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.
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.
Opinion about this family-run restaurant in the Jewish quarter is strongly divided, and our own experience here has been mixed. If we’re sitting outside in beautiful weather and sipping wine while gazing at the columns of the portico d’Ottavio, it’s hard to find fault with anything in the world. The spell is slightly lifted, however, when we’re dining indoors and not distracted by the spectacular scenery.
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.
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?