Refueling in Rome -- Good eats near big sites
January 14, 2013
ROME -- Boasting one of the world's best cuisines, Italy draws tourists giddy to both marvel at its art and history, and to feast on pasta, crudo and antipasti.
In Rome, the city of the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, the dining experience can match the sightseeing. Unfortunately, most restaurants surrounding these top sites serve watered-down, over-priced versions of Italy's dishes.
To get a true taste of Rome, gourmands should head to the suburbs, where rumor has it the best food lies. However, those with less time or energy can still eat well comfortably near the city's top attractions.
Near the Campo di Fiori
Il Forno Roscioli
A deli by day, Il Forno Roscioli morphs into a bustling restaurant by night. Two-person tables dominate the cramped space, but the food makes up for the tight squeeze. Roscioli is said to have some of the best spaghetti carbonara in town and it didn't disappoint.
The sauce was yolky, cheesy and bright yellow and unadulterated by cream. Big chunks of fatty guanciale, or pork jowl, studded the dish. Neither of us tried the lamb medallions, but found ourselves eyeing them every time a waiter passed our table with the chops. However, after the complementary dessert of cookies and chocolate fondue, we couldn't handle another bite of food. Via dei Giubbonari 21-22.
Enoteca Cul de Sac
This enoteca (wine bar) sits on a side street away from the heaving masses and overpriced restaurants on the Campo di Fiori square. The food menu consists mostly of meats, cheeses, antipasti and pates, but also has a small selection of pastas.
The wine menu is vast, with listings from throughout Italy and beyond. The food was surprisingly good for a touristy haunt, and more importantly, it's inexpensive. A lunch of two pastas, pheasant and black truffle pate, wine and a soft drink set us back only 32 euros. Like, Roscioli, Enotec Cul de Sac is small and crowded, so be prepared to share a table. Piazza Pasquino, 73.
A rumored winner: Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi. This much-lauded enoteca serves cold plates (meats, cheeses, antipasti) to go with their wine selection. Via Santa Maria del Pianto 9a/11.
Near the Colosseum
In a city where many restaurants decorate with wine bottles, Cavour 313 is a sight to behold -- the walls and ceiling rafters spill over with yet-to-be-sold bottles. Cavour 313 is obviously a wine bar, but one that focuses on high quality food.
The servers here are helpful. Talk to them to figure out exactly what you want to eat, even if it's off-menu. They also have a solid understanding of the wine available and can pick out exactly the right variety to fit your taste and mood.
If you want a break from Italian food, they serve couscous plates and respectable hummus. A mere block away from the Colosseum and the Forum, the enoteca is a perfect respite from a day roaming antiquities.
A rumored winner: Right behind the Via Cavour is Rome's Monti neighborhood, which has remained relatively local and quiet despite its proximity to the Colosseum. You can find many good restaurants here, but by far the most popular is Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. Those wishing to dine there need to make a reservation. Space is so scarce the restaurant puts a sign on the door beseeching walk-ins to walk away.
Near the Trevi Fountain
We stumbled upon this restaurant during a nighttime trek to the Trevi Fountain and ended up eating the best pasta we had in Rome. We tried the Cacio e pepe, a traditional Roman dish with just pecorino cheese and black pepper, and the homemade spaghetti with tomato and basil.
Chewy and eggy, the fresh pasta transformed these simple dishes into divine ones. The restaurant also serves shellfish, steaks and fried artichokes and zucchini flowers -- a Roman staple. Unlike most downtown Roman restaurants, Piccollo Arancio boasts more locals than tourists. At 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night, every table was filled, mostly with Romans, but also a scattering of lucky tourists. A few blocks up from the Trevi Fountain. Vicolo Scanderberg, 112.
A rumored winner: Hostaria Romana was listed by the New York Times as one of the best trattorias in Rome. The antipasti is said to be transcendent. Reservations would be smart. Via del Boccaccio, 1.