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The north Rome neighborhood of Parioli is affluent, snooty, and chock with delights.
By Eleonora Baldwin
Uh oh, the P-word: Parioli to be precise. Upscale and extensive, the northeast Rome neighborhood is home to acres of green parks, elegant turn-of-the-century architecture, countless embassies, and a number of distinguished museums. It's safe, quiet, beautiful and far less likely to attract the average traveler or expat than nearby Prati or Flaminio, both anointed as chic.
There are downsides. Whether it's food, lodging or apartment prices, Parioli doesn't come cheap. The few sights and monuments limit public transportation. Most of all, though, Parioli carries the burden of a bourgeois label. Much of the city sees it as nouveau riche bastion, making it the butt of jokes from Rome's sizable and very vocal working class.
Admittedly, north Rome's local fauna can seem like a zoo of 15 year-olds, most driving spiked microcars while simultaneously smoking and operating iPhones. Propping up this teen brigade are cashmere-clad, rightwing figli di papà (Momma's boys), most fans of the Lazio soccer team (working class Rome favors AS Roma). Then come silicone-enhanced ladies decked out in non-eco designer fur.
But not all those who live in the Beverly Hills of Roma are true pariolini (as fellow Romans disparagingly call Parioli locals). The population is in flux. What was a mostly residential and elderly neighborhood until the mid-1980s seen a recent surge in businesses, offices and boutiques. Sleepy, tree-lined boulevards are now packed with cars.
And business brings pleasure. Some of the city's best restaurants and bars — most of them very much white collar — are located in Parioli. And a few are well worth visiting. In that spirit, here's my shortlist of favorite quartiere stops in the neighborhood Rome loves to hate.
Enoteca Bulzoni This Parioli institution opened in 1929, selling unbottled wines, oils and vinegars to the then-budding local community. Now among the city's top-rated wine stores (enoteche), it specializes in natural wines and offers superb aperitifs from 6 p.m. to closing time at 8. In those two hours you can buy bottles over the counter or sit on bar stools at tall tables beside wine connoisseurs while pretending to know your orange wines. The daily pre-dinner drinking menu includes white, red and by-the-glass prosecco (which you can pair with charcuterie and taralli). • Bulzoni Viale Parioli, 36. Tel. +39.06.807.0494 | 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. | Closed Sunday.
Le Sicilianedde This deli-meets-cafe is a Sicilian gourmet delight that serves up granite, delightful pane cunzato (sandwiches made with round durum wheat loaves dressed with sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, olives, and primosale cheese), panelle (chickpea flour fritters), arancine (fried rice croquettes) filled with prized Tuma Persa — a raw cow cheese recently rediscovered by a dairy farmer who produces it exclusively for Le Sicilianedde from on an antique recipe.
The house aperitivo, usually Sicilian wines, may include cheese and cured meat platters such as hand-carved prosciutto nero dei Nebrodi, melt-in-your-mouth lardo, pancetta and salami. The beautiful décor, handsome waiters and vintage flooring complete the charming setting. • Le Sicilianedde Viale Parioli, 35. Tel +39.06.8069.3080 | Open daily 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Al Ceppo Founded in the 1960s, this high-end spot owes considerable success to elegant furnishings, immaculate place settings, abundant flower arrangements, and an open, wood-fired grill perfect for roasting fish, rich meats and seasonal vegetables. Though the cuisine is traditional, some dishes betray their Marche-region roots (the native region of sisters and gracious owners Cristina and Marisa Milozzi). Must-haves include chickpea and squash soup; a delightful pumpkin flan with mozzarella di bufala fondue dribbled with aged balsamico; and the terrific guanciola, low-temperature cooked beef cheek served with orange-flavored braised radicchio and glazed shallots. Al Ceppo is perfect for a business lunch or a romantic têtê-a-têtê dinner. None of this comes cheaply. Depending on wine choices, a meal can soar past €100 per guest. • Al Ceppo Via Panama, 2. Tel. +39.06.841.9696 | Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Monday.
Duke's This California-inspired "fine casual dining" restaurant and cocktail bar offers ingredient-driven cuisine, a good mixology department, and an impressive choice of New World wines. Duke's, which gets its name from surf legend Duke Kahanamoku, boasts a lovely outdoor patio for springtime al fresco meals. The indoor dining space is designed to make guests feel as if they're sitting on a beachfront deck in Malibu, sipping Zinfandel. Try the grilled tuna steak served on crisp garden baby greens, vine-ripened tomatoes and wild capers, or the rib-eye steak — enhanced by a kick of grey Atlantic sea salt. • Duke's Viale Parioli, 200. Tel +39.06.8066.2455 | Open for aperitivo and dinner, 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Gallura This Sardinian restaurant boasts one of the neighborhood's most attractive locations. With a menu oriented towards fresh seafood, best bets include spaghetti with sea urchin and sea anemone; sea bass baked in an almond crust, and the unique basil meringue with rum-braised octopus and crispy artichokes. This is not a place for dessert, unless port semifreddo with cantaloupe cream is on the menu. Powerful A/C inside, and a lush garden with outdoor seating under illuminated trees outside will help keep your mind off the hefty bill. • Gallura Via Giovanni Antonelli, 2. Tel. +39.06.8072971 | Open lunch and dinner, closed Sunday.
