The Harper Notebook: Best Restaurants in Rome

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The inhabitants of the Eternal City love their food, and in few places do people enjoy the pleasures of the table with such obvious relish. But bear in mind that the best fare is not necessarily found in fancy restaurants, but rather in the lively trattorias and osterias that the Romans favor. In this case, the old saw “When in Rome ...” proves good counsel.

L'Arcangelo

Bitter herbs salad, crunchy almond and anchovies, pollen and mana at <em>L'Arcangelo</em>
Bitter herbs salad, crunchy almond and anchovies, pollen and mana at L'Arcangelo - L'Arcangelo

Even among food-savvy Romans, this spot remains a bit of a secret. The interior looks like a classic trattoria, albeit a refined one, with ocher walls hung with old prints. The food is first-class, with dishes that might include fresh-made chitarra pasta with marinated anchovies and fried artichokes, and main courses like a variation on the classic Roman dish of steamed salt cod with a purée of broccoli and warm ricotta infused with cocoa beans. Ask for recommendations from the interesting wine list, which is full of selections from Italy’s smaller producers.

L'Arcangelo
Via Giuseppe Gioachino Belli 59. Tel. 06-321-0992

La Campana

Spaghetti alle Vongole at <em>La Campana</em>
Spaghetti alle Vongole at La Campana - La Campana

Finding a restaurant in Rome on a Sunday night can be a challenge, which is how I discovered this delightful spot. Reputed to be the oldest trattoria in the city, it might not be the most elegant, but the food makes it a must-go. Pastas are excellent — nowhere does a better take on the simple cacio e pepe, with just tonnarelli pasta, ground pepper, butter and pecorino cheese — as are the lamb dishes. The service can be perfunctory, but come on Sunday for lunch to see happy Roman families enjoying every bite.

La Campana
Vicolo Della Campana 18. Tel. 06-687-5273

Clemente Alla Maddalena

Spaghetti with calamari at <em>Clemente Alla Maddalena</em>
Spaghetti with calamari at Clemente Alla Maddalena - Clemente Alla Maddalena

Set on the charming piazza in front of the rococo façade of the Santa Maria Maddalena church, this lovely small restaurant offers many pleasures. The cooking draws on the traditions of Rome, Emilia-Romagna and Puglia. Look for satisfying starters such as a cake of salt cod and potatoes with chickpea cream; pastas like the classic Roman homemade maccheroncini with tomato, bacon and sheep’s cheese; and main courses such as lamb chops with potatoes and rosemary. (Editor's note: The restaurant will be closed for renovations through February 8, 2017.)

Clemente Alla Maddalena
Piazza Della Maddalena 4. Tel. 06-683-3633

Il Convivio Troiani

Bread ravioli with butter and anchovies at <em>Il Convivio Troiani</em>
Bread ravioli with butter and anchovies at Il Convivio Troiani - Il Convivio Troiani

The three Troiani brothers temper their culinary imaginations with respect for Roman tradition. Several dining rooms (one frescoed and another hung with classical oil paintings) provide memorable settings for the refined gastronomy. The ever-changing menu might include roast quail with black truffle, artichokes and a mixed salad; and Norwegian “morua” salt cod (aged for four years) with beet sauce and artichoke carpaccio.

Il Convivio Troiani
Vicolo Dei Soldati 31. Tel. 06-686-9432

Glass Hostaria

Black cod with bonito sauce at <em>Glass Hostaria</em>
Black cod with bonito sauce at Glass Hostaria - Andrea Federici

Cristina Bowerman ran a catering company in Austin, Texas, before taking over the kitchen at this handsome restaurant in the Trastevere district. In a city that is notably conservative when it comes to food, Bowerman has won a reputation for inventive dishes such as her potato gnocchi with sea urchin, black-garlic bagna càuda and salted lemon. On the often-changing menu, watch for dishes such as sumac-scented lamb with Stilton cheese, carrots and fennel pollen. Excellent wine list.

Glass Hostaria
Vicolo Del Cinque 58. Tel. 06-5833-5903

Il Pagliaccio

Red shrimp, lemon and leek at <em>Il Pagliaccio</em>
Red shrimp, lemon and leek at Il Pagliaccio - Aromicreativi

Anthony Genovese, who formerly worked at the Tokyo branch of Florence’s Enoteca Pinchiorri, is one of the most innovative chefs in Rome. This stylish place offers an eclectic menu of Italian classics and fusion food, with dishes that might include scampi with rice cooked in coconut milk and rum; amaranth spaghetti, sea urchin and mantis shrimp; and beef with a brûlée of leek and marrow.

Il Pagliaccio
Via Dei Banchi Vecchi 129A. Tel. 06-6880-9595

Ristorante Piperno

Fried artichokes "Jewish Style" at <em>Ristorante Piperno</em>
Fried artichokes "Jewish Style" at Ristorante Piperno - Ristorante Piperno

Situated in the former Jewish ghetto, this charming and informal spot is famous for its carciofi alla giudia (fried artichokes, “Jewish style”). Also try any of the wonderful dishes with fresh-made pasta, the fritto misto vegetariano, and the first-rate stuffed zucchini blossoms. Tables spill out into the quiet piazza, which provides a magical setting in summer.

Ristorante Piperno
Via Monte De Cenci 9. Tel. 06-6880-6629

Ristorante Salumeria Rosciolo

Spaghetti carbonara at <em>Salumeria Rosciolo</em>
Spaghetti carbonara at Salumeria Rosciolo - Salumeria Rosciolo

Located just around the corner from the Campo de’ Fiori market, this is a favorite place for casual dining. The snug space is tucked away behind a gourmet grocery shop. Start with burrata, the creamy mozzarella-based cheese from Puglia, with anchovies; or delicious Sicilian caponata (a sweet-and-sour eggplant dish) with dried fruit and nuts; then try the best spaghetti carbonara in town. If you don’t want pasta as a main course, the Icelandic cod with puréed cannellini beans and crispy bacon, and the meatballs with smoked ricotta and chestnut polenta are excellent. There is a superb assortment of cheeses and one of the city’s best wine lists.

Ristorante Salumeria Rosciolo
Via Dei Giubbonari 21. Tel. 06-687-5287

Trattoria Monti

This family-run trattoria offers delicious regional food and outstanding service. The seasonal menu generally features dishes such as mixed antipasti of veal-stuffed olives, deep-fried zucchini and soft sausage. Another specialty is tortino (small flan-like cakes made with vegetables). Rabbit dishes are also a focus, and if it’s on the menu, try the luscious timballo di coniglio con patate, a casserole of rabbit with potatoes. The clientele is always well-turned-out, and reservations are essential. (No website available.)

Via Di San Vito 13/A. Tel. 06-446-6573


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