Suburbs are considered reservoirs of conformity, but not in Rome. Peripheral, working class and trendsetting, the outlying eastern districts of Centocelle, Quadraro and Torpignattara are setting some of the highest dining standards in town.
Indebted to tradition, the edgy and far-flung Centocelle district is sandwiched between Via Prenestina and Via Casilina in Rome’s eastern periphery. If – like many – you’re imagining a degraded, high-crime community characterized by enormous sterile apartment buildings, think again: Centocelle is anything but. As an added plus, this relaxed, working class district has been spawning places upon places for quality meals.
Vincenzo Mancino, entrepreneurial intellect behind the deli-meets-restaurant famous for local cheese, cured meats and bottled goods, opened ProLoco DOL with the intent of bringing the best quality Lazio products to residents of the city’s less affluent periphery. The term pro loco borrowed from the Latin ‘in favor of the place’ is Italian for city-managed local tourist office. With this addendum to the name of his DOL Di Origine Laziale business, Mancino makes his shop/bistro an informational food and wine “help desk” for locavore consumers.
Size does not matter. Despite the reduced square footage, every night young, hip cooks Francesca Barreca and Marco Baccanelli aka the Fooders, transform quality ingredients into enticing dishes. The handful of fortunate diners occupy a single social table that seats 10, and order off a menu whose dishes range from traditional Roman cuisine to contemporary twists on classic cucina romana.
Mauro was getting his philosophy degree, Serena wanted to become an architect. But then cooking in the kitchen together got them mixed up with flour and love. Mauro Secondi and wife Serena so loved stretching fresh eggs, flour and water into pasta that in 1985 they created their small artisanal “pasta all’uovo” factory. The rest is history: Pastificio Secondi rapidly became one of the region’s top fresh pasta producers. Their noodles and ravioli are sought by some of Italy’s most renowned chefs and restaurateurs: think supremely filled tortelli, chocolate tagliatelle, lasagna with broccoletti, speck and smoked provola cheese. In addition to these, various bronze die-extruded shapes, a vegan line and an organic one as well. The herbs used in the Secondi flavorings and fillings grow in the owner’s little organic orchard.
Pommidoro Pizza e Fritti
This pizza al taglio – where pizza is baked in oblong slabs and sold by weight – is a food lover’s dream. Mirko Rizzo, the mastermind behind this project, aims at providing Centocelle with well executed, quality pizza that employs prime ingredients yet sold at a totally democratic price. The airy crust, made with heritage stone-milled flours, holds flavorful and whimsical toppings, like the creamy “carbonara”, or the delightful mix of purple potatoes, flakes of aged provolone cheese and dollops of beer gelatin produced in the town of Fiumicino.
L’Ombralonga Vineria Cicchetteria
“What is that orange drink everyone is sipping around Rome these days?”, asked an American tourist the other day. Unbelievable how some people still are unfamiliar with the Spritz. The original is Venetian, but if you find yourself in Rome pining for La Serenissima and in dire need for a fine Spritz, all you have to do is head to Centocelle, at L’Ombralonga. Veneto natives Massimo and Sara opened this “bacaro” precisely for homesickness and the desire to serve quality Spritzes and Venetian-style cicchetti – typical savory mouthfuls that accompany pre-dinner drinks. Five different recipes for their signature cocktail are sold at ridiculously low prices (under 3 Euro) and paired to gorgeous grazing boards and assorted bacaro snacks.
This retro pastry shop permeated with ‘80s decor and vintage accents never disappoints. Over the years, it’s been a fail safe destination for its cakes, crostate, biscotti, holiday specialties and Sunday lunch pastries, commonly sold on paper trays and wrapped in colorful paper secured with a curly ribbon.
Panificio Supermercato Rossetti
Since its inception in 1956, this historic, family-run “vapoforno” bread baker has added a retail space that sells all manner of fine foods and wine. Warm rosette buns, focaccia, pizza breads and saltless Terni-style loaves share counter space with delightful cakes, homemade protein bars, breakfast pastries and cookies. The “supermarket” side sells organic products, rare cheeses, porchetta hailing from Ariccia and more. The enoteca is stocked with good bottles sold at value price.
Pescheria il Re del Baccalà e dello Stocco
Fishmonger specialized in dried and salt cod, serving Romans since 1954. Their revived or salt-stiff fillets hail straight from Scandinavia, where the best Norwegian cod fish is personally selected by owner Davide Michelangeli. The store offers reasonable prices and tips on popular baccalà recipes.
In search for quality meals in Rome’s outer lying districts, another very interesting dining destination is offered by Quadraro. The historical and popular neighborhood of Rome built largely around the Twenties and Thirties, was at the heart of fierce resistance to the Nazi occupation during WWII which gave the district the nickname “hornet’s nest”. Still characterized by low buildings, tree-lined avenues, and a small-town vibe, Quadraro is also strategically bordered by Cinecittà and Pigneto, and well-connected by several subway stations. Local residents have developed a tight-knit community that maintains its independent nature intact. This is also reflected in the local dining scene.
Nonna’s recipes revisited, fine natural wine, craft beer and cocktail menus, plus homemade bread and a fun ambiance are the ingredients of this little eatery’s success. Opened by friends Lorenzo and Marco Leonetti, Yari Gabai, Mariella de Guglielmo and built out of an ex-mechanic’s workshop, industrial chic and vintage repurposed furnishings create an informal and laid back ambiance. Check their calendar for tasting events and live music concerts.