Pizzeria La Pariolina True Pariolini like to double-park their SUVs in front of Il Caminetto on the lower part of Viale Parioli. But the food there is unimpressive at best. So head a few doors down to La Pariolina, where a wood-fired oven produces both Neapolitan (thick rim) or Roman (thin) style pizzas with toppings that range from burrata and culatello, to classic Margherita made with vine-ripened tomatoes, to terrific quattro formaggi and garden fresh vegetarian pies. The menu also includes an impressive à la carte choice of specials, homemade pasta dishes, grass-fed, locally-sourced meats and a vast choice of cheeses, cured meats and craft beers. The spacious dining room has a section with booths for families. There is a separate room for hosting parties and tastings, and an outdoor patio for year-round al fresco dining. • La Pariolina Viale Parioli, 93. Tel. +39.06.808.6002 | Open daily, lunch and dinner.
Metamorfosi If you want to splurge or impress a special date, let Michelin star chef Roy Caceres oblige you. He offers creative tasting menus with dishes that include crispy lamb with almonds, eggplant and gin-juniper ice cream, glazed eel with crumbled farro and onion sorbet. Allow sommelier Paolo Abballe to guide you through the impressive wine list and prepare for eye-candy among the staff. • Metamorfosi Via Giovanni Antonelli, 30/32. Tel. +39.06.807.6839 | Closed Saturday at lunch and Sunday.
Molto Once a large boutique, the space is now a spacious and well-lit restaurant. Lunch is available from the large salad bar or the à la carte menu. Specials include classic pastas, roasted meats and grilled fish, and a nice dessert selection. An open-hearth grill roasts poultry, pork, rabbit, game and fish. The secluded terrace is a definite plus on hot summer night and the ambiance is child friendly. Brunch on Sundays is good, but pricey. • Molto Viale Parioli, 122, Tel. +39.06.808.2900 | Open 7 days a week.
Obikà The Parioli branch of the now-worldwide mozzarella bar offers the same classics that conferred celebrity on its original Piazza Firenze location. These include simple mozzarella di bufala, samplers of cheese from Paestum and Piana del Volturno, hors d'oeuvres, pasta dishes and pizzas with prized buffalo milk (either as the star ingredient, or in a supporting role). Lunch is a steal, with various options that never exceed €11, with a choice between either a pasta dish, or a salad, an assorted mozzarella platter or pizza, with water, bread and dessert. • Obikà Via Guido D'Arezzo, 49. Tel. +39.06.8534.4184 | Open lunch and dinner, closed Sunday.
Ristorante QB This little secret, on a pretty street off Piazza Verdi, is a dream come true for greengrocer and sommelier Guido Marini, who always had penchant for fine dining. His produce stalls on Piazza Crati market sell only local goods, including the seasonal fruits and vegetables he uses in the kitchen of the restaurant he runs with his wife and son. The daily lunch menu offers à la carte or fixed price menu at €13, with listings that change weekly. I love the squid-ink black tagliolini with seared calamari and pureed artichokes, but the vitello tonnato (veal in creamy tuna sauce) was just as enticing. The aperitivo hour begins at 6:30 p.m. and offers a €8 glass of wine with unlimited refills of delightful finger food. The place only seats 40, so book ahead. QB stands for quanto basta, or "just enough," standard phrasing in Italian-language recipes. • Ristorante QB Via Scarlatti, 11/13. Tel. +39.06.8535.2010 | Open daily, lunch and dinner.
Smol "Cucina, Arte e Fantasia" is the slogan adopted by the new management of what was once Michelin starred All'Oro, which has since relocated to the centro storico. Seating is very small ("smol" is how Italians pronounce the English word), with intimacy as the rule of thumb (there are only eight tables, reservations a must). The cuisine is hearty and the tiny kitchen uses only local ingredients. Pastas are a standout, including ravioli with calamari, burrata and saffron. Favorite entrees include giant prawns rolled in lardo, and served with chestnuts. There are also many interesting vegetarian dishes and a handsome wine list. • Smol Via Eleonora Duse, 1E. Tel. +39.06.8068.7178 | Closed Sunday.
Taverna Rossini This very popular pizzeria-restaurant serves great pizza (made in a grand dome-shaped wood-stoked oven), open-hearth grilled steaks and honest pasta dishes. The freshly- baked focaccia (thick or thin) is a must, and don't overlook the desserts. Rossini offers year-round outdoor dining thanks to powerful, neon-style space heaters. The place attracts a mixed crowd of early-dining foreigners, with younger locals spilling in later. Reservations mandatory after 9 p.m., and on weekends. • Taverna Rossini Viale Rossini, 60. Tel. +39 06.84242903 | Open daily, noon-2 a.m. non-stop dining.
