Testaccio minus innards
By Eleonora Baldwin
ome's Testaccio neighborhood, its Tiber River trading hub in ancient times, has long been associated with so-called quinto quarto dishes, traditional delights made from the leftover parts of grazing animals (including tripe, sweetbreads, lungs, nerves, tail, intestines, and liver). The vast area that sprawls around bizarre Monte dei Cocci — a hill made from broken Roman anforas, and the mattatoio, the city's slaughterhouse from 1920s until it closed in 1975 — was a beehive of local industry. Slaughterhouse workers often received offal as part of their pay, making offal-related meals a staple of the neighborhood diet.
But it's not all organs in contemporary Rome's working-class wonderland.
Testaccio has grown hipper by the decade and it's now home to upbeat nightlife, museums and dance clubs. It also has its share of offal-less gourmet destinations. Here's my shortlist of places to find great Testaccio meals while taking a break from innards frenzy.
Tram Depot This popular retro chic kiosk at the intersection of Via Marmorata and Via Gelsomini offers an array of gourmet street food and attracts a young crowd with weekend music, innovative drinks and craft beers. The motif is vintage Rome trams, with the dining area situated on a green veranda. Patrons can enjoy drinks and food all day long (fruit and veg juices, smoothies, tramezzini, salads, pulled pork sandwiches, wild game cheeseburgers, cocktails, fruit salads and sublime signature cocktails. Good grattacheccas, too) • Tram Depot. Open daily, 7:30 a.m.-2 a.m. (takeout available) | Via Marmorata, 13. Tel. +39.06.575.4406. No website.
Mordi e Vai Sergio Esposito owns and mans a stall (the name means "bite and run") in the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio, and his pizza by the slice and €3 sandwiches are stellar lunch options. In addition to tripe and allesso (pulled boiled beef), fillings vary daily, and may include the delightful polpette di vitello e pomodoro (veal meatballs and tomato), scaloppine and chicory, or de-boned chicken and mushrooms • Mordi e Vai. Open Mon.-Sat. 8a.m. -3 p.m. No seating | Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio, Box 15 on Via Alessandro Volta (Via B. Franklin side). Tel. +39.339.1343.344.
La Moderna Smart choice for a snack or a full-on feast, La Moderna's menu features tasty specials that include 'nduja sausage, ricotta and artichoke croquettes, chickpea and baccalà salad and glazed ricotta with radicchio. Its proper vegetarian dishes can bring carnivores to tears — giant cobb salads, beans cooked in a flask, chickpea burgers. The street-food menu features cani caldi (a transliteration of hot dog) made with organic artisan pork, plus ciabattas (bagels) with various fixings, like the divine fegato alla veneziana (liver with braised onions). There are also grilled meats and seafood, including barbecued lobster, cuttlefish, octopus and baccalà. Pizza is made in a wood-stoked oven and the drinks department is top notch. • La Moderna Open daily 7:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Via Galvani, 89. Tel. +39.06.5750123.
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