Here's some thoughts on my recent trip to Rome... I was visiting friends but was out and about by myself most days... hence, I ate a lot of pizza (never really felt comfortable sitting down to a meal by myself).
Forno Antico at the Campo de’ Fiori -- I wandered into this crowded bakery at around 2.30pm; as soon as I entered, they locked the door behind me. Everyone was waiting for something… so I decided to wait as well. I was rewarded 5 minutes later with pizza bianca, hot from the wood-burning oven, sprinkled with olive oil and a tiny bit of salt, with an amazing crisp yet chewy texture. Heaven, and only E0.78!
I also enjoyed the pizza Margherita and pizza rossa at Il Gianfornaio (Ponte Milvio, 35), snipped to order by the slice, then folded in half like a sandwich. The crust was hyper-thin and amazingly crisp, the sauce was tangy and tomato-ey, while the mozzarella added a nice chewy texture, though a lot of it slid off as I ate it on the run.
I found the tiny sandwiches from the bar/pasticceria, Mondi (Via Flaminia Vecchia 468/A) absolutely enchanting. They offer about eight different varieties. Of the two little sandwiches I sampled, one had sundried tomato, a creamy cheese and pine nuts; the other was stuffed with a zucchini blossom and salted anchovy (odd).
Mondi is also famous for its own gelati, particularly the chocolate-orange peel version, which is very sophisticated, deeply chocolatey with tender bits of sugared orange peel (about E1.90 per cup). I also visited the legendary San Crispino (via della Panetteria, 42, reward yourself after the hellacious Fontana di Trevi), where I sampled their grapefruit sorbet, intensely citrus-y, tart, slightly bitter, with shavings of peel, very refreshing, also quite overpriced: E3.50 for a tiny cup.
For heartier fare, I enjoyed Enoteca Cul de Sac (Piazza Pasquino, 73) a crowded, cozy place lined with wine bottles. The menu features a large assortment of charcuterie and some Roman specialties. I enjoyed the polpettini in a white wine sauce, the meatballs rich with a meaty flavor, the sauce a light glaze, served with buttery mashed potatoes. Excellent wine list. Interestingly, as we left, we noticed all the food was heated via microwave — the place doesn’t have a kitchen, so all the dishes must be made off-site and reheated to order. This doesn’t seem to detract either locals or tourists. Down the street, Enoteca il Piccolo (via del Governo Vecchio, 74-75) is a nice spot for an aperitif.
No trip to Rome would be complete without lunch at Sora Margherita (Piazza delle Cinque Scole, 30). Located in the Jewish ghetto, it’s definitely been discovered by the guidebooks (and tourists, and probably Rick Steves… sigh). But it’s still a no-frills spot, with paper-covered tables and no menu, but a recitation of the daily specials. I had a carciofo alla guidia, a golden, fried artichoke, the leaves crisp like potato chips, the heart tender, soft and sweet. Then, fresh pasta (alas, not made in-house — we saw them with the boxes later) tossed with ricotta, pecorino cheese and black pepper, the pasta chewy yet tender, with a salty, peppery bite. Also, a salad of blood oranges, fennel and deep, black olives, simply dressed with sharp olive oil and a dusting of black pepper. My friend had a torta, a sort of layered casserole with sauteed spinach (or some leafy veg) on top, underneath a layer of shredded fresh anchovies. She said she loved it, but fresh anchovies were too fishy for me. With a bottle of water, two coffees, total for two: E40 (more expensive than I remember).
Finally, traditional cafes seemed few and far between, but Caffe della Pace (via della Pace, 5) has a charming old-world atmosphere that is perfect for sipping cappucino or, my new fave, blood orange juice!
I posted photos of some of these spots on my blog, www.annmah.net