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Restaurants in Centro Storico
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
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
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
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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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
Cul de Sac
Think tapas Italian-style at this eclectic hotspot near Piazza Navona. Wonderful takes on French classics like escargot and a deliciously creamy brandade, plus an assortment of seasonal pâté. Specialties from every Italian region and a wine "book" with quality bottles starting at €10. — Matt Santaspirt
This slightly overrated luxury spot has had many incarnations over the years, including a stint as a dolce vita hot spot where you could sit outside. No longer. It’s all indoors and all top-notch, if extremely pricey. Above all it’s about being seen and seeing. Damon, Clooney, Tom-Kat, Italian starlets, and so on. The food is more Bolognese than Roman: pasta in meat sauces (lasagne verde, tagliatelle alla Bolognese, hearty grills, veal chops, and more that vein (cotoletta alla Bolognese, a light cheese-glazed delight). Booking can be a problem: the place is often packed. Try getting there early for lunch (12:45 p.m.) and dinner (8 p.m.) If you want to eat abundantly, expect to pay at least €100 a head. Closes in August. — Cristina Polli
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One night my table neighbor was horror film director Dario Argento, but that doesn’t mean your dining experience will be frightful. Bustling with locals and discovered by tourists, it still produces good Roman comfort food and pizza. Grab an outside table on the Piazza del Fico side to catch the passing action. (The bar in front stays open until the wee hours and is just the spot for a post-prandial grappa.) — Judy Edelhoff
Dai 3 Amici
Simple neighborhood ristorante has good vegetable antipasti with some nice variations from the usual like cabbage. Alfio’s Mom weekly ships her homemade fusilli pasta from Calabria, good served with tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil and pepperoncino. Grilled fish or meat are staples in this Pantheon joint. — Judy Edelhoff
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Don’t miss the straccetti served at this sweet, tiny, family-run trattoria. Pastas change with the seasons and the cook doesn't get hung up on "creative," thank heaven. Better for lunch as it gets crowded for dinner. Near Piazza Capranica and the Pantheon. Usually about €25-30 a head. Website lists the menu. — Suzanne Dunaway
Often swelled with tourists, I Due Ladroni’s crowded surroundings can sometimes be dour and off-putting. Still, the place offers excellent, expensive food (Roman all the way) once you're set up in one of the quiet rooms. Try filetto al pepe verde or the raw tartara, which they make in your presence. Octopus (moscardini) spaghetti is another favorite. Dining until after midnight. Expect to pay a minimum of €60 a head. — Suzanne Dunaway
Enoteca Casa Bleve
There are few more hospitable places for a Rome lunch than this one. The luxury (in an arcade-like, neo-classic setting) is muted because it’s still family-managed. Propietor Tina Bleve still oversees much of the cooking, including involtini with roasted peppers and cured beef. Extremely friendly and classy while never lapsing into the tiresome formalities of exaggerated luxury. Note that it's closed both Sunday and Monday. Lunch 12:30-3 p.m.; dinner 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., latest. — Cristina Polli
Founded in 1913, its down-to-earth style was once the rule and not the exception in Rome. With marble-topped tables (covered by paper table-cloths) and a cozy, wine cellar feeling (Tuscan wines line the walls), this Austrian-owned eatery serves up wholesome, inexpensive lunches daily. The menu includes typical Roman specialities and some Austrian staples such as goulash soup, wienerschnitzel (with turkey instead of veal), strudel and chocolate cake. Lunch only. — Kristine Crane
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Join the Via Condotti ladies-who-lunch in this stylish eatery right off the Piazza di Spagna. Sandwiches, salads (10 kinds), soups, sweets and other generally light fare for lunch, dinner or in between ("Be classic, be light, be simple, be happy," says the PR). With advance notice, Gina will also make up a picnic-basket lunch for consumption up the hill in Villa Borghese. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and to midnight Friday through Sunday. — Cristina Polli
Giovagnoli all’Ara Coeli
Open since 1899, this restaurant’s dark wood interior provides a refuge from noisy Piazza Venezia. Instead of pasta we opted for their tasty bruschetta with squid, tomato and rughetta followed by roast scorfano. Other specialties: Carpaccio di spigola su letto di rucola bass carpaccio with rocket; risotto pompelmo e gamberi rossi di sicilia, risotto with grapefruit and red shrimp; Vermicello cacio pepe e tartufo, thin noodles with cacio pepe cheese and truffles. The owner suggested a Gewürztraminer from the Alto Adige, Abbazia di Novacella, a white wine pleasantly heady with notes of apricots, liquorices, and passion fruit. — Judy Edelhoff
Saverio Crescente (the host, quiet and gracious) and Danilo Frisone (the chef) opened this elegant central establishment in 2007 — both used to be at "Gusto." Upscale it is, with the works of London-based cartoonist and artist Enzo Apicella lining the walls (he also helped design the place).
