While still in the Centro Storico, Testaccio is a typical residential neighbourhood just south of the centre. If I were to move to Rome, this is where I’d like to live as it has heaps of history (literally), an excellent market and several great places to eat. Transport links are good as the local metro station, Piramide, is just four stops south of Termini on the B line.
The area is a heaven for foodies. Below I review Da Remo (definitive pizza Romana), Felice a Testaccio (cacio e pepe, roast lamb), Checchino Dal 1887 (traditional food, amazing cellar), Trattoria Perilli (great carbonara), and Volpetti (an amazing deli). I’m told the food market stalls are worth checking out in the day time but work always got in the way for me. On the same block as the market, but open at night, I can also recommend Pompi for takeaway tiramisu.
Felice a Testaccio (High Intermediate A), 29 Via Mastro Giorgio, www.feliceatestaccio.it, open every day, best to reserve.
An institution since 1936, Felice is listed in Listed in 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die and has a Michelin bib gourmand. It’s so famous that I had real problems getting in but I finally managed to book a table after several attempts. I did notice however that some people managed to get a table without a reservation by arriving as soon as they opened, so you could try your luck.
It’s reputed to be one of the best places in the city to try the famous Roman pasta dish, Cacio e Pepe. It’s made very simply by tossing tonnarelli pasta (square spaghetti) in pecorino cheese, black pepper and a little of the pasta water to help bind it. Simple but delicious (B+). Video here. For the second course, Abbachio al Forno con Patatas, roast suckling lamb with roast potatoes (A). To finish some great strawberries (A) and a barrique grappa recommended by my friendly waitress (B+). With a beer, a bottle of wine and some water the bill came to €91, which isn’t cheap, but it was top quality. I’ll be back one day for their signature dish, Mezzemaniche all Gricia. Also, check their daily menu which is changes every day.
Trattoria Perilli (High Intermediate A), 39 Via Marmorata (at Via Galvani), www.trattoria-romana.it , open Thursday to Tuesday 12:30–3pm and 7:30–11pm, reservations recommended
An old school trattoria (love the lettering on their sign), also Listed in 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die. I happened to be passing and tried my luck getting in for lunch one day without a reservation, and was given a short slot, so it’s definitely a good idea to book ahead.
To begin I had another local classic Rigatoni alla Carbonara (A) followed by Animelle di Abbacchio (B+), suckling lamb sweetbreads, with a bowl of Scarola, Olive e Capperi, escraole (another bitter green, olives and capers (B+) and a half bottle of my old friend Satrico from Aprilia (A). With wine, water and a coffee, I paid €51, which isn’t cheap but par for the course in a good restaurant in Rome.
Checchino Dal 1887 (High Intermediate B+), 30 Via di Monte Testaccio, www.checchino-dal-1887.com , closed Monday and Sunday evening
One of Rome’s oldest restaurants, since 1870. This is the place to come if you like a bit of history with your offal! Even if you don’t, you should come just to check out the wine cellar which has been cut out of Monte Testaccio, a roman rubbish dump for amphorae (clay vessels for transporting mainly oil and wine). Video here. The restaurant is still owned by the same family that carved it out of the hill 150 years earlier. Brothers Elio Mariani (in the kitchen) and Francesco (front of house) run the restaurant and a mixologist nephew runs the cocktail bar upstairs (open at weekends).
Sadly I lost my photos but for the record I had the historical tasting menu for €65, and a bottle of wine for €20. The set dishes were; Insalata di Zampi (veal calves foot boiled, boned and served in a salad with carrots, beans, celery and salsa verde), Rigatoni con Pajata (short pasta tubes with a sauce made with of tomatoes and intestine of suckling lamb sprinkled with Pecorino Romano), Bucatini alla Gricia ( hollow spaghetti in a white sauce made with Pecorino, rendered pig’s cheek and black pepper), Coda alla Vaccinara (Ox-tail stewed in a tomato sauce with celery, pine nuts, raisins and a little bitter chocolate), Cicoria di Campo (pan-fried wild chicory with garlic and chilli pepper), Piccola Degutazione di Pecorino Romano, Fresco e Stagionato (a small tasting of fresh and seasoned ewe’s-milk cheese), and finally Torta di Ricotta con Gocce di Cioccolato e Mandorle Grattate (ricotta tart with chocolate chips and grated almonds). I also failed to take any notes as I was too busy chatting with Francesco but I remember the food as being interesting and very good but not amazing (an overall B). With cover, water and a couple of digestivi the bill came to €98.
They have a vegetarian and a la carte menus as well. I’d definitely like to go back one day.
Pizzeria Da Remo (Elementary A), 44 Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice, www.facebook.com, closed Sunday
If you want to taste real Pizza Romana, this is the place to come. I began with three fritti; a Suppli (rice ball), a Crocchete (croquette) and a Fiore di Zucca (deep fried, stuffed courgette flower). The main event was the Pizza Margherita di Bufala which was wonderful; wafer thin and crispy, allowing the toppings to dominate (A). As it was so thin I was able to follow up with a second pizza; ‘Remo’ the house special with mushrooms, eggplant and sausage, but it wasn’t quite as satisfying (B+). With two 500ml Moretti Baffo d’Oro beers I spent €31.
Salumeria Volpetti (Advanced A), 47 Via Marmorata, www.volpetti.com
A wonderful deli stocked with a cornucopia of produce from all over Italy. The friendly English-speaking lady on the till helped me pick up a few choice items such as truffle-infused pasta and bouquets of dried oregano. They even had mini-tins of smoked Maldon salt, an essential travel item I’m now never without. Video here.
Writing this has made me want to go back so much. One day…