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Restaurants in Rome
This old warhorse has managed to keep prices more-or-less in check despite the high-rent district around it. Being Abruzzese is a catchall for every kind of Italian fare, since the region is considered the country's cooking bulwark. Once upon a time, when Rome had a real press corps and much of it was located around the corner at the ANSA building, this nook did a thriving business. Present and accounted for are bisteche, scaloppini (marsala, limone, etc.), filetti, la Milanese, abbacchio, vitello tonnata, and so on. Pasta runs a similar gamut (they're veterans with rigatoni carbonara; pepper and egg just right). No one here will boast that the place has been remodeled and minimalism isn't in their vocabulary. All of which is in the plus column. If you're anywhere near Piazza Venezia this is a creditable, affordable and tasty secondary destination. — Cristina Polli
The Troiani Brothers, who created Convivio Troiani, opened this discreetly elegant Corso Francia place in June 2006, apparently to vent their fish-cum-sushi lust. And to produce fresh fish that was in fact fresh (not always standard in Rome). For starters, consider the alici fritte in crosta di pistacchio (fried anchovies in pistachio crust). The vermicelli alla carbonara di mare and gnocchetti di Fiuggi con cozze e pecorino are just what they sound like: Italian (and Roman) meat and tomato pasta dishes transformed into fisherman’s friend delights. There’s Fritto Acquolina, which deliciously produces olives, baccalà (sald cod), gamberi (shrimp), triglie (mullet), merluzzetto (gilded cod).
On the simpler side, dishes such as tagliolini with scampi and cherry tomatoes make their mark without filling. (On the non-fish side, the olive ascolane are delicious, by the way; so are the cheeses.) Fiuggi-born chef Giulio Terrinoni, not yet 35, has no tuna or anything else that keeps — the idea, bene o male, is from sea-to-table. This in turn keeps the menu contained, which is pleasantly helpful when it comes to making up your mind. Dinner will run you €70-90 with wine (a fine list), but if it's fresh fish you want, book ahead here. Menu changes depending on fish availability. — Angela Della Notte
Ad Hoc occupies a capable place in Rome's ever-growing wine-centric, novelle cuisine niche. The elegant Via di Ripetta location inside a 15th century building (between Piazza di Spagna and Piazza del Popolo) is literally steeped in wine — with stuffed wall racks competing with clocks and Rome prints.
The menu in turn is fairly typical of "new" Rome experimentation ("An explosion of pleasure for the senses," goes the PR). There's an asparagus carbonara (interesting) and carbonara "al cubo," which gives you the classic take and two variations, with black mushrooms and porcini. Centerpiece dishes included Ossbuco with saffron rice cake (Ossobuco con tortino di riso allo zafferano), fried Sicilian small squid with courgettes or duck leg browned with black truffle. The exceptionally delicate antipasto "Degustazione" gives you aged "Don Raimundo" Spanish ham, a selection of cheese and mustard, Danish cured carpaccio, and "crostini" with Colonnata lard.
In general, the "degustazione" approach ensures a many-flavored take on otherwise tried and true formulas, with tailored wines to match. The result is delicious, costly, and mostly unconnected to the straight-arrow Rome trattoria style.
So if you're looking for New York or L.A.-style dining in Rome (vanilla mousse for dessert), this is a place whose pretenses you'll appreciate, admire and even revel in (expect €40-60 a head minimum, depending on your appetite and wine choice). — Cristina Polli
Burned out on pasta? Here’s a perfect change of pace near Termini. Everything is served Eritrean style, without silverware, with lively décor (with zebras painted on the bright yellow walls) all around. The injera, the traditional spongy and sour absorbent bread, is used to gather up the zighini (spicy beef) and sambussa (minced meat logs). — Kristine Crane
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Agata e Romeo
Husband-and-wife Agata Parisella and Romeo Caraccio run a tight ship. This is Rome nouvelle cuisine at its finest. Here’s some of it in English to avoid cutesy-long Italian descriptions: rabbit croquettes, stewed oxtail with celery, medallions of tuna coated with sesame seeds, and Islandic baccalà (cod). For desert, chocolate concoctions galore. The duplex setting is refined, the service gracious, the overall quality of food and presentation outstanding. So where’s the beef? Price. When a tasting menu tops €100 it severs the link between upscale tasteful and outrageous. Here, it's €125 and climbing. Go à la carte and you can spend €150-200 a head. Agata has written cookbooks and talked food on TV. That’s great, but it also adds a branding factor and cranks up the prices further. It’s admittedly a tough call — the Roman variation food’s so good and inventive — but these people need to rein it in a bit, at the risk of becoming examples of a 21st century boutique restaurant that caters only to the rich, shocking and awing all the rest. Bear in mind it closes down from mid-August to around Sept. 10. — David R. Deropolous
