Ardeatino is the neighbourhood east of Ostiense (see previous post) and is delimited on its own eastern boundary by the Via Appia (neighbourhood map here), one of the earliest and most important roads of the ancient Roman republic.
On Sundays the road is closed to cars and is taken over by cyclists and walkers. On my visit in 2018 I hiked the road from my hotel near Termini (although I could have rented a bike from Bici & Baci) and enjoyed it so much I thought I’d do it again from my base in Testaccio in 2020. Needless to say on both occasions I was motivated by the prospect of a good lunch at the end of my exertions.
The Via Appia begins near the Baths of Caracalla which you’ll find on my Google map. It’s well signposted and easy to follow. After the Catacombe di San Callisto, the road divides into the Via Appia Antica and the modern Via Appia Pignatelli but you should bear right and follow the original route.
It was the habit of the Romans to bury their dead outside of the city walls and the road is lined with the tombs from ancient times, some of which can be visited. The furthest I’ve been is the Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella but if I’d continued just a little further over the next rise, I’d have experienced walking on the original Roman paving. However both times I was starving so I left that experience for another time.
In 2018 I had a wonderful lunch at L’Archeologia at 139 Via Appia Antica but sadly I mislaid my photos so I can’t tell you much about it. It’s a great restaurant though and fully deserves its listing in 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die. Although it doesn’t look like much from the outside, it has a lovely garden with a 300-year-old wisteria. I understand there is one table available for a very private meal in the atmospheric cellar as well.
In 2020 however I kept walking a few minutes more to another great restaurant, just up the road…
The Garden Ristò at 172 Via Appia Antica is where my friend Gabriele now works. I first met him back in the summer of 2018 when he was serving me at his restaurant in Palestrina in Lazio (post here). Needless to say he took good care of me…
I started with some deliciously salty Focaccia, with oregano and olive oil.
And to drink, a bottle of Satrico (a 40% Chardonnay, 40% Sauvignon, 20% Trebbiano Giallo blend), my favourite Lazio white wine.
Tortelloni di Gorgonzola e Frutti de Bosco su Crema di Baccala e Polvere di Olive, that is, pasta stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and forest berries with a saltcod sauce and powdered olive. These little flavour bombs were a new experience for me and utterly delicious.
For the second course, the sublime Grigliata di Mare (grilled sea bream, salmon, prawn, squid, scampi) as it was my last chance to eat quality seafood for a while.
This came with a plate of Scarola con Uvetta e Pinoli; sauteed escarole with raisins, pine nuts and delicious Taggiasca olives, which I love.
Don’t think I had a dessert but there were a couple of digestivos after this, although my recall of them is slightly fuzzy! But as you can see I was fed and watered to the highest level by an absolute gent. Grazie mille Gabriele per l’ospitalita!
And that spelt the end of nearly two months on the road in central and northern Italy! But the blog continues down south next…