The Bianco Guide To: Roman Food For Lovers
Every time I’m in Japan I’m so surprised about the sheer amount of Japanese food you can eat there each day without ever getting tired of it. Some people estimate the number of restaurants in and around Tokyo from about 200.000 to 300.000 – and most of them serve Japanese food. It’s amazing how one nation can identify itself through its culinary DNA and, thereby, keeping alive all the traditional recipes, spices, and original taste. Even though I really like German food, life would be living hell for me if every restaurant in Berlin Kreuzberg or Neukölln served sauerkraut, sausages, and pork knuckles…
Anyways, why am I even talking about Tokyo, Germany, and sauerkraut while introducing a guide to Rome? Because Rome – much like Tokyo – has a countless amount of restaurants serving local food you just can’t get enough of. They even take this to new heights by having similar menus in almost every restaurant I came by. Sure, there’s a variety in Roman food but the basic setup is almost the same, anywhere you go. From starters, to primi piatti, and secondi piatti, all of Rome is centred around the lovely and powerful circle of pasta, meat, and vegetables with a lovely and special twist here and there: Roman Jewish cuisine.
So, basically, anywhere you go they’re serving straight-up Roman food. At any market you visit young and old people are buying Italian food. Actually, anywhere you are they’re talking about Italian food. It’s kind of a ninja village where everybody knows their immortal sugo, pasta, and antipasti techniques and you shouldn’t start any trouble by serving bad food.
Street after street, trattoria after trattoria, there is an endless stream of Italian restaurants, each of which, for the beginner’s eye, basically serves the very same dishes. However, with the help of a lot of friends, some deep research, and Google maps, I came up with a list of restaurants that are supposedly selling you the true essence of Roman cuisine...
...this guide is pure amore, so be the perfect lover and enjoy:
Ivo a Trastevere
This guide starts in Trastevere, a Roman district where I spent most of my time and ate most of my food. The place we head to first is called Ivo a Trastevere and it is easy to find. In a restaurant, mixed with Italians and tourists, you will make your very first contact with something you will fall in love with immediately when in Rome: simple and smart Italian food; simple, because they don’t fool around with too many extras, fancy plates, and things on the menu you don’t understand; smart, because it’s just good Italian food – and with “just good,” I mean: fucking amazing.
I went for some (simple and smart) beans with ham, the fried artichoke (will tell you about this beauty soon), and one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life: a Capriciossa. I have to admit, I’m not the biggest pizza lover but this one crushed my heart into pieces. I’ve never had a pizza looking that shaky and strange and, at the same time, was so on point like this little ugly duckling. The egg in the middle was on a ramen-like egg level and, once the warm yolk was running over the thin dough, mushrooms, ham, and olives, I knew I found the right spot to start this guide. Another thing you should and will fall in love with in this little restaurant is the Italian house wine. For about 10 euros, you get almost a litre of love without having these feelings of intimidation you get every time you order the cheapest glass of wine in a fancy restaurant while the waiter looks at you like you would never ever deserve to sit next to the other wine gods, snobs, and sommeliers of this world. No! In Rome you can order a cheap litre of red wine and still feel like Zeus. Just do it!
Mordi & Vai
God bless this man! God bless Mordi & Vai! This guy could be a Japanese Shokunin because he is specialized in one particular thing and took it to another pure, real, and awesome level (like Shokunin do): the panini. The place is around a really nice market area where you can watch old Italian nonnas buy their cheese, ham, and vegetables and the world seems to be in a perfect condition for that particular moment...
… but let’s talk about the panini. When I finally found his stall, I took my time to watch the old bossman fly around his shop and then finally asked him for his favourite panini. He just smiled and opened one of his boxes and showed me a thick broth with slow cooked beef in it that looked like the hidden grotto of the playboy mansion – just with sexy meat instead of hot ladies (i.e. my type of playboy life). He then dipped the bread into the broth (which is a simple thing but definitely a game changer when it comes to the consistency of the bread), put some beef on it, and added ciciria Romana (which tasted like the pengest spinach ever) on top. Dio mio! Yes, this was most def the best sandwich I’ve ever had – this level of tenderness, mixed with the fresh “spinach,” and the perfect amount of saltiness…fuck! This place is boss and this was just one of the great things I’ve tried in there. There is no way around this old man and his magic panini (lol). Do not dare to leave Rome without having tried this experience, ok?
Osteria Da Fortunata
There isn’t much else to say about Osteria Da Fortunata than just go there, be fast, get a table next to the famous old lady who is doing fresh pasta since forever, and feel blessed by watching her making your pasta dreams come true.
Everything in here tastes fantastic. It’s a little bit pricey but hand-made in front of your eyes. Plus, it's Action Bronson approved, so just go there and be happy! Easy.
Why am I eating a club sandwich in a fancy restaurant in Rome next to rich old men with young beautiful girls? Find it out here.
Bar San Calisto
Let’s be honest, no matter how hard you try and no matter how authentic the places are, you will always be a bloody tourist. Still, you should always try to get at least a taste of life, an open hand, some clinking glasses and approving nodding from the locals. The Bar San Calisto is one of these places where you can actually get a taste of that Roman lifestyle. So, go there before dinner and watch the youth, working class, and some lovely old cunts get together and drink your Peroni without being a tourist pepperoni.
