CIAO/CHOW TIME – THREE RESTAURANTS IN ROME
It would take several lifetimes to sample all the dining options in Rome. Here are three we found during our last very short visit. So many more to try!
Ditirambo, Piazza della Cancelleria 74. This small, informal restaurant is very close to Campo di Fiori in the heart of tourist Rome. www.ristoranteditirambo.it Recommend reservations. 39.06.687.1626. Moderate prices. Open every day. Monday dinner only.
We ate there at lunch time, and despite its location Italians rather than tourists joined us in savoring creative Italian cooking. Our friend, who is vegetarian, dined on a tasting of their appetizers of eggplant pudding with Moliterno ewe’s cheese and pesto sauce; deep fried zucchini with tomato and smoked buffalo mozzarella and parmesan cheese; and eggplant rolls in Calabrian style (tomatoes and spinach); among other delicacies like Scamorza grilled cheese with truffles and goat cheese with mushrooms.
I toyed with the idea of crispy potatoes with cheese fondue and slivers of black truffles but ended up with home-made tagliolini with artichokes, pork cheek and pecorino Montanaro. Rich!! My husband had something more sensible: the tagliolini with shrimp and asparagus.
We all chose a salad of thinly sliced fennel decorated with pomegranate seeds, as a perfect foil to the rich pasta and appetizers.
Our wine was a Negroamaro, a rich and warming red from Agricole Vallone in Puglia.
Thus fortified for cold weather, we strolled to Campo di Fiori for shopping – there is a large section of spices, some prepackaged for your pasta sauce, and given the holiday season, jars of treats like sauces made with truffles – and photographing vegetables which I can never resist in Italy.
Ristorante Pierluigi, Piazza de Ricci, 144, is located, as they put it, 878 steps from Piazza Navona. (It’s actually close to Via Giula and the Tiber.) Catering to the rich and famous like John Kerry, Frank Bruni, Colin Firth and Lebron James, Pierluigi is high-end and expensive. Dinner time brought out patrons cutting a bella figura, women in designer dresses and serious jewelry and men in well-cut suits or clerical garb. The restaurant, which specializes in fish, has been around since 1938.
Their website is www.pierluigi.it/e and their enjoyable Facebook page is www.facebook.com/pierluigiristorantefilled with photos of the famous and infamous who dine there (Dennis Rodman!). Judging from the crowds filling the rooms, reservations are mandatory. Tel: 39.06.686.8717. Closed Monday. For summer there is an outdoor dining area on the piazza.
Like most Italian fish restaurants we were greeted with their fish display.
The bar near the entrance has inviting space to enjoy their famous cocktails. The main dining room at ground level is plainly decorated. The room in the lower level sharing space with part of the wine cellar looked especially attractive for an intimate meal.
We were with a party of ten and chose a fixed menu: a starter of tartar of eggplant, bufala ricotta-stuffed squash flower, and a carciofo alla giudia(meaning deep-fried artichoke.) Next came a bowl of orecchiette pasta with broccoli sauce and another with three flawless ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach. The orecchiette were somewhat heavy, but the ravioli were marvelous and light. The main course was a generous serving of fresh grilled thinly cut tuna with balsamic vinegar served with rughetta and tomatoes. No doubt it was cut from the tuna on display near the restaurant’s entrance.
Fortunately, the dessert was light: paper thin slices of pineapple with an orange sauce. A chardonnay from Pietra Pinto winery in northern Lazio went well with the menu.
Three hours later we rolled out into the cold night, our stomachs full of great food and our hearts full with friendship.
Ristorante Agustarello a Testaccio, Via Giovanni Branca 98, is modest as befits its location – not far from the old slaughterhouse, now the MACRO contemporary art museum (complete with the hooks used for hanging the carcasses and the statue of a man wrestling a bull over the entrance). Moderate prices. No website but reservations advisable by calling 39.06.57.46585. Closed Sunday.
The menu, like many in this area is called cucina povera, cooking for the poor using the quinto quarto,the fifth quarter of the meat – everything that the rich didn’t eat, from the head to the tail. Ironically, these types of offal are not inexpensive.
The restaurant decor is two shades of green, which doesn’t cast a favorable light on the excellent food (and stopped me from taking photos). I have to admit we stayed away from the more exotic offerings like coratella (lamb heart, lung and liver with artichokes), animelle (roasted sweetbreads), or pajata (milk fed lamb intestines). The tail, coda alla vaccinara, was on the menu, but not testarelle (whole roasted lamb’s head). After too much food over the week I happily reverted to plain cavatelli pasta with chicory. Our non-vegetarian guest had roast lamb with potatoes and my husband ordered his favorite: abbacchio allo scottodita,lamb chops so hot you can burn your fingers eating them. We all enjoyed the wonderful coarse Roman bread and my favorite, carciofi alla Romana, Roman-style artichokes meaning those simmered in water with wine, olive oil and herbs. Instead of wine we enjoyed glasses of Menabrea birra, from Italy’s oldest brewery (not really that old: 1846).
This meal brought to a close this stay’s Roman dining experience. We returned to our gorgeous room in our favorite hotel, the San Anselmo, www.hotelsananselmo.com, to pack and set the alarm for an early departure (and to begin a diet).
All photos copyright by author except 3 interior views of Pierluigi, which are from their site.