is simply gorgeous; for me, it's maybe Rome's best kitchen.
Btw, someone has accused me recently on Fodor's, when I recommended l'Osteria dell'Angelo (as I always do), of sending people to one of those "set menu" tourist traps... you can imagine this is not the case, but it deserves maybe some explanation: the oldest type of Italian restaurants, almost died out nowadays, were "set menu" places like Angelo's: not with a set menu to order from the (written) menu, but with just one menu for all the guests on that evening, without any choice. There was (and maybe is) another of those osterie in Rome: "Da Alfredo e Ada", via dei Banchi Nuovi, 14 (not too far from Piazza Navona). Alfredo has vanished long ago, and Ada (and her sister) were already not elderly but really old ladies on my last visit in 2003 – Ada having cooked there ever since 1945, just imagine!! So should it still be there, you'd better go today than tomorrow... The fun of eating there is (was?) greater than the food, which is however still good enough.
Another splendid traditional restaurant, much more expensive, but still affordable, is Sora Lella on the tiny Tiber island – a wonderful mix of traditional and creative fare. If you want to taste roast abbacchio at its best, this is the place to go: www.soralella.com
And yet one more traditional place, the one with the greatest tradition, and one of Italy's most famous restaurants: "Checchino dal 1887", www.checchino-dal-1887.com, founded in 1887, of course. It's in the Testaccio district, where Rome's entrail cuisine is at home (the slaughterhouse, the mattatoio, used to be located here), and in fact, many of those typical Roman entrail dishes were invented in this restaurant – which is still the best place to eat them (surprising as it is, since restaurants as famous as this are usually living on past glory – but not Checchino!). The famous veal bowels pasta dish's name is rigatoni alla pajata, for those who want to venture on trying it (which I absolutely recommend). Another invention of Checchino is coda alla vaccinara, oxtail stew with raisins (sometimes, it comes also with some chocolate in it).
Another wonderful example (a simpler, more rustic one) of the Testaccio cuisine is Perilli on via Marmorata, 39; they, too, prepare a great coda alla vaccinara (the chocolate version).
Finally, an excellent pasta restaurant in Trastevere (its southern part, which I like best): www.lemaniinpasta.com.
A surprisingly excellent and beautiful, though pricey, place to eat outside is Al Presidente, on the tiny square on the corner of via in Arcione and via delle Scuderie, below the Quirinale presidential palace. Surprising because this is two steps from the Trevi fountain, and yet the food is really, really good (and the flair of that square is unbeatable in the evening).

More than that, Rome is certainly the best place in Italy where to eat gelato. My top choice is in Trastevere: Cecere on via di S. Francesco a Ripa, 20. If you don't know their zabaglione ice cream, you've never tasted gelato!
Two other excellent gelaterie are in the Parioli residential quarter: Bar S. Filippo, via di Villa S. Filippo, 8/10, and (just around the corner) Duse on via Eleonora Duse.

Please note: This thread is not primarily meant for discussion… it's primarily meant for substituting myself while work won't permit regular posting during the next six or so months. I'll try to check once a week, however, so if anyone would like me to answer any questions related to food in Rome, please post them here – I won't unfortunately be able to browse all the other threads...

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