In a city deluged with throngs of tourists year round, it is often hard to find a meal that feels genuine. Many restaurants in the center have transformed themselves into McTrattoria’s, mass market Italian fare with plastic menus catering to tourists. They have neither the charm nor the food that makes Rome dining unique.
So I thought I give readers a taste of a few real Italian joints where I’ve eaten at recently. The list is neither exclusive, nor exhaustive — not meant to be a scientific survey of Rome’s best. None are pizzerias. Some I’m sure have appeared in guidebooks. They do not all have English menus, but will almost certainly have staff with enough food English who can help you order. Most important: All are delicious, charming and offer food that is the real deal. Reservations suggested at all.
Ristorante Montevecchio. This tiny place on a winding street near Piazza Navona, is a little space with big food. It is Italian — with a slight tilt towards seafood compared to your average Roman restaurant — often prepared with an interesting twist. I recently has a nice salmon carpacchio there, followed by a good sea bass. They do a mean tortellini filled with pear and ricotta, and well as a number of steaks grilled in interesting ways. The atmosphere is subtle and intimate, a nice romantic place for a long talk over a good meal. Piazza Montevecchio 22a , Phone: 06.6861319
Evangelista. Classic Roman food, with world-class artichoke dishes — unlike anything you’ve ever imagined in the U.S. On a recent visit, I went whole hog (or whole artichoke). I started with carciofi al mattone (an thin artichoke tart made by roasting slices between two bricks) followed by a soup of artichoke and pasta. But Evangelista also offers a great range of Italian soups (pasta and beans, pasta and lentil), pasta plates, roast meats and tripe. I don’t eat the latter myself, but our Roman friends declared it delicious. Quiet, classy and overlit — as most nice restaurants in Rome tend to be. The bread, the wine, the desserts are terrific too. Evangelista, 11a Via delle Zoccolette. 06/6875810
Colline Emiliane. A great mid range restaurant featuring food from the Bologna area, the part of Italy known as hosting the country’s best food. Their special prosciutto is extraordinary, as is the homemade tortellini in broth. The stewed meats are a specialty as well as porcini mushrooms, when in season. Do try the Lambrusco, a slightly fizzy red wine from the region. It goes well with the food — even if the very sound of fizzy red is offputting. Via degli Avignonesi 22, Rome, Italy 00187. 06-481-7538.
Finally, my neighborhood fave — Osteria Chiana — a bit out of the center but a great, relatively cheap place to go for wonderful food and a chance to see where Romans-in-the- know eat these days. Wooden tables with paper place mats, bustling every night with intellectuals, businessmen, and (often) me. Simple Roman food — artichokes, bean and pasta soup, mozzarella and prosciutto, a selection of classic pastas and meats. I recommend meatballs in red sauce (not with pasta — that happens only in America!) and the Fusilli alla Norma (with eggplant). The owners both spent time in NY, so they also offer a unique appetizer: bits of potato skin fried in olive oil and salt. Yum. If you are finishing your day at the Borghese gallery it’s a nice mile walk from there. Via Agri 25, Rome 00198. 06-85304430.