L’Arcangelo is the polished Prati restaurant where chef Arcangelo Dardini built his name before putting it on the excellent street food outposts Supplizio and Ora da Re. I feel like I’m only now starting to understand L’Arcangelo after five visits over a decade. For a restaurant that has been so heavily covered by foreign press, I’m delighted to conclude that it’s getting significantly better with age.
Chef Adriano Baldassarre is currently firing on all cylinders and his restaurant Tordomatto should be a destination for anyone who loves modernist fine dining. I’m frankly shocked to feel this way. I returned last night expecting to confirm my impression from last year that this place is an expensive snooze. It’s still expensive by Roman standards, but Tordomatto is now – to my great surprise – a thrilling restaurant.
Retrobottega is the most exciting place to eat in Rome, once you’ve digested the city’s compulsory Carbonara, fried artichoke and gelato elsewhere. It delivers an experience on par with the very best modern meals I’ve had in Paris or New York. That’s quite a statement to make about a restaurant in Rome, where attempts at culinary creativity often fall flat. Such attempts here are usually characterized by a repackaging of canonic dishes into alternative and often asinine forms: salt cod marshmallows, cacio e pepe lollipops, amatriciana ‘sand.’ By contrast, the cooking at Retrobottega is without artifice. It feels urgent, of the moment, and most importantly, delicious.
For a while now, I’ve been on the hunt for a new Cesare. Ever since Katie Parla called this “the perfect trattoria” back in 2012, Cesare has been prominently on the radar of hungry travelers. 2015 was a record year for anglophone press coverage (see links below), but with the recent publication of Eater’s Guide to Rome, in which the trattoria is featured prominently in four different articles, I believe we are now experiencing Peak Cesare.
I’ve never disagreed with any of these rave reviews. But I’ve wondered, like Peggy Lee, “is that all there is?”
Coming into Pipero Roma from the clamorous Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in central Rome is like stepping into another world – a quietly masculine space of tailored suits and, one imagines, important deals being struck at the well-spaced tables. The sobriety of this first impression is almost immediately countered by the effervescent energy of Alessandro Pipero, consummate host to Rome’s power elite.
If you’re lucky enough to sit in the main dining room (request this upon booking), you’ll be surrounded by reproductions from master painters. They’ve all been slightly edited, and are at once both recognizable and askew, foreshadowing the food to come.
The shop Volpetti has long been a pilgrimage site for obsessive lovers of cheese, salumi and other gourmet products from all over Italy. For travelers with eyes bigger than their hotel mini-fridge, however, their selection has always been something of a tease. How best to enjoy such takeaway bounty when you don’t have a proper kitchen in Rome? Enter Taverna Volpetti, a small wine bar around the corner from the mothership, serving beautiful boards of their outstanding cheeses and cured meats. A handful of wines are available by the glass, but the selection of bottles is more impressive and includes some older vintages.
Following in the footsteps of Stefano Caligari and Giancarlo Casa, Pier Daniele Seu is currently Rome’s most creative pizza chef to watch. Seu first came to attention at Gazometro 38 back in 2014. He left that Ostiense pizzeria to open a stall in the Mercato Centrale in 2017 and quickly became one of that food hall’s greatest attractions. He recently opened the first stand-alone restaurant to bear his name, Seu Pizza Illuminati. The name is meant to invoke bright ideas (not Masons) and a lightness in the dough. Both are delivered, deliciously.
Barnaba is one of those rare and wonderful places that’s slightly better than it needs to be. It’s a wine bar where the wine is really good, where the food is better than anticipated, and where there’s enough space to spread out with a large group or to drop in without a reservation.
Perpetual is an audacious and modern new restaurant in the sleepy quarter just east of the Colosseum. Its opening six months ago was the culmination of a six-year effort by Cezar Predescu. The investment of time and money is palpable. There’s a slightly nervous energy – is this going to work? – that pulses through the mostly empty restaurant. One wants to root for them, and indeed there is much to praise at Perpetual. But it’s a more complicated picture…