For starters, kudos to the kitchen: The homemade bread is delectable. The solid cuisine is meanwhile labeled Mediterranean, which helps Frisone take creative liberties, mostly southern-spun, with Italian staples (to wit, gnocchetti di baccalà in salsa di pomodori arrosto; cod gnochetti with roast tomato sauce and polpettine di brasato su salsa di zucchine e acciughe; braised meatballs with zucchine and sardine sauce).
Recommended: Pesto ravioli tinged with basil and risotto cacio e pepe with artichokes. Expect to spend €40-50 a head without your wine choice. The vanilla crème brule and (creme brulé alla canella) and dark chocolate with saffron are delicious. Excellent for a romantic dinner or among close friends.
Note: There's a nice, semi-private niche (table for four-to-six to the left, entering the restaurant) and outdoor seating in summer. Closed in August. — Cristina Polli
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A genetic cross between a Manhattan warehouse-turned-chic restaurant and an wannabe dive. All that’s missing is a well-dressed cockroach. Centrally located under Ara Pacis, ‘Gusto bustlingly caters to all occasions, fancy dinners or informal aperitivi, groups and doe-eyes lovers, tourists and grizzled office workers. It offers a range of pastas and pizza (downstairs) in what amounts to patchwork fusion. Upstairs is the restaurant. There’s also an enoteca, osteria, and formaggeria, though you could argue it’s all one. Up and down and all around, the quality hems and haws, never establishing a uniform standard. Pizza is good if on the costly side — pizza and wine will still run you €30. But neither occasional mediocrity nor the wear-and-tear of the place dissuade customers, who populate ‘Gusto — the abbreviation means “taste” and “style” at once — like an urban metropolis, particularly at lunch. There is a store selling stylish kitchen items next door. — Cristina Polli
Tucked in a charming nook in the centro storico, Il Bacaro quietly prepares some of Rome’s most delightful meals. The creative pasta dishes rotate with the season, and the filetto di manzo is grilled to perfection. A selection of amazingly fresh seafood carpaccio, great to share, accompany an excellent wine list stocked with well-priced varietals from each region. The restaurant is the size of a postage stamp so booking is essential, but in the warmer months there are extra tables under a lovely ivy canopy. — Matt Santaspirt
Il Bicchiere di Mastai
Refined, sophisticated wine bar in the heart of Rome. Mood is cool and laid back. Young Michelin-starred chef Fabio Baldassarre, a baby-faced genius, runs the kitchen here as well as at the more upscale l’Altro Mastai (see review) across the street. The wine list at Bicchiere is stratospheric. But it’s the "snack" food that surprises. Crostini misti are delicious and portions beyond the ample; try both lard and fois gras. Also, grilled zucchini, melanzane and pepperoni. Selection depends on season. Prices are manageable: €30/40 a person is expected, unless your wine bill is sky-scraping. — Cristina Polli
Il Brillo Parlante
Hip spot carved out of prime Piazza del Popolo-neighborhood real estate, Brillo caters to the young, after-work professional set. Upstairs (crowded) is the wine bar, downstairs the food and fine wine division. Pizza (and reservations) recommended, since trendy ambience beats attention to culinary fine-tuning. Food is fine and workmanlike but deteriorates depending on the size of the crowd. You go here less to eat that to see, be seen, and restock your stomach. Parlante is the word since this place is very noisy. — Cristina Polli
Displaying 1 thru 20 of 49 restaurants.