Exceptional ambience at this charming Campo area enoteca and restaurant. Bread and pasta are homemade and cheeses of every description rule the roost. The locale offers over 1,000 wine labels, with the staff eager to match wine to meals. Cuisine is Italian with a French twist. Nice for a romantic dinner. Don't go here expecting Rome trattoria fare. This is upscale and esoteric. To wit: tagliata of grilled ox with potatoes; swordfish stroganoff with fresh thyme and squid sauce; bucatini with black pepper and aged caciocavallo cheese. Closed Sunday night and most of August. — Cristina Polli
This actually started out quite modestly in the 1960s as hearty, inexpensive trattoria for local Pariolini. Times change. Now lofty and upscale (owned by Marche-born Cristina Milozzi, who transformed it), Al Ceppo is as good a spot as any in Rome for a power lunch or dinner. Everything (place settings, service, presentation) is immaculate, perhaps depriving the place of a slice of Roman soul it’ll never get back. Cuisine is Italian (veal, beef, fish; the usual pasta dishes) with a rich continental twist (fusilli, terrines, white chocolate). The grill is good, churning out an array of strong grilled fish. Expect to pay up to €100 a head. Reservations recommended; online booking available. — Cristina Polli
Al Regno di Re Ferdinando II
This is Naples in Rome. Loud, hearty, and affectionate, Re offers up heavy-duty southern fare in abundant doses. Antipasti (delectable arancini, cheese and rice balls) can be a meal for some (beware, eat four of these and you've closed out your meal....) Pizzas overlap the edges of plates by a country mile. The lasagna is delicious, so is the linguine aglio e olio, garlic and olive oil. Reservations recommended. Parking is very — take a cab. — Cristina Polli
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All'Oro, which opened in 2007 in Parioli but has since moved, is among the best additions to Rome's ever-growing list of minimalist boutique restaurants influenced by similarly trendy spots in L.A. and Barcelona. While the heavy-duty chic is a mouthful, the food is well worth the self-conscious styling.
The place won top honors from Italy's Carbonara Club for a variation on the dish that that placed porchetta-wrapped sea bass on a bed of truffled carbonara sauce. "It's not necessarily our idea of the perfect carbonara," said the club, "but we respected their imagination."
Chef Riccardo Di Giacinto leads a family team that pays homage to such European stalwarts as Ferran Adrià (El Bulli), Marco Pierre White (whose newest spot is in Dublin) and Don Alfonso Iaccarino (Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfe and Rome's "Baby," where Di Giacinto worked).
The centro storico venue is sublime (a creamy white motif), with the roof garden available in summer. Di Giacinto, who tends toward flavorful south Italian mischief, keeps the menu tidy: 16 items in all (5 antipasti, 4 first course, 3 main courses and 3 desserts).
Though the lineup changes, creativity is a constant. Both the ravioli in mascarpone sauce and marinated beef in chestnuts sauce were delicious, as was the duck ragù lasagna. Coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew) was flavored with celery and cocoa, a sublime trick. The Catalan equivalent of crème caramel was sumptuous (also on tap was chocolate ravioli and caramelized pinapple). The desgustation menu (five portions) runs €55. All the bread is homemade. Reservations essential; book ahead with a credit card for parties of six or more. No-shows are docked €30, which is fair enough given the size of the place. — Cristina Polli
Antica Biblioteca Valle
This chic restaurant was known as Acqua Negra until the end of 2007. The name may have changed but not the modern décor and stylishness that attracts a mixed crowd: suits and tourists alike. The name is based on a populare 1960s place, "Biblioteca della valle." There's both restaurant fare (try citrus-marinated fish carpaccio) and aperitivi platters, including sandwiches, cold pasta, couscous, and cold-cuts. Aperitivi are served daily 7:30-9:30 p.m. and run between €6 and €10. The restaurant serves until midnight. — Nicole Arriaga*
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Originally a 17th century "cafeteria" for Papal State customs officials who worked down the street. Since contadini had to come to deliver grain to church HQ, the Vatican, they too had munching time on their hands. Later, it became a Trastevere inn based around a bocce alley. The owners now explain that the food of the period was based on subsistence eating (taking and re-inventing upper class left-overs). Fair enough, but times change. Colin Ferrell, Sean Penn, and La Loren, while no doubt famished, are not contadini. Be that as it may, the Rome food gang’s all here: mezze maniche all’amatriciana, cacio e pepe, carbonara, gricia plus stinco, salsiccia, rombo and baccala. The cantina is vast enough to have spawned an enoteca (called DILA, from Di Là) on the side. The scene is elegant (lovely fireplace in winter), so please leave the Red Sox t-shirt at the hotel. Usually closed for two weeks in early January and late April. Near Piazza Trilussa. Book ahead. — Cristina Polli
