Any foodie who visits Rome knows that they can’t visit the city without trying one of the city’s local dishes, and for me I always have to try a carbonara. Like many Roman dishes, the carbonara is part of the now-fashionable style of cooking known as cucina povera – or ‘peasants cuisine’ – which are some of Italy’s most basic & honest dishes originating from times of poverty. The magic in these types of dishes lies in the quality of the ingredients and the skill of the chef. Carbonara is a case in point; consisting of just spaghetti, egg, pecorino, seasoning and guanciale (cured pig’s cheek). I had only 48 hours in the Eternal City, so I did a quick Google search in the hotel room for ‘best carbonara in Rome’ and found this place just around the corner. I read that they encourage diners to graffiti on the walls, so I got dressed up, drew an ‘x’ on my tourist map and set off.
Finding this place was a bit of a mission if you’ve never been there before, involving lots of backtracking, turning that map at different angles, wandering up and down the streets and asking a couple of locals for directions using my basic spoken Italian. Eventually I found it, and it was very busy – a good sign during midweek.
“Ciao. Tavolo per uno, per favore”, I said as I entered the packed restaurant. I was worried there wasn’t space for me, but I was led to a table in the rearmost dining room. It’s one of those types places that I’ve found to be common in Italy where are are various dining rooms with walls adorned with photos of happy moments from the restaurant’s past and shelves full of bottles of wine. The kinda place I absolutely love to visit! I already knew what I was ordering, but I had a quick look through the menu and saw plenty of enticing options at very reasonable prices. Very quickly, my order was taken.
I hadn’t ordered a starter, but a mystery fritter and bread basket was served. The couple on the table beside me were also served the same thing, so I asked them in my broken Italian what it was. It turned out to be a delicious tomato & mozzarella arancino, or a ‘suppli di riso’ as the Romans call it. It was piping hot full of stringy mozzarella and tomato sauce – pretty delicious. It was gone pretty quickly.
Before I knew it, the main course arrived. A delicious spaghetti carbonara! This was the real deal; a sauce consisting of egg, cubed guanciale (cured pigs cheek), pecorino cheese and black pepper. The sauce was a perfect emulsion that coated the pasta and was packed with flavour. Every cube of guanciale had a deep, smokey favour with a crunchy exterior & a melt-in-the-mouth centre and the spaghetti was cooked al dente. So moreish! The presentation was strange as there was sauce on the sides of the bowl as if the pasta had been swirled around in the bowl.
Pudding was a must, so I went for Torta della Nonna which is a kind pie with a lemony custard filling topped with pine nuts. The custard was thing and smooth with a hint of lemon flavour and the pastry was crumbly. Pretty tasty!
Whilst I really enjoyed the food and the interesting decor, I know that there are plenty of other olde world eateries in this amazing city, so I don’t think I’d make a special trip back here. The service wasn’t overly attentive or as friendly as I’ve experienced elsewhere in Rome.
Keith’s rating: 3 out of 5.
Date of visit: 15/01/2019