Pescheria Rossini Next door to Taverna Rossini and run by the same people, this fine fish restaurant offers a more formal, fish-based menu with attractive platters of raw seafood, rich pasta dishes, and freshly-caught fish and seafood specials. The entrance showcases the day's catch in a beautiful display case; the decor is elegant and welcoming. Prices are affordable and the wine list is well-chosen. Same al fresco dining and courteous service as next door. • Pescheria Rossini Viale Rossini, 48. Tel. +39.06.854.3804 | Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Snacks and Gourmet Shops
Pizza al taglio Pizzeria La Parioli churns out some of the best pizza sold by weight north of Villa Borghese. There's always a line outside. You have to fight your way to the counter for a slice of classic Margherita or the plain Bianca (no topping), which wins the gold. Viale Parioli, 26. No phone, no website, no seating.
The storefront of boutique grocer Gargani swells with homemade tortellini, miniature,multi-colored gnocchi and mounds of golden tagliatelle, not to mention Nutella or marmalade tarts and other artisan desserts. Inside, wall-to-wall treats include salumi, cheese, bottled sauces, olive oils, and prepared dishes such as salad of baby shrimp in avocado halves, rice-stuffed tomatoes, and succulent roast beef, sold by the pound (kilo). There's outdoor seating at lunchtime, which is always crowded with white collars munching on faro salad and lasagna. Viale Parioli, 36B. Tel. +39.06.807.8264.
If you need a daily hit of chocolate, consider stopping by the Rome branch of famed Naples chocolatier Gay-Odin. Trademark products include nudi (naked) unwrapped pralines of all kinds sold by weight, and Gay-Odin's signature Foresta, a flaky bar of rich chocolate that resembles rough and gnarly tree bark. Other chocolate shapes include ring-like Tarallini filled with Strega liquer; Noci, walnut-shaped delights in a wafer-like casing; and Ostriche an oyster-shaped variety filled with creamy hazelnut mousse. Via Antonio Stoppani, 9. Tel. +39.06.806.93023.
Getting to Parioli Buses 52, 53, 217, 490, 495, 910, 360 and M connect to Prati, Piazza Mancini, the centro storico, Termini and Tiburtina stations. The no. 19 tram runs from San Lorenzo, Università area to Prati and the Vatican, and links with Tram 2, a short ride to the Auditorium and the Olimpico stadium. Tram 3 also connects the neighborhood with San Lorenzo, the Colosseum, Testaccio and Trastevere. Metro A stops at Piazza Spagna/Veneto/Borghese and Flaminio; Linea B stop Policlinico, and both run to Termini and the Vatican. Parioli is linked to neighborhoods farther north via two local train stops at Piazzale Flaminio and Piazza Euclide.
Big Hilda Café
This is a small, poster-covered pub in the Trastevere heartland (on Via del Cinque, 33, off Piazza Trilussa). Good beer and a thriving in-off-the-street crowd gives the place a throbbing vibe until late. It’s actually cozy. To eat: bruschette, salads, toasted sandwiches, pancakes, cold meats and cheeses. Open 6.30 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday Noon to 2 a.m. No dance floor. — David Amory
Bir & Fud
Popular, bustling pizzeria/restaurant on Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere. The foreign student crowd packs this place to the nines for a reason — the beer ("beer and food," get it?). B&F has foreign and local brews as well as microbrewery labels and malts (they have their own shop/microbrewery at Via Luca Valerio, 41).
If you want to munch, order patate come sforno comanda, bronzed, hand-cut fries. A different take on bruschetta comes in the form of Ciauscolo e Silano (sausage from Abruzzo and the Marche). Non-pizza lovers also get ricotta mousse, supplì all'amatriciana, carbonara and pasta alla gricia (bacon and pecorino).
Strange as it sounds, the pizza is good but not tops. As often happens with pizza joints, the "conventional" menu gets lost in the shuffle. Advice: Let others splurge on the pizza while you focus on appetizers and pasta. Booking essential. Expect to spend €15/20 to 40 a head, depending on alcohol. — Cristina Polli
Buca di Bacco
Don't make the common mistake. This is not the more upscale Buco di Bacco of Postano. Instead, it's a fairly simple fish, seafood, and pizza hole-in-the-wall that operates in the once-upon-a-time style of a trattoria — they give you their best. The whited, Greek-style vaulted arches give the place its inner flavor. If you have doubts about seafood and meats (don't), grab a Pizza Napoletana (the kitchen skink) and relax. The restaurant is at Via Longano 35 — a street that leads from Piazza Umberto. — Katrina Maiano
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