Me being me, we didn’t do any prior planning for Rome on where to go, what to see and where to eat so after a bit of wandering around the streets of Rome after a bit of sightseeing down at the Coloseum we stumbled on a building that looked so out of place amongst the weathered, ornamental and dust clad structures with it’s grass coat and illuminous fairy lights drawing our gaze across the city.
I was hungry but fancied a pint whilst we gathered our thoughts and pinpointed our next culinary target to feast upon during our gargantuan expedition to feed our ever gluttonous bellies.
The place was empty but had a ground floor open window with seats that promised views out onto the Roman streets, whilst sipping a beer and eagerly swipping pottential eatteries within walking distance.
By now I was appetite for the only beer I seemed to find Moretti was waivering and luckily for me they had a few craft beers in the fridge. Mine was a Brooklyn IPA pushing 7%.
As the old saying goes “when in Rome…”, we thought we would stay true to the saynig and question the guys working in the bar / coffee shop to find out where the locals hang out and the best place to go for one of Rome’s most famous exports after their love of murder, pillaging, roads, pillars, bridges, auqauducts, arches, statues of micro penises and my favourite pasta dish “Spagetti Carbonara”.
Luckily for us they pointed out a little traditional Italian restaurant on the same street not even 100 yards away called Taverna Romana. A quick gander on Google to check some reviews and we were sold. We finished off the beers and took a walk down using my ever so annoying google maps app, which if you’ve attempted to use whilst walking you would realise my frustrations but luckily for us it was on the same road so even when the app did tell us we were walking in the wrong direction several times we found it quite easily.
We thought we just arrived after a guided tour had been dropped off outside the restaurant as there was a small gathering outside the door so after a few minutes I politely asked one of two of the bystanders if they were qeueing to get in for food. It seems that even though there were a number of other restaurants within spitting distance this is the place everyone wanted to go and as it was quite a small place they fill up quickly and then work on a table out a table in system.
Luckily for us a group of 4 or 5 decided to walk off and 10 minutes later the waitress came out to usher the ones at the front who had made an earlier reservation to their seats. We then asked could we get a table for 2 and she obliged and said thank you and closed the door to a bewildered look from both of us. How long would we have to wait? Who knows but seeing as this was the only place we’d passed gaining an ever expanding qeueue we wanted to see what the fuss was all about.
It was probably only another 10 minutes and the waitress called us in for a table next to the glass fridge.
We had had a browse on the menu whilst waiting outside and were trying to stare each other out to win the decider on who would get to order the Carbonara and to my good fortune I’d come out on top.
After the previous 24 hours scouring the streets of Venice looking for a proper Italian experience and a menu that epitomised Italian cooking I think we had come out trumps with this little finding.
The Italians don’t seem to do starters as we would know them in the UK and from what we could see just consisted of a charcuterie board and at nearly 15 euros seemed to be more expensive than the mains but they were probably for sharing.
By looking at a selection of menu’s on our travels we realised they tend to opt for a pasta dish for first coars then a meat or fish dish for 2nd course then a dessert if you’re feeling brave.
First thing was first and we sat down with a good bottle of Italian red wine to ponder some more over the menu.
I opted for the eagerly awaited Carbonara for first coarst and Mwsh opted for the a tomato based Roman inspired pasta dish the Fettuccine alla Romana consisting of veal meat in a rich mushroom and tomato red sauce.
To be fair the front of house and guys hidden behind the wall in the kitchen worked like a well oiled machine from first impressions turning over tables, taking orders and delivering the fresh perfumed scent of ladened pasta dishes to hungry diners.
We didn’t wait long for my first experience of a pasta dish for starter and my first encounter of the Roman born real Carbonara dish. Who ever was on the Pecorino Romano/ Parmigiano Reggiano duties was feeling generous and the spagetti seemed so creamy it looked like they had strayed from the traditional Absolutely No Cream!
The pasta was cooked how it’s supposed to be with a good bite, plenty of cheese on top and the Romans don’t use Pancetta as I once