I’ve never been inside the Pantheon because the hordes of tourists swarming around it have always put me off. On my visit in November 2020 during the pandemic, it made a pleasant change to find the square relatively empty, although the building was still shut to the public.
The lack of tourists meant that I could get into this small restaurant just a stonesthrow away, which normally I imagine you’d have to book weeks ahead…
Armando al Pantheon (Intermediate A), 31 Salita de’ Crescenzi, armandoalpantheon.it
I tried several local classics here, be warned that some of them might not be to your taste!
I started with an autumnal selection of bruschetta with walnuts and Lardo di Colonnata, which is generally considered ‘the best’ lardo as it’s cured in marble basins for several months. I loved it (A).
To drink the somellier recommended a bottle of Cirsium Cesanese di Olevano Romano Riserva. In the past I’ve not been a huge fan of Cesanese but this was my best experience of it (B+).
For the pasta course, a Roman classic: Rigatoni con la Pajata; large cuffs of pasta served with the intestines of an unweaned calf stewed in a tomato sauce. The intestines are cleaned but the chyme (partly digested food, in this case the mother’s milk) is left inside and when cooked forms a cheese-like sauce. Doesn’t sound great but I thoroughly enjoyed it (B+).
For the second course a daily special of Puntarelle (bitter shoots of a local chicory) with grilled veal on a bed of mash. It was interesting, and the splash of soya sauce on the sprouts made it almost Asian, but I would probably have enjoyed the other dishes on the menu more (C+). Still, you don’t know unless you try.
The cheese board was a bit of an excess but enjoyable (B). The waiter suggested I take a walk around the Parthenon and back to make room for it!
An espresso and a shot of local Amaro Formadible finished things off nicely.
A definite recommend if you can get in!
Here’s my Google map to help you find it.
More food on the Isola Tiberina next…