I spent nine months in Rome, and I went to the Ristorante Monserrato (Via Monserrato 96 tel:6873386) probably ten times, I don't think I ever left unhappy with my food, or unstuffed by three or more courses, copious amounts of wine, and not overly damaged by the bill.
Thankfully the Timeout guide, unreliable for restaurants in my experience, gives it a very average write up, so it should not be too packed with too many awful guide book readers. I found it during one of those interminable restaurant marches/searches where you think you will never eat and may kill the other members of the group if they compromise and choose a bad "place to eat".
Why is it my favourite restaurant in Rome, perhaps in the world? Prima Facie it seems unextraordinary. Tight tables with white clothes, fish on display in the front, wood panelling with high shelves of wine, some tables outside for warmer months, a tray of creme brulee on a table between the two dining rooms, and a glimpse of the chefs beating meats in the kitchen. Smart couples dining, and strange families, and regulars, not overwhelming. Near to the beautiful Piazza Farnese, not full of tourists(self-hatred of the tourist speaks). But why?
It satisfies, near completely. First Oysters. A good start, just their funny flavour, and the fun of sliding them down your gullet. Next mixed antipasta, roast peppers and aubergines, mixed ham and salami, carpaccio of swordfish, artichoke hearts, great black olives. Delicious flattish olive oil bread to eat it with. Slowly, no rush, another bottle of Montepulciano, red red wine, no time for white in winter.
Now pasta. Push out the boat for the half a lobster on bombolotti, better is spaghetti with clams and garlic, for the gambler:often perfect but occasionally disappoints, bigoli with asparagus and prawns not bad, thought the pasta worms chew too much.
Ok now the main event. By all means have decent fish sometimes, but really there is only the steak.Bistecca al Fiorentina, amazing meat, have it very rare. Just lemon and salt and red meat that makes you mad and gnawing at bones and mopping up blood. So good, huge on a wooden board, unbelievable size,two halves round a bone to share if you like, not gruesome and too soft to toothsome like the American equivalent, beautiful, accompany with patate al forno for the juices, sometimes the best beef I have eaten.
Now more wine. Dessert. Some cheese maybe, a plate of prosciutto, creme brulee is alway there homemade and a comfort, tiny strawberries for some, a sambuca to finish oneself off. No hurry. They serve coffee I think. Most don't can't remember that far. Stumble out into the beautiful warm night, where the French ruled Rome. Go home.