Wednesday, July 2, 2014

When in Rome: Eat At The Restaurants the Tourists Don't Know About

Da Enzo
When I see innocent tourists in Rome fawning over frozen pizza and generic gelato, I just want to take them by their t-shirts, scrub their sticky, tiramisu-covered fingertips, and finally (basta!) feed them food that tastes like, well, Italy. Here are five, trusted Roman ristorantes that the tourist books don’t tell you about.
Da Enzo
Local Italians cherish this place (pictured above). They would protect it from all of us English-speakers if they could. Located in the most peaceful part of eastern Trastevere, this genuine Roman trattoria has a serious focus on quality of ingredients, with all their eggs, meat, wine and cheese being 100% organic. Here, the concept of “kilometer zero” is not a gimmick, but a religion—the olive oil comes from the verdant Viterbo area (north Lazio), all produce comes from nearby farms. The setting isn't fussy at all—clean and simple, with children's artwork hung on its sunshine yellow walls. But the food is out of this world. Da Enzo is especially known for its carciofi judia, cacio e pepe, stuffed zucchini blossoms, and perfectly-salted baccalà. My advice? Order anything with artichokes. (Via dei Vascellari 29; +39 06 58 12 260)
Osteria Bonelli
While Osteria Bonelli is not far from the chic Pignetto, the restaurant’s specific location in Torpignattara is on the side of seedy. And that nice-to-rough ratio—superb food on cheap paper tablecloths—is exactly what you’ll find inside this always-bustling osteria, where the dishes are truly exceptional and the waitresses, in their thick black eyeliner, know exactly what you want before you say a word (which is good because there are no menus). I lick my plate every time I eat there, inhaling the ricotta e spinaci ravioli and pasta alla gricia, guzzling the wonderful house red wine, before looking at the bill and crying out loud about how cheap it is. Of course, no one can understand me. The closest thing to English is a crooked, black and white framed photograph of Steve Jobs, with the quote, “Siate affamati! Siate folli!” Translation: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”(Viale dell'Acquedotto Alessandrino, 172; +39 329 863 3077)
This National School of Pizza-trained husband and wife operation is no joke, with five strict selections of Roman-style pizza per night, with no substitutions, no exceptions, and no decisions – other than “beer or wine?” On the menu, you will find these options: Margarita, Mediterranean, Napoli, Marinara, Mozzarella & Anchovies and a seasonal Daily Special. Wife cooks, husband serves. The pizza is quickly sliced, and then unceremoniously delivered on a slab of paper (no plate), in sizes small, medium or large. Yes, Farinè is a peculiar, ultra-simple place, with a slightly hostile attitude, but none of that matters because the pizza is just so perfect. Why? The dough has a long, 72-hour rise, resulting in a strong, fluffy crust, and the ingredients are hyper-fresh bought daily from nearby markets. This locals-only pizzeria takes minimalism to another level (albeit unintentionally): There’s one table, no forks, and zero staff. Strange and splendido! (Via degli Aurunci, 6/8; +39 06 445 1162)
La Carbonara dal 1906
Hurry. Word is getting out about La Carbonara in Monti. With generous portions of traditional homemade pastas like (my favorite) Ravioli alle Noci, classic dishes like fritto vegatale, and bollito dressed with olive oil and lemon, not to mention all the impassioned Italian graffiti on the walls, the experience here is never dull. Especially if you order the spicy pasta zi Tere made with fresh tomato, chile, basil, and pecorino. For 32 years, the owner, chef and lady of the house, Donna Teresa, has run a tight ship—insisting that the food is consistently magnifico, and that her son, the manager, doesn’t misbehave (too much). (Via Panisperna 214; +39 06 482 5176)

Capo Boi
Just because you’re eating like a local, that doesn’t mean it can’t be elegant. Capo Boiis a fish-centric, Sardinian-kitchen restaurant where dignified Romans go for special occasions. The precious neighborhood itself, Coppide, in between Parioli and Trieste, might as well be one of the secret ingredients on the restaurant’s no-miss menu, with its glamorous, high-status streets reminiscent of 1920’s Rome. The crudo fish appetizers, like the raw and smoked mussels and clams, are the best in town, as are the oysters, but save room for the entrees which are massive and sublime (I dream about the mixed grilled fish), but first comes the addictive Pane Carassua bread, otherwise known as “Italian music sheets” (this, because they’re so crispy and noisy, and there’s no stopping once you start). While dinner won’t come cheap, the white-linen experience is first class all the way. (Via Arno, 80; +39 06 841 5535)

Contributed by Alyssa Schalasky,

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