SantoPalato is having a moment. My friends who are traveling to Rome routinely ask about this new trattoria. They’ve heard about it from Katie Parla in pieces from the New York Times or Eater (links below) and want to know if it lives up to the hype.
That hype is significant, but it’s not without substance. Sarah Cicolini is a sincere and gutsy cook who centers her cuisine around the off-cuts known in Rome as quinto quarto. Cicolini has a strong philosophy about using all parts of the animal. If you’re into that, you’re going to have a ball at SantoPalato (maybe literally).
The menu has a strong point of view and doesn’t offer much comfort for the offal-averse. Among the antipasti offerings, you’ll find a single ‘safe’ entry, like an egg with peas and parmesan, among the more visceral options like veal tongue terrine or trippa alla romana. The list of secondi reads like an anatomy chart; it’s all heart, neck and cheek with no respite for the weak.
You’ll find most of the classic Roman pastas here like carbonara and cacio e pepe, but you’ll also find rigatoni con la pajata – pasta dressed with the intestines of a suckling calf that still contain their mother’s milk. After a fourteen-year ban on the ingredient was lifted in 2015, pajata is making a comeback in traditional trattorias. Cicolini, a thoroughly modern and media savvy chef, wants to preserve culinary traditions like this for the next generation of Roman diners.
She’s clearly found her audience. The dining room in San Giovanni, a neighborhood that’s just barely out of the center and easily accessible by subway, is filled with cool young Romans sporting tattoos and sipping natural wine. A few families and a sprinkling of tourists round out the eclectic mix of people who have gone out of their way and booked ahead for the experience. I worry that the front-of-house staff, who are extremely kind but already a little hurried, may not be prepared for the explosion of foreign visitors who will be asking them to translate regaje and pulmone from the all-Italian menu. I’ll cross my fingers and wish them luck, hoping they manage to weather the media storm. Some wine might help…
We’ve included this among our Favorite Restaurants in Rome.
Address: Piazza Tarquinia, 4a/b
Hours: Open Tuesday-Friday for dinner from 19:30-23:30. Open Saturday & Sunday for lunch & dinner from 13:00-15:30 and 19:30-23:30. Closed Monday
Telephone: +39 06 7720 7354
SantoPalato in pictures
Photos by Meg Zimbeck © Rome by Mouth
What people are saying
- Eater (2018) “Cicolini has made a name for herself by taking some of the most traditional elements of cocina Romana — bitter vegetables, offal cuts, pecorino-enriched pastas — and refining them for a new, young audience of forward-thinking Romans.” Click to read the rest and to watch a video interview with chef Cicolini.
- “I Cento” by EDT (2018) named SantoPalato “Il Miglior Trattoria” or the Trattoria of the Year and praises the “young and rock & roll chef Sarah Cicolini for the tripe dish, the spaghetti with coratella, and the pasta Amatriciana. They also praise the kind and informal service and the good value.
- Gambero Rosso (2018) awarded SantoPalato with 2 gamberi (“great”) in 2018.
- “Roma nel Piatto” by La Pecora Nera gave them a score of 7 out of 10 points (“good, very good”) in 2018.
- New York Times by Katie Parla (2017) profiles chef Sarah Cicolini and her background at Metamorfosi and Sbanco and praises the trippa alla romana – “tender strips of tripe simmered in a sauce that had the bright acidity of fresh tomatoes, a rendition of a classic that is decidedly lighter and more digestible than the typical Roman-style trippa.”
- Luciano Pignatero (2017) like the clean and modern atmosphere with it’s many references to the trattoria of the past. They like the classic trattoria menu with its celebration of quinto quarto, and love the Carbonara. They call the parmigiana a disaster. “Dry and scalding, destroyed by the passage to the microwave.” They close with a reference to the restaurant’s heavy social media presence: “the premises and ideas are there, as long as you can be focused on service and some dishes at least as much as on Facebook.”
- Eater by Katie Parla (2017) says that “chef Sarah Cicolini earned her reputation in fine dining kitchens, but her forte is expertly executed trattoria fare that channels the soulful simplicity of Rome’s peasant classics — a refreshing change in a city where young chefs frequently try and fail to modernize the local cuisine.” She recommends anything from the wide range of quinto quarto (offal) dishes, but especially the trippa alla romana. She says “the wine list favors natural producers, while a half dozen local craft beers mirror the evolving drinking habits of modern Romans.”
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