Trattoria Da Augusto
This trattoria is the most down-to-earth place I’ve ever been to in my entire life. They actually put “down-to-earth” on the most beautiful level you can imagine. The food they serve is straight out of any Italian nonna’s mind and some of the dishes took me back to long forgotten childhood memories in my grandmother’s kitchen. This food is no Instagram moment. This food is no fancy get-together. It’s just as real as it get’s and as good as it can possibly get. I’ve actually never been to a restaurant that put their food on this basic and, at the same time, excellent level. While eating all this great food I kind of started wondering why no one else is having a restaurant like that, no matter what place or country. I really fell in love with Da Augusto and if this place were in my street I would put my bed next to the kitchen!
Osteria da “Zi” Umberto
No starters, no smiles - that’s the motto. I tried quite a lot in this place and since the primi and secondi plates are way above everything they offer as starters, you should definitely skip the small things and attack the right spot from the start. But don’t expect any smiles in here! At least to my face these highly skilled people showed no love, no smiles, no nothing while serving the pasta of my life – which is all I actually need.
So let's talk about the pasta! Oh lord! This was by far, far, FAR the best Bucatini all’ Amatriciana I’ve had in my life! The thickness and freshness of the noodles, the way the sauce was sticking unto them, the Pancetta, the whole fucking taste…Jesus! I would literally kill for this!
As a main dish I ordered the suckling pig, which was amazing – like really, REALLY good. It tasted and looked almost exactly the same as my nonna used to do it. Just by looking at it I get hungry again. But, even though this pig was straight fire, I still wished I just had ordered a second plate of different pasta ‘cause these noodles really blew my mind. Please, go there, catch some smiles or not, but – for fuck’s sake – order some pasta!
Welcome to hell zone. Pompi Tiramisu is a famous Tiramisu ninja in Rome who happens to run a store near the Spanish Steps. Now I know they have an OG shop somewhere in an outer district, too. Next time, I will definitely go there, instead of dancing straight into the heart of darkness. To be honest, I’ve never bought something so delicious in a place this ugly. The whole place looks like you are inside the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz or in a bong shop from a long, distant (and ugly) future. So this place is pretty close to a Phillip Plein store, there are a shitload of tourist around you, there are about 25 people trying to sell you selfie sticks outside, but the Tiramisu is still fucking great. So go there, get some take away love, and run for your life! Leave this place, go to a quieter district, and be happy forever with your bomb Tiramisu and all the other greatness the ugly Tin Man just sold you. Success.
Jewish Roman cuisine – goddamn, how can I continue living my life without fried artichokes? Rome is full of these beautiful influences that survived the darker times of Roman history because of the will and the success of Jewish Italian nonnas and nonnos. An originator of this great cuisine is Nonna Betta. In the former Jewish Ghetto, you can taste the greatness of this meal, together with a conglomerate of other Jewish Roman specialities.
There is a huge ass sign with Anthony Bourdain in front of the restaurant next to a stupid amount of other signs and labels that will tell you just how good this restaurant really is. So, you can barely miss it. Better reserve a table and still be ready to wait a bit. The food is good – probably not worth a million signs – but IT’S GOOD!
This is a place that sells ice cream and yes it’s good. Yes, it’s ice cream. Actually, I don’t care about ice cream but I had one of the best skilled ice cream ninjas in Europe with me and she told me to get this place into my list. It’s pretty close to Nonna Betta, so go there afterwards and definitely order the pear ice cream. Shout out to Rick Ross.
Flavio al Velavevodetto
This place is straight from my dreams. From Ossobuco to risotto al nero di sepia (black Risotto), they’ve got it all and they know exactly how to cook it. This was definitely my favourite place and, at the same time, the most gangster and special kitchen I visited. One of their signature dishes, the “Rigatoni con la pajata,” is actually forbidden by EU laws because of the pajata in it. Pajata is the term for the intestines of an unweaned calf, which means it was only fed on its mother's milk. The intestines are cleaned and skinned, but the chyme is left inside. When cooked, the combination of heat and the enzyme creates a sort of thick, creamy, cheese-like sauce. This might sound strange, even though I got it from Wikipedia, but let’s just say this pasta is boss and something you should try, if you have the balls for it.
After my gangster Rigatoni, I went for the best ox tail I’ve ever had with the best ox tail tomato sauce I’ve ever had. I’m not even joking. I do not even have to describe this place furthermore. Just go there, reserve a table, and live the life!
Ai Marmi is magic, mainly because of the three hardest working men in Trastevere. I’ve never been to and probably never will go to a ballet, but watching these three pizzaiolos dancing around the wood stove was pretty close to that, I guess. There is a huge line of Italians waiting outside and it’ll take you some time to get in, but it’s definitely worth the wait. We even managed to get a table close to these three dancing giants and you should try, too. The way those three guys were fist fighting the dough like gladiators and then started touching and threatening it with their huge ass hands like they were stars in a soft porn, named “big natural tits", was simply amazing.
But let's talk about the pizza and the starters: I had a fried zucchini flower, trapped in cheese and anchovies for starters and I loved it. I also loved the zucchini flower & salsiccia pizza and the one litre red house wine on top. So, basically this place is boss. The pizza is traditional af and the whole atmosphere is amazing. Even though you have to wait a lot, all waiters are stressed, and you’re again just a bloody tourist in between a lovely Italian hell, just go there and eat!
Another gelateria my ice cream specialized friend liked a lot and, at the same time, the last spot on my list. She said you should definitely take the Ginseng Mint Ice. I second that. Ciao.