This boutique pizzeria co-founded by Stefano Callegari and Antonio Pratticò employs carefully refined methods, selected natural starters, superb flour and prized toppings. Dubbed as the best pizza in Rome, Sforno prepares its pies with a long-rising dough that results in a cooked texture that’s closer to the Neapolitan style than its flat, thin and crisp Roman counterpart. Besides the classic toppings, the menu includes specialty pizzas like cacio e pepe, or “lasagna” pizza topped with tomato sauce, bufala, ricotta, ham and basil; or the unique Greenwich, topped with mozzarella, blue stilton and port reduction.
Bisteccheria Da Baffo
Tired of pasta and pizza? Look no further than Da Baffo, an all-Roman steakhouse specialized in stone-grilled meats located in the heart of Quadraro. The menu offers a wide variety of juicy and flavorsome prime cuts of Piedmontese, Tuscan and Marche meats, plus other New World bovine breeds. Choose your steak, tagliata, skewers and filets à la carte, or go for the uber-affordable prix fixe menus, starting at 18 Euro. All starchy sides and dishes can be ordered gluten-free.
Poland native Nestor Grojewski is a masterful chef who brings quality and authenticity to each of his preparations, most of which are served raw, like typical crudo shellfish, tartares and carpaccios, like the thinly sliced raw bream dabbed in pesto of toasted almonds and wild thyme. Some dishes are cooked on a salt slab at the table. Each plate of raw fish, meat of fruit can be paired with a glass selected among the cellar’s 300 wine labels.
692 Osteria & Baretto
This charming eatery is located underneath an ancient aqueduct in the heart of the Quadraro-Mandrione district, an area well-loved by Pierpaolo Pasolini, one he often portrayed. The menu is respectful of cucina romana tradition, with lots of vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options. Good mixology department. Quiet and laid back, the informal osteria and “baretto” vibe is graced by a lush garden for summer lounging, a blazing fireplace from November to March, and a Rome rarity: ample parking!
Moma Pizzeria Romana
Stone milled heritage grains and great manual skills contribute to delicious doughs. High quality seasonal vegetables, cheeses and cured meats are combined to create delicious toppings. The menu also includes feather light fritti (an assortment of fried foods), burgers sourced at Bottega Liberati, bruschette made with homemade bread, and a handful of sinful Roman specials, like mozzarella in carrozza, tiella filled with anchovies and curly endive and baccalà and potato gratin. Leave room for the homemade tiramisu.
Bordering south of the popular Pigneto neighborhood and straddling the ancient consular road Via Casilina, is a small untouched pocket of quality eateries.
Owner Patrizio Bonelli used to be a produce vendor in Monti. The abundance of fresh and seasonal vegetable-inspired dishes and sides served in his family’s osteria should therefore not come as a surprise. Affordable and impossible to access without a reservation, Osteria Bonelli is a genuine, authentic and unpretentious dining experience. The menu is scribbled on a portable chalkboard, on it are listed classic cucina romana dishes. Among them the best pasta alla griciaon the planet and fine portions of offal, like tripe, oxtail and coratella, a mix not for the faint of heart: braised and spicy lamb’s liver, lung and heart.
At its third generation of bakers since 1929, the Pasticceria Signorini is now under the gentle guidance of Paola Signorini and her brother. Fluffy sacher tortes, biscotti, pastries and the famous signature Dolce Signorini, a tower of sponge cake smeared with chantilly cream and gianduja.
ProLoco DOL | Rome | Via Domenico Panaroli 35 | tel. 0624300765 | www.dioriginelaziale.it/
Mazzo | Rome Via delle Rose 54 | tel. 0664962847 | www.thefooders.it/mazzo/
Pastificio Secondi | Rome | via delle Alzavole 47 | tel. 06 23288319 | www.pastificiosecondi.it/
Pommidoro Pizza e Fritti | Rome | via delle Acacie 1, A | tel. 3911691322 | www.facebook.com/pages/Pommidoro
L’Ombralonga Vineria Cicchetteria | Rome | via delle Palme 76a | www.facebook.com/LOmbralonga/
Zampilli | Rome | via delle Acacie 53a | tel. 062184777
Panificio Supermercato Rossetti | Rome | via degli Olivi 54 | tel. 06.2311855 | www.facebook.com/panificiosupermercatorossetti/
Pescheria il Re del Baccalà e dello Stocco | Rome | Via Giacomo Bresadola 30 | tel. 062593317 | www.redelbaccala.it/
Grandma Bistrot | Rome | Via dei Corneli 25 | tel.377 264 9540 | www.grandmaroma.it/
Sforno | Rome | Via Statilio Ottato 110/116 | tel. 0671546118 | www.sforno.it/
Bisteccheria Da Baffo | Rome | Via dei Fulvi 8 | tel. 0676906733 | www.bisteccheriadabaffo.it/
CruDop | Roma | via Tuscolana 898 | tel. 0676909916 | www.crudop.it/
692 Ristorante Osteria & Baretto | Rome | Via Tuscolana 692 | tel. 0676968667 | www.seinovedue.it/
Moma Pizzeria Romana | Rome | Via Calpurnio Fiamma 40-44 | tel. 067674717 | www.momapizzeriaromana.it/
Osteria Bonelli | Rome | Viale dell’Acquedotto Alessandrino 172/174 | tel. 329 8633077 | www.facebook.com/Osteria-Bonelli-427233444051834/
Pasticceria Signorini | Rome | Via di Tor Pignattara 16 | tel. 062413420 | www.pasticceriasignorini.upgo.it/
by Eleonora Baldwin