L’Osteria di Monteverde is a fun place. It feels like a neighborhood joint, with walls covered by old maps and album covers, and with a psychotic Ghostface mask waiting to welcome you in the bathroom. Although it was highlighted in a New York Times article about what to do with 36 Hours in Rome, the tables are filled with young Romans, most of them from the neighborhood.
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.
Rome’s Mercato Centrale at Termini train station has rightly received a lot of attention for its street food offerings from Pizzarium, Trapizzino and other stands. Not enough attention has been paid to La Tavola di Oliver Glowig, a serene restaurant perched on a mezzanine high above the hubbub. The food is without question some of the most delicious I’ve tasted in Rome, and I keep looking for reasons to return.
I routinely offer to accompany departing friends to this chaotic transport hub under the guise of being a good host, when in reality I can’t stop thinking about Glowig’s cacio e pepe with sea urchin. One time I even stopped for lunch in between changing from one subway line to another. The setting is admittedly strange, but the food keeps calling me back.
Back in 2014, I interviewed Cristina Bowerman and featured her restaurant Romeo in an article for the Wall Street Journal about modern chefs setting a new culinary course for Rome. This celebrity chef gained acclaim for her Trastevere restaurant Glass and then opened Romeo in Prati as an effort to bring creative cooking to a wider audience. She eventually shuttered that location (it’s now Osteria Birra del Borgo) and reopened Romeo in Testaccio in 2017.
I find this new incarnation of Romeo to be a selfie-taking, over-the-top and embarrassingly cheesy restaurant.
There’s a lot to love about Giulia, a new restaurant on the prettiest street in central Rome. The service is lovely. It’s open every day, accepts online reservations, and is right in the middle of where you want to be. They have a young chef, Pierluigi Gallo, who’s just bursting with ideas. It’s not terribly expensive, and there are vegetarian options for every course.
Because Giulia ticks so many boxes, I’m sure to recommend it often. It’s important to note, however, that Pierluigi Gallo isn’t just striving to make a serviceable restaurant, he’s trying to grab a much loftier gastronomic brass ring. He sometimes misses, and usually because he’s attempted too much.
Earlier this week I was reflecting, while tasting vignarola at a more vintage trattoria, upon the widespread torture of vegetables taking place in kitchens across Rome. The classic preparation of spring asparagus, artichokes, fava beans and peas renders these greenest of vegetables into a soft and oily pile of khaki. There’s still pleasure to be found, especially when cubes of guanciale are tossed into the mix, but I’ve often wondered how much better vignarola could be if it were prepared with a lighter touch.
Last night, Trattoria Pennestri provided an answer to this (it’s better!) and to another recurring question – what’s new in Rome?
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.