Tom Eats! In Rome


Tom Eats! in Rome

Bernini Elephant

For a reviewer, four, I think, is the magic number. Sample any fewer plates and you can't be sure you're getting a representative sample. Four folk each having three different courses is ideal, but life just isn't normally like that.

Dinner at Casa Johnston tends to be a one course affair unless we're entertaining. And during our Roman holiday it was difficult to persuade a certain lady to change her ways. (Where's Audrey Hepburn when you need her?) So despite dining out every day we returned with few possibilities for full blown reviews. But we ate well, and I know many of you may be going to the Eternal City in the not too distant future. Here are a few possibilities.

We were staying just south west of the city centre, between the Palatine Hill and the Tiber. The books will tell you that Trastevere (literally, across the Tiber) is the happening place. A zoo is a happening place too, and in either you're not short of dining options. Let's start with the strangest.

Ristorante La Cornucopia, Piazza in Piscinula 18

I read about this on Trip Advisor. It was well spoken of; the menu looked good; and it seemed to be close at hand. Ticked all the boxes. Only one problem. We couldn't find it. Piazza in Piscinula is tiny. We searched every nook, we asked locals, and we rechecked every time we were in the area. Niente, nada, no sign. If you ever get there. let me know how you fare.

Dagnino, Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, 75

This is actually in an arcade near the Piazza della Republicca. Did I say we ate well in Rome? Exceptions to every rule. Boasting branches in Palermo and Rome, this place describes itself as a pasticceria, though they do serve lunch. Actually, serve isn't the right word. You go inside, have a nose around, then pay. Then you go back and ask people behind a counter to shove your food on a plate. Want it hot? They stick it in the microwave. Fancy a sandwich? I was in the mood for a tramezzo, which is served in British style soft bread. This was Tuesday: I guess the bread must have been fresh the previous Friday. When I complained, they, with much grumbling, offered to swap it for a panino - which came with a different filling. The barman was nice otherwise it's a 1/5 for service. (Oh, and the toilets were a disgrace.)

A Place in Trastevere - Tom Wearing Ass's Ears

A Tuesday night and the square is heaving. In most places I'm being quoted an hour's wait. So we find this wee pizza takeaway place which seems to have some tables. I've been confused by the large group of students waiting (not long) for carry outs. In fact, it's a norrmal sized restaurant, just not choc a bloc at the time. There's a full menu, but I know better than to try fancy in a pizza joint. We stick to pizza and pasta. An excellent Napoli, and some great ricotta stuffed ravioli. House wine by the jug is great. Then a couple of workmen from Florence site next to us and go right through the menu, including last week's carciofi alla giudia. It was all wonderful, and I forgot to note the name.

Two lessons. Firstly, don't be that stupid. Secondly, if you want to eat in Trastevere at peak time, try to book.

Dulcis in Fondo, Via de Fienelli 51

Having snacked at lunchtime, we weren't looking for much. Just round the corner from our hotel, overlooking the Tarpeian Rock, whence prisoners were thrown to their death, was a small row of places. The large terrace not yet having been opened up, we assumed that this  was part of the unassuming bar next door. Thus we were surprised by the rather elegant establishment, and delighted by the taglieri for two, a large board of salumi (charcuterie) and cheese. As the crunchy looking foccaccia had a stale appearance (it wasn't) we, quite unnecessarily, ordered some bread. Everything, washed down with a sensational Nero d'Avola, was wonderful. Though not as wonderful as the same platter at-

A platter for 2. Yes, really.

La Prosciutteria, Via Guglielmo Oberdan 19a, Bologna

The more observant among you will have noticed that this isn't in Rome at all. Well, in our case, buy a train ticket to Orvieto, lunch in Bologna. It's a long story. Food wise, the photo says it all.

Ristorante Pecorino, Via Galvani 64

An excellent recommendation from C & J, regular visitors to Rome for the rugby. This is in the Testaccio region, an up and coming area, once grittily working class. It houses a major market and was once home to the city's abbatoirs. As part of their wages, workers were paid the quinto quarto (the fifth quarter), mainly offal. It explains the core of Roman cuisine with dishes such as Trippa (tripe) alla Romana and Coda alla Vaccinara (oxtail). We ate fried artichokes (in batter this time) and baby lamb two ways, grilled chops and the tiniest lamb shoulder you've ever seen. Recommended.

Saving the best to last, on Saturday night we booked into -

Evo Hosteria, Via Garibaldi 60

To the west of Trastevere, this evening didn't have the best of starts. While everywhere else seemed to be mobbed, this was quite empty. That soon changed. And our early exchanges with the waiter weren't of the best (see the Water? Water Fuss article in last Wednesday's On The Side). But he soon became our bestie, guiding us through a rather different menu. The plate of capellacci, pasta stuffed with braised beef and served with mushrooms and a red wine reduction is already hot favourite for Dish of the Year. Compared to that, a dish of fusillone with mashed fava beans, bacon (technically guanciale) and a pecorino foam, was merely very, very good.

Chunks of black pig loin were cooked in a pistachio crust which was glued to the meat with a layer of mustard and served slightly pink. Porcine perfection.

If you confine yourself to central Rome you really have to be careful to avoid tourst traps. But go a little further afield, and you eat very well indeed. Excluding drinks, I don't think we paid more than 60€ for two. The Eternal City indeed.

1 Comment

  1. LJ on 27th April 2024 at 7:35 am

    Going a little further is good but Bologna, maybe a step too far 🥰

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