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.
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.
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.