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.
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.
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…
Epiro is my favorite sort of place – it’s a mom & pop restaurant for the modern age. Alessandra Viscardi and Marco Mattana met in art school but decided that a restaurant was their future. They opened Epiro five years ago in an inexpensive neighborhood just outside of Rome’s center. She manages the dining room and the liquids, he runs the kitchen with Matteo Baldi. Their approach is sincere and personal, and they deliver incredible value for money.
In the beginning, Epiro was a place to try inexpensive creative cooking with a good selection of craft beer and natural wine. It is still that, but the cooking is now on another level.