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.
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?”
There are many potential reasons to celebrate the arrival of Emma Pizzeria in the center of Rome. It’s open every day. It’s spacious, so the chances of snagging an unreserved seat are high. It’s possible to dine outside in good weather. They’re open at lunch, when most pizzerias are shuttered. The quality of wine and deli products is excellent, as one can expect from a place with links to Roscioli. However, the product that’s central to their mission – thin crust Roman style pizza – is disastrously and consistently bad.
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.
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.
Since 1999, Giancarlo Casa has been making pizzas with cut-above ingredients, spending extra time working the dough, and charging slightly more for the result. You’ll be happy to pay the higher prices, and also the cab fare to Monteverde, for what is currently my favorite pizza experience in Rome. I say ‘experience’ because it’s not just about the excellent wood-fired pizza. The supplì and other fried starters are a true joy to put in your mouth, and the surprisingly good wine selection at la Gatta Mangiona elevates it to destination status.
Most people arrive at Roscioli with high expectations. It’s one of the most consistently and lovingly reviewed restaurants in Rome. It’s also a place that disappoints some people. Why? Because they’ve understood it to be a restaurant, when in reality it’s a shop selling exceptional cheese and salumi – one that invites you to sit down and enjoy these with some wine and perhaps a plate of very good pasta. Cheese, salumi, wine and pasta… isn’t that why you came to Rome?