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.
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.
Stefano Callegari is considered a trailblazer for his contributions to creative pizza in Rome, and for his invention of the celebrated street snack Trapizzino. After Tondo and Sforno, he opened Sbanco in 2016 in a neighborhood that now includes Epiro and SantoPalato. Sbanco builds on Callegari’s winning formula of tasty pizza + fried starters + nice liquids by incorporating a serious craft beer element. Sbanco is also much closer to the center and near a subway line, ensuring that you don’t need to treat it like a pilgrimage site.
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.
Following in the footsteps of Stefano Caligari and Giancarlo Casa, Pier Daniele Seu is currently Rome’s most creative pizza chef to watch. Seu first came to attention at Gazometro 38 back in 2014. He left that Ostiense pizzeria to open a stall in the Mercato Centrale in 2017 and quickly became one of that food hall’s greatest attractions. He recently opened the first stand-alone restaurant to bear his name, Seu Pizza Illuminati. The name is meant to invoke bright ideas (not Masons) and a lightness in the dough. Both are delivered, deliciously.
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.