In the Castelli Romani, there is a genuine trattoria hidden inside a private home

Jun 25 2024, 13:56
We are sharing how delightful it is at the Ristorante Privato A Casa Mia between Montecompatri and Grottaferrata, specifically in the Molara district, a private house with a kitchen open to the public

by Antonio Scarsella

Today, let’s admit it, it’s almost a mission impossible to stumble upon a restaurant by chance and have a bad meal. With the sheer volume of information (texts and photos) available online through industry magazines, social media, and dedicated blogs, going in blind takes quite an effort. In this continuous flow of food-themed communication, it seems almost impossible to be surprised, as it appears everything has already been seen or written about. So, when we come across places that feel almost out of this world, certain oases of peace far removed from any trendy paths, we are always a bit torn about whether to talk about them or not. Not because these places don’t deserve to be mentioned—on the contrary! The hesitation comes from wanting only a few people to know about them, to ensure that they remain a sort of hidden gem. But, although Christmas is still far off, we feel quite generous and will tell you about the joy of being at the Ristorante Privato A Casa Mia between Montecompatri and Grottaferrata, specifically in the Molara district.

A house with a Kitchen

From Rome, the journey is like the ones Roman families used to make on Sundays for their “gita fuori porta” (out-of-town trips), often to the Castelli Romani. Fresh air, good wine, and green spaces to enjoy what was prepared at home, or for the luckier ones, a table waiting at a fraschetta. Nostalgic digressions aside, calculate about forty minutes for the trip and pay attention to your GPS because in the last stretch of the Tuscolana, the signal disappears and you have to go a bit by instinct. And it continues like this, without signal, until you arrive. But all in all, the idea of entering a “free zone” where even phone signals don’t prevail is a hint that, while it might not be the best meal of your life, you will at least enjoy repeated moments of peace and relaxation. Finally, with or without signal, you arrive at this trattoria which, like all hidden gems, has no sign along the road or on the premises. There’s an open gate; you enter: on the right, a low country house with a lovely patio, and on the left, a very large parking area where you can leave your car in the shade under large cherry trees. The place, which calling rustic would be almost poetic, doesn’t particularly resemble a trattoria from the outside or inside, truth be told. The most fitting description is that of a house with a kitchen, which admittedly lacks a bit of romance since it sounds like a real estate ad, but so it is. It’s a house with a large dining room where you sit in available seats, and when you call to book, the response is, “Don’t worry, there’s always a place, and if there isn’t, we’ll find one.” In an era of online reservations a month in advance with a credit card guarantee, such a response is like a breath of fresh air.

The simple menu with homemade gnocchi

Whether inside or outside on the patio, you choose your spot. You sit down and wait for Marco to bring water and bread and explain how it works. “For starters, we have cured meats, cheeses, and olives. For mains today, mum made linguine with tuna and potato gnocchi with meat sauce. For seconds, we have breaded cutlet, baked cod with potatoes, and pork loin. Sides are salad and chicory.” Marco is quick, he has a lot to do because he handles the whole dining room himself, and there are many tables to serve on that hot Friday in mid-June. Mostly people on their lunch break, traveling salesmen, many regulars including a gentleman who, unlike the other patrons, prefers to eat inside, aptly choosing a table in front of the TV. “Put it on the first channel, Marco, please, the news is about to start.” We did say it’s a house with a kitchen!

The dishes arrive. Linguine with tuna, tasty like those we can all make at home. Gnocchi, now this is no joke, if gnocchi are poorly made or, worse, store-bought, they stick to the palate like suction cups. These, however, are soft and irregular as homemade pasta often is, well-seasoned in this meat sauce where, along with beef pulp in the tomato, some less prized cuts have ended up. But then again, home cooking is this: the rare art of filling plates while leaving the bin as empty as possible. What do the experts call it? Zero waste? Yes, that.

The baked cod with potatoes didn’t earn a photo. As ugly as it was delicious, with those potatoes well-soaked in the cooking juices of fish and tomato, it was so unphotogenic that we leave it to your imagination. And then the breaded cutlets, perfectly made with the breading sticking well to the meat, nice and crispy around the edges. All to be eaten with sautéed chicory, generously seasoned with oil and chilli, and boiled potatoes dressed with oil and onion. The meal ends with sweets and coffee.

Stefania's courage

Just before the coffee, as the dining room starts to empty, we get a chance to peek into the kitchen to see who’s behind those delicious gnocchi and everything else. And there she is, Stefania, beautiful with her pink turban and yellow gloves, washing dishes as the service is over. She tells us how this place started. “25 years ago, I got divorced, with two kids and no job. I had to roll up my sleeves,” says Stefania, “without wasting too much time because the expenses were many. So, she explains, since she had this large house, she thought of doing some work and splitting it in half. On one side the osteria, and behind the curtain, she and her son live.” Stefania is serene as she recounts how, 25 years ago, she had to hustle to get to today.

She tells us she arrives in the kitchen around 9 in the morning, but first she takes a stroll in her little garden. “I planted the chicory you ate, the tomatoes I put in the salad, some zucchini, and eggplants. But this crazy weather has slowed the harvest, so I go to the market.” Today, however, she came down earlier than usual because “I had some homemade potatoes that were perfect for gnocchi!” We can’t argue with her; the gnocchi were superb. Stefania’s industrious nature is also evident in the cupboard next to the fireplace, filled with jars of fruit jams, perfect for making tarts and some biscuits to serve with coffee and the bill.

Ah yes, the bill! Here, it’s a fixed price: food, water, and wine included, 15 euros per person.
It seems like a joke, but trust us, it’s all true.

Ristorante Privato "A Casa Mia" - strada senza nome - 00046 Molara (Rm) - Tel. 06 941 3051

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