As promised, here are some of my closely guarded secrets to dove si mangia bene – where one eats well in Rome.
–Definitely have a drink on the roof of Hotel Mediterraneo, via Cavour, 15 right near Termini, anytime of day or night. Because nothing in Rome is very tall, this hotel happens to be the tallest structure in Rome and has awesome views. Italo, the waiter at night, is a sweetheart. OH MY GOD. THEY MADE IT A RESTAURANT. WTF? YOU HAVE A TERRACE WITH THE BEST VIEWS OF ROME, AND YOU CAN’T HAVE A DRINK THERE? YOU RESERVE IT FOR PEOPLE TO EAT (OVERPRICED, PROBABLY CRAPPY) FOOD THERE STARTING AT 8PM? ARE YOU INSANE?? Off to find another place that won’t be as good as this one. Harumph.
–Piccolo Abruzzo, via Sicilia off piazza Fiume near Villa Borghese, v.Sicilia 237, 06/42820176 – this place has no menu, so don’t ask for one – they keep bringing you food and then when that’s done they bring you liqueurs off the shelves and a jar of biscotti. Alessandro the host and waiter is awesome and so generous. Only go here if you can marathon eat a ton of awesome food for not a lot of money.
–Cantina Cantarini (But the sign outside says “Marche” or something) P.zza Sallustio, 12, 06.48.55.28 great place with outdoor seating. This is a good place to go to lunch before or after going to Villa Borghese. Only eat here on Thursday through Saturday, when they have their all-seafood menu. You must make a reservation. Order the fried calamari/shrimp plate to start and the mixed fried fish (“fritto misto”) for second – it’s lightly lightly fried and oh so good . SO AWESOME. Also order the house white wine with your meal, it begins with a “k” and is yummy, I can’t remember the name. And make the men sit on the outside seats to the aisle because the host will try to feel up the ladies if they sit on the outside.
–If you are near the Colosseum, find via dei Serpenti (runs perpendicular to via Cavour). There is a gelato shop directly behind the 117 bus stop that is awesome. Right behind via Cavour on via Leonina is an amazing and cheap and authentic pizza shop to eat stuff to go – Pizza Leonina, it’s called (not the place on the corner called “WANTED”) – the pizza comes in slabs and you tell them how much you want and you pay by weight. The pizza with roasted potatoes and rosemary is awesome.
–Up the street from Pizza Leonina is a sandwich shop called Polvere delle Stelle. You point to whatever you want behind the glass and the lady makes a sandwich for you, deli-style. The roast pork sandwiches are to die for, but my favorite is the zucchini frittata with hot sausage on a roll.
— On the other side of via dei Serpenti, via Leonina turns into via Madonna di Monti, you want to follow this street until you get to a place called Taverna Romana, across from a tiny food store and they have 2 large potted plants outside. Order the antipasto plate, cacio e pepe (butter, cheese and black pepper) or spaghetti carbonara, and the meatballs. The meatballs are to die for but every single thing is amazing on this menu, I have eaten it all. The old couple that owns it are gruff but use a tiny bit of italian and they will warm up a bit. Tell them the girl who orders cacio e pepe and the meatballs (“polpetti”) says hi to the old man and he will be thrilled.
–There is a chain of restaurants you will see called Pastarito/Pizzarito. They specialize in fresh pastas and you can mix and match the exact stuff you want. It’s a bit franchise-y but the pasta is cheap, served in family style bowls, is not bad, and if you go with a group it’s great becaues you can try all kinds of different stuff. Do not order the pizza here. It sucks.
–If you are jetlagged and can’t sleep and are starving, La Base on via Cavour is open til like 4am. Not that I have ever been up that late of course, but I’ve heard.