I stumbled across this place following my nose down a vicolo near Via del Panico. Caters to families, which means affordable prices... unusual for a restaurant in the center. While I waited for a table, waiters brought me a complimentary glass of prosecco and recited the specials. Excellent antipasti, including a tuna carpaccio for €7 and steamed mussels that are bread-sopping good. Pastas are traditional and uncomplicated Roman fair. Top-flight fresh fish, particularly grilled sea bass and gamberoni. Pasta dishes run about €7, entrees €8-€14. Waiters are attentive and playful. — Lynda Albertson*
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Antico Forno Roscioli
Campo de' Fiori, or just Campo to Rome’s conoscenti, offers a slew of cheerful restaurants and wine bars. As a lunch or light dinner spot, Roscioli gets applause for fresh bread (home baked) of every kind. Grab pizza bianca and cheese delights over the counter. Pasta and veggie prices depend on kilo weight. Delicious foccaccia and yeast-heavy Lariano bread with raisins, olives or nuts. Supplis (rice and potato croquettes) are also a must. You can take out. Wines by the hundreds. Opens at 7 a.m. The Roscioli restaurant is around the corner. — Cristina Polli
Strictly vegetarian (run by Fabio Bassan and Enrico Bartolucci), with wine bottles as décor. Hardly original, but the food is. Two examples: Tortino di carciofi, patate e menta con salsa di pecorino — a kind of artichoke mint cake; ravioli ripieni di ricotta di bufala, parmigiano e scorza di limone conditi con zucca e salvia — ravioli with ricotta, parmesan, and bufala that tastes of sage. Yum. Indoor and outdoor seating. Reservations a must. — Cristina Polli
Heavy on sushi, which means the mood is more like a New York or L.A. bar transported to Trastevere. Fresh shrimp and swordfish, salmon and squid. ATM is Italian-owned (Francesco Scarparo) but the sushi wizards are very much Japanese. That said, the dining here is inconsistent. Dinner only. — Cristina Polli
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Aurora 10 da Pino il Sommelier
A tranquil atmosphere good for business lunches or a tête à tête. Reliable seafood pasta (rigatoni alla siciliana , eggplant, black olives, and tomato sauce) and seafood dishes; plenty of meat choices, too. Ask Pino the Sommelier for wine suggestions. Nice crème brûlée and babà for dessert. — Judy Edelhoff
This super-central eatery is an excellent choice for a work brunch (same for Saturday and Sunday). It's tasty, tasteful, loud and brisk. In the summer, there's an ample, umbrella-rich courtyard. French-accent antipasti include quiche and a light swordfish timballo (pesce spada). Nice cous cous soup in winter.
Pasta is straightforward (beware of oversalting), and includes ragú and vegetable carbonara. Main courses focus on meat staples with herb diversions, veal with béarnaise, sesame tuna fish (you can also play it straight: entrecôte alla griglia con chips di patate — or steak and chips.) Chef Silvia Sallorenzo wants simple dishes to sing, a difficult task in such a many-tabled environment.
Expect to pay €35-50 a head with house wine. Babette takes a break from August 9 to 28 and for 10 days in January. Beware of winter nights; you can find yourself eating alone. Lunch and eating out on a late spring night are your best bet. Check the website for seasonal offerings. — Cristina Polli
Alfonso Iaccarino’s restaurant insider the super-posh Aldrovandi Palace Hotel in Parioli is stylish and costly (the top suites can run more than €3,000 a night). Iaccarino’s background (he masterminded Michelin-starred Don Alfonso) is the Amalfitano south and the menu shows it. Pomodorini abound, red and ripe. The risotto ai frutti di mare feels straight-from-the Amalfi coast. In the middle there’s rabbit and other game, borrowed surreptitiously from Tuscany. The high manners (cloches over the pasta; no-price menus for women guests) comes at a high price — €120/140 a head and up (what do you expect for raved-about stockﬁsh and red pepper cannoli). Lots of Russian spoken in the lobby, which says a lot about the life and times of Rome circa 2008. — Cristina Polli
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Two efficient Argentine spots that merge good cuisine with ever-present but entertaining Rome kitsch (tango concerts). The first one opened in 1997 on Corso Rinascimento. Appetizers include empanadas and tasty marinated chicken (pollo al escabeche). Grilled provelone with oregano is another highlight. If you want to skip starters, head for the obvious: meat. Imported angus, entrecote and the mixed grill are all first-rate. Non-meat-eaters can choose from several abundant salads (the "Baires" has apple slices and gorgonzola). Nice assortment of Argentine reds and whites. Only complaint is a "chain" feel. Second location: Via Cavour, 315; tel. 06.6920.2164. — Cristina Polli
Nestled in Trastevere, Bali offers fresh, homemade Asian cooking with an emphasis on small-dish items (think tofu, spring rolls and other finger food). Fixed price menu includes appetizer, soup, an all-you-can-eat buffet, and a dessert. Late night cocktails (there's a smoker's lounge) include the Pink Chocolate (strawberries and coconut) and the Cuta Beach (vodka, mint, and coconut milk). Closed July 1-Sept. 1. Dinner 8 p.m.-11 p.m., cocktails 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. — Cristina Polli
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