As we slink toward spring, you can almost picture that bottle of Castelli wine on the table and the sunset peaking into the piazza. With Rome’s choicest alfresco tables getting primed for balmy weather, it’s high time to pick your spot in the sun. Here are our recommendations.
ReCafé, Piazza di Spagna
The alfresco scene: A vast outside piazza set with tables where the aperitivo happens and where tanned brunettes convene after office hours to flirt and swap stories.
The food: Another nod to pizza. Also on the menu are antipasti in true Naples style: either fried (pizzette, minipizzas stuffed with buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and eggplant — delicioso!) or from the sea (stewed octopus with local black olives). They serve a decent fillet of beef, sausages, and chicken breast, but the real reason to come here is the pizza.
Il Bacaro, Piazza Navona
The alfresco scene: Picture a handful of choice tables set outside against an ivy-draped wall. This is a tiny candlelighted spot not far from the Pantheon that makes for an ideal romantic evening in coppia (as a couple).
The food: Marinated fish or beef carpaccio are fine starters, while pastas — like orecchiette (little ear-shape pasta) with broccoli and sausage, a dish that lip-smacks of Puglia — are strong. The choice main courses are mostly meat — the beef fillet with balsamic vinegar or a London broil-style marinaded in olive oil and rosemary are winners. All unpretentious but satisfying.
Dal Toscano, Vatican
The alfresco scene: A seat on the sidewalk in warm weather gives you the sensation of being at a summer block party in the center of a small town in Tuscany.
The food: The open wood-fired grill and classic dishes such as ribollita (a thick bread and vegetable soup) and pici (fresh, thick pasta with wild hare sauce) are the draw at this great family-run Tuscan trattoria near the Vatican. The cuts of beef visible at the entrance tell you right away that the house special is the prized bistecca alla fiorentina — a thick grilled steak left rare in the middle and seared on the outside, with its rub of gutsy Tuscan olive oil and sea salt forming a delicious crust to keep in the beef’s natural juices.
Da Gianni, Vatican
The alfresco scene: Sit outside at folding wooden tables and check out the area’s film and television crowd as they talk on their cell phones.
The food: Although there are no antipasti on offer, heaping plates of tonnarelli cacio e pepe (long pasta with sheep’s cheese and pepper), tonnarelli alla carbonara, polpettone, and fried anchovies are simple and satisfying main courses.
Da Fabrizio della Malva, Trastevere
The alfresco scene: With a vine-covered trellis overhead, the terrace is a lovely spot to spend an evening before heading for a nightcap in one of Trastevere’s many watering holes.
The food: Although meat and fish get equal billing on this menu, it’s the briny temptations you’ll succumb to. Appetizers like sea scallops gratineéd with bread crumbs in a squid-ink sauce are plump, juicy, and benefit from an unusual, welcome preparation. Or try the mixed selection of pesce crudo (raw seafood), which could include sea bass carpaccio, scampi, salmon marinated in citrus with pink peppercorns, and octopus salad. Pastas range from the traditional to the strozzapreti (literally, “priest stranglers”) with clams, broccoli, and a healthy dose of garlic.
A Roman holiday on the horizon? We’ve got some tips for you:
For the foodies, who think nothing of basing trips entirely around dining experiences: