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We chose Santo Palato for our first evening in Rome because we were there on a Sunday night and it was one of the few restaurants open near (ish) the city center. Since the majority of our time was in Trastevere, I wanted to save the other restaurants closer to Trastevere for when we were close by. Santo Palato will be a long trip for the majority of tourists in the city center but it was a relatively quick taxi and they were kind enough to offer to call us two taxis for our large group (6 people) when we left. Our server was wonderful and didn’t mind translating the ten plus specials on the board for our English-speaking group. The restaurant has a wonderful neighborhood trattoria atmosphere and though there were a few English speakers it was predominantly Italians. We thought the appetizers were the standout here, particularly those featuring offal. We also noticed tantalizing meat-heavy second courses passing our table that we regretted being too full to order. The restaurant starts you off with a tasting liqueur as a welcome, which was delicious and put us in great moods after our long flight. The star here, according to the internet, is the carbonara, which I got. I think this is a matter of differences in taste but I felt that the sauce to pasta ratio was very sauce heavy to the point of being too thick, and that the dish was missing a little salt. However, I loved the giant slabs of guanciale, much bigger than those served in other restaurants. This wasn’t my favorite carbonara of the trip because it was almost too rich to eat more than a few bites of. However, the restaurant as a whole is cozy and the appetizers are outstanding if you want to make the trek. If I went back, I would stick to appetizers and offal throughout the menu or test out the amatriciana. There’s also a perfectly good little gelato spot right around the corner, next to a taxi stand for a ride home. We called ahead for reservations.
Cesare al Cassoletto
What can I say about the most perfect trattoria in Rome? I’ve been to Cesare now three times and each time was better than the last. While the service, during a Sunday lunch around 3PM, was a little slow, we were a large group (12) so I expected this. I also particularly enjoyed coming on a Sunday because it was crowded and the people watching was great. Make sure to call ahead to ask to sit outside. The seafood cone appetizer and the cacio e pepe fried gnocchi are standouts, and just as good as the last time I had them. It was idyllic to sit under the lovely canopy of leaves on a Sunday afternoon (despite the Rome heat!) drinking white wine and eating phenomenal fritti and the classic pastas. This was the best gricia of our trip. It’s an easy ride on the 8 tram from Trastevere. Make sure you go- we called ahead for reservations.
Seu Pizza Illuminati
This was a different and interesting atmosphere- much more of a modern vibe. Compared to Da Remo’s atmosphere and pizza, it wasn’t my favorite but it was a fun, crowded joint with lots of interesting takes on pizza. It wasn’t too hard to get to Seu Pizza compared to Santo Palato. The suppli was great, make sure to get it. We also ordered beer. Seu required a phone reservation but they were also willing to seat a big group (12) as long as we were exactly on time. Seu is much more of what I think of as Neapolitan style than roman pizza, so prepare for big fluffy airy crusts with drippy middles (in a good way, not like Emma). The menu is separated into classics and innovative/modern pizzas, some designed after the classic pastas like carbonara and amatriciana. I got the diavola, which was delicious, but it didn’t blow me away. Unfortunately (or fortunately), Chicago, where I’m from, has developed some great Neapolitan style pizzas over the last few years and this held up to what I’ve tasted at Chicago’s Neapolitan pizzerias Spacca Napoli and Forno Rosso. Outside of the clearly superior quality of Roman ingredients, I didn’t think that Seu was that different in preparation, style, or taste from these pizzerias so while wonderful, it was something I could also get at home. I also prefer less of a modern atmosphere, but this is definitely a personal preference. The service here was probably the least engaging/enthusiastic of anywhere we visited but I’m not expecting American-style service and again, we were a big group, so it was perfectly fine.
Morde e Vai/Testaccio market
We went to the Testaccio market for an easy lunch on a Monday. Morde e Vai is wonderful, very similar sandwiches to Italian beef which wasn’t exactly what I was anticipating (should have read more!) but was delicious. The market has been remodeled in a more modern, enclosed style to stay up to safety codes and it was fascinating to read newspaper articles tacked up to vendors stalls describing their opposition to the move. In addition to Morde e Vai, we stopped at stalls for gorgeous fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, slices of porchetta, fresh street pizza by the slice Bonci-style, beer, and some fruit. I wish I remembered the stall numbers but there aren’t a staggering number of options like in the Mercato Trionfale (an even better market and my favorite) so these choices should be relatively easy to find. If I did it again I would go sit next to the far outside wall of the market where it’s shady and lots of Romans were sitting (very close to the giant wolf mural) in order to sit outside rather than in the semi-soulless plastic picnic tables in the center. In July, it was way too hot to sit in the sun in the official outdoor seating of the market even with the misters spritzing you.
Roscioli is a dream. Follow Katie Parla’s instructions very closely on what to order and you will have a perfect meal. Bring as many of your friends with you as you can, because the more people you have, the more you can order. Standout items were the burrata with sundried tomatoes (unreal, best of my life), the anchovies with butter, the carbonara, all the meats (prosciutto, mortadella) and cheese selections. My friend got the gnocchi cacio e pepe and felt it was too rich to eat. I could have happily ordered this whole extensive menu every night, choosing different things, for the rest of my life. I think though that since the restaurant is based on a concept similar to a deli, it makes sense to stick mainly with meats, cheeses, appetizers, pastas, all of which are superb. This was one of the only restaurants, with the exception of Armando al Pantheon, that you can make an online reservation at. We were 12 on a Monday night and had no issues and sat in the wine cellar which is VERY cozy (read: tight) but also lots of fun and enjoyable and cool, particularly in July. Roscioli gives you little cookies dipped in chocolate (delicious) as a free dessert, but we were celebrating a birthday and got tiramisu as well which was criminally indulgent.
Armando al Pantheon
Despite the fact it was great the first time I went in 2013, this is another restaurant I had been to before and was expecting sub-par results from, since it’s so close to the Pantheon and clearly American tourists are coming in droves. We went on a Tuesday for lunch around 1:30PM and made our reservation online. They were very nice about the fact that we were late coming from the Vatican (every time I go I forget exactly HOW MUCH ART there is and underestimate how long it will take. By the end, we were running past the Dali paintings without a second glance to get to lunch!) My fears that it would be over-touristed were completely unfounded and the food and service was just as good, if not better, than it was in 2013. We did sit next to Americans and it was clear this was the most “found” restaurant of our trip but it didn’t change anything about the execution. This was the best amatriciana of our trip and we ordered seconds of it. All of the main pasta dishes here are executed wonderfully. The fact that it’s still this good and next to the Pantheon is insanity. Slightly more expensive than other places we went, but we drank a lot of wine.
I remembered Da Remo from my study abroad years as an exciting experience, mostly because of its very gruff Roman waiters. We came around 8:45PM on Tuesday night walking from Trastevere (20 min) without reservations and were told it would be a 30 minute wait that was actually closer to 15 minutes. We were allowed to buy and drink beer while standing outside leaning against a tree (there were also a few chairs) and this was very jolly. Da Remo’s atmosphere, is in my opinion, perfect. Expect paper tablecloths and low prices. The gruff waiters I remembered were on this visit hilarious and incredibly kind to our group (8), one joking about my boyfriend’s little sister’s inability to cut her pizza, shaking his head comically and taking her pizza away to cut it himself before returning it to her. Prices are outstanding, the classically Roman (thin crust, slightly burnt around the edges, magical sauce) pizza was perfect, and for the first time I ordered appetizers because we were a big group (suppli, dandelion greens, prosciutto, bufala mozzarella) which while I’m sure were not as artisanal as Roscioli’s, were absolutely great. This was actually one of my favorite dining experiences of the trip. There also used to be a fun little bar with twinkle lights on the other side of the piazza Da Remo is located in that was not open or had closed, so keep an eye out for that if you have to wait, but the beer and chill strategy worked great for us and was very enjoyable.
Ranked in terms of enjoyment on this particular trip: Roscioli, Da Remo, Armando, Cesare, Seu, Morde e Vai, Santo Palato
Hope this is helpful to anyone else looking to go to Rome soon!
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