Rome / by shane eaton

Although I've been to Italy's capital many times, it was only until recently I figured out how to get the most out of this city eating and drinking wise. Obviously, you will want to steer clear of the super touristy zones such as Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps, the Colosseum/Forum and focus on the more authentic Roman quarters such as Trastevere, Testaccio, Ponte Milvio and the Jewish Ghetto on either side of the Tiber (Tevere) river. Here are some of my favorite places to eat and drink in Rome.

Thanks to Sici, GiampieroMassimo, Memfi and the lovely barista of Bgallery cafe for these great recommendations.

Trapizzino (Piazzale Ponte Milvio 13, Ponte Milvio)

Trapizzino, which now was several locations around Rome to fill the high demand, specializes in trapizzini, which are triangular sandwiches made of pizza crust and filled with typical Roman specialties like Pollo alla cacciatora, Roman artichokes, Coda alla vaccinara (Roman oxtail stew) and meatballs.  My favorite was the pollo alla cacciatora, followed by the meatballs with tomato sauce. 

Another plus of Trapizzino is you will find excellent craft beers to pair with your delicious sandwich. Thanks to Sici for this great recommendation!

Overall experience 10/10

€12 for two trapizzini and a craft beer

Meatballs

Meatballs

Pollo alla cacciatora

Pollo alla cacciatora

 

I Fritti de Sora Milvia (Via Cassia 4, Ponte Milvio)

For one of the best supplì in Rome, try Sora Milvia, 50 meters from Trapizzino in the Ponte Milvio quarter of rome. My favorite is the cacio e pepe followed by the amatriciana. 

Overall experience 8/10

€5 for 4 supplì

Supplì cacio e pepe

Supplì cacio e pepe

Amatriciana

Amatriciana

 

Roma Sparita (Piazza di Santa Cecilia 24, Trastevere)

It was thanks to Anthony Bourdain and his show No Reservations that I discovered the best cacio e pepe in the world. For me, their tagliolini cacio e pepe served a bowl of parmigiano reggiano is the best dish on the face of the planet. Roma Sparita also makes amazing puntarelle and carciofi alla Giudia. A must try when in Rome. 

Overall experience 10/10

€18 for cacio e pepe and glass of wine

puntarelle vegetables in anchovy sauce

jewish style artichokes

Cacio e pepe

 

Pecorino (Testaccio)

Thanks once again to Sici for directing me towards Ristorante Pecorino in Testaccio (Via Galvani 64). This family-owned restaurant and is frequented mainly by Romans, which is always a good sign. Run by an old Roman couple, Pecorino is a nice alternative to Da Felice, which is always packed.

Order the Fettucine alla Gricia, perhaps the best pasta alla gricia in Rome. If you want to break with tradition, try the gricia with fave (fava beans).

Overall experience 8/10

€15 for gricia and glass of wine

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Da FELICE (TESTACCIO)

You will find the second best cacio e pepe in Rome at Felice in Testaccio. Here they are served with thicker tonnarelli which add more enjoyment to a dish traditionally served with spaghetti. You will be amazed as the waiter does the final mixing of the cacio e pepe in front of you (see video).

Overall experience 9/10

€18 for cacio e pepe and glass of wine

 

Sora Margherita (Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30, GHETTO)

Recommended by my good friend Cristina, this restaurant located somewhere in Rome serves one of the best artichokes alla Giudia. To avoid ruining the place, I was told to keep its name a secret. Sorry Cri. Upon entering, you aren't really sure if you entering a chinese laundromat or a restaurant. This place is cramped and always packed but that adds to its appeal. My favorite dish is the fettucine cacio e pepe. The fettucine are hand made in the restaurant and have a texture which is amazingly al dente. To experience heaven on earth, add ricotta to your cacio e pepe order (see below). I also highly recommend the agnolotti with ragù.

Overall experience 8/10

€20 for artichoke, pasta and house wine

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inside the mysterious restaurant

inside the mysterious restaurant

carciofo alla giudia

carciofo alla romana

agnolotti al ragù

fettucine cacio e pepe e ricotta

 

Capo de Fero (Via di S. Cosimato 15A, Trastevere)

Recommened by one and only Paki of Nuovi Angeli, Capo de Fero specializes in roman fare, in particular the Rigatoni Democratici. Perhaps the heaviest pasta dish you find in Rome, the rigatoni are best appreciated on a cold winter evening. Although it's an extremely rich dish thanks to the parmigiano and tomino based cheese sauce, it's delicious, although not in the same ball park as the big daddies of Roman pasta dishes like Gricia, Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara and Amatriciana.

Overall experience 7.5/10

€20 for first course, vegetable dish and house wine

Broccoli and chicory with garlic, olive oil and peperoncino.

Broccoli and chicory with garlic, olive oil and peperoncino.

Paki (on the left)

Paki (on the left)

 

AL Pompiere (VIA DI S. M. CALDErARi 38)

Al Pompiere offers an elegant dining experience with authentic roman cuisine. Although the clientele is a bit high and mighty for my liking, the staff made me feel instantly at ease. Although they were quite formal, they maintained a warm friendliness in their service. The food at Al Pompiere is very good. The highlights were the saltimbocca, baccalà and amatriciana. The artichokes were also very tasty.

Overall experience 7.5/10 

€40 for artichoke, first and second course with wine

Artichoke alla giudia and Fiore di zucca

Rigatoni all'amatriciana

Gnocchi al lardo

 

Freni e Frizioni (Via del Politeama 4/6, Trastevere)

Every night out in Trastevere must end with a drink at Freni. You can't sit down at the bar, so for lone wolves like myself, you need to mingle with the other clients to truly appreciate this bar. But at Freni, this is by design. Everyone at Freni e Frizioni is here for a good time, including the friendly staff and bartenders. I visited Freni on a quiet Thursday evening, but had an awesome time.

Given the high volume nature of the bar, I expected a mediocre drinking experience but it was exactly the opposite.  I had a beautifully balanced Old Fashioned from Nicolò and thanks to Riccardo Rossi, a mesmerizingly good Flying Dutchman (L'Olandese Volante) with 45 mL VL92 gin, 15 mL Sipsmith VJOP gin, 30 mL Cocchi Amaro, 5 mL Grand Marnier, plum bitter and lemon peel.

For after dinner, try the Trinidad en Cuba cocktail featuring Ron Mulata de Cuba anejo reserva, chocolate bitters, Cohiba extract and sugar cube. Otherwise, if you want something served straight up, ask for Nicolò's Rob Roy featuring Nikka from the Barrel, Peychaud's bitters, and Martelletti vermouth. Nicolò started making his Rob Roys with Nikka after the chef at La Punta suggested this variation to him.

Great bar.

Overall experience 9.5/10

€8 for a cocktail

The bar area

The bar area

The improved Rob Roy - a favorite of the chef at La Punta

The improved Rob Roy - a favorite of the chef at La Punta

Trinidad en Cuba

Trinidad en Cuba

Nicolò celebrates the end of the night at Freni

Nicolò celebrates the end of the night at Freni

 

La Punta (Via Santa Cecilia 8)

Thanks to a collaboration between the boys of Freni e Frizioni and Jerry Thomas, Rome now has an awesome bar specializing in Agave-based drinks. I stumbled upon La Punta accidentally, as it is located near one of my favorite parts of Trastevere, Piazza Santa Cecilia. Upon entering the brightly lit bar, my eyes were immediately drawn to the outdoor-style light bulbs running along the ceiling above the bar. La Punta feels like a high end Agaveria that you could find in Mexico city. The bar area is beautiful, with well lit bottle racks and a tiled bar counter. 

I tried 5 cocktails on 2 separate trips to La Punta. My favorite was the silky and smokey Mala Education with mezcal, grapefruit juice, rhubard, agave honey, habanero bitter and egg white. Thanks to Mauro Foglietta for the beautifully prepared drink. Amazingly, every drink I had at La Punta was great, even if they were made by 4 different bartenders. This is a testament to depth of the bar team and the well-managed drinks program by Cristian Bugiada and Roberto Artusio. The other drinks I had included a very traditional Tommy's Margarita made by Martina Cappetti, a meditation worthy Mezcal Old Fashioned and a delicious Mezcal Last Word by Federico Azzurro and a Mex Man, a heavenly Mezcal Manhattan prepared by Fabrizio. I hope to even see my idol Filippo De Martino behind the stick on my next visit. Of course, I will also try the Mexican food, assuming I have room after eating the Cacio e Pepe I will surely eat before stopping by.

For the Italians out there, I highly recommend the great article by Zero.eu on La Punta.

Overall experience 9.5/10

€10 for a cocktail

The awesome passport drinks list at La Punta

The awesome passport drinks list at La Punta

Left: Mala Education (mezcal, grapefruit, agave honey, rhubarb, habanero bitters, egg white); Right:  Martini de Los Altos (tequila ocho, vermouth del professore, bergamotto Quaglia, habanero bitter, orange bitter)

Left: Mala Education (mezcal, grapefruit, agave honey, rhubarb, habanero bitters, egg white); Right:  Martini de Los Altos (tequila ocho, vermouth del professore, bergamotto Quaglia, habanero bitter, orange bitter)

 

Hotel Locarno (Via della Penna 22 near Piazza del Popolo)

Want a well crafted cocktail at 5pm in Rome in a great location? Look no further than Hotel Locarno. Another gem of a recommendation from Memfi, this is my favorite hotel bar in Italy. Thanks to the excellent mixing skills of bartender Nicholas Pinna, Hotel Locarno might have the best aperitivo in Roma. Start with his signature Roma Bracciano and if you are daring, let him guide you drinking experience. Although the bar itself is gorgeous, check out the garden area for an even more relaxing atmosphere.

Overall experience 9/10

€15 for a cocktail

bar at hotel Locarno

bar at hotel Locarno

mint julep with barrel-aged french grappa

mint julep with barrel-aged french grappa

 

JERRY THOMAS Speakeasy (VICOLO CELLINI 30)

Why is Jerry Thomas Speakeasy in the world's 50 best bars? It's quite simple - this is the sexiest cocktail bar in the world. From the moment you make it past the the mysterious but intimidating door ritual, this bar will blow you away with its beauty and charm. The wallpaper, the couches, the bar, the bathroom, the waitresses - everything here is eye candy. The staff do a great job managing this often-packed little speakeasy and the 3 barmen work wonders in their cramped stations behind the bar. Luca Cesaretti, one of the newer barmen at Jerry Thomas, told me he can crank out 200 drinks on a given night. The cocktails are spectacular at Jerry. Try their smoked cocktail or Luca's take on the Penicillin. I can't wait to be back in Rome - not only to return to Jerry Thomas Speakeasy, but also their new emporium across the street. 

Overall experience 10/10

€12 for a cocktail

Rye Old Fashioned, Pupo's custom made end of the evening cocktail (Johnny walker Black, Lagavulin 8, Antica Formula, Orgeat, Fernet, Benedectine, Angostura)

Rye Old Fashioned, Pupo's custom made end of the evening cocktail (Johnny walker Black, Lagavulin 8, Antica Formula, Orgeat, Fernet, Benedectine, Angostura)

The barmen of Jerry Thomas: Riccardo Marinelli, Michele Garofolo, Luca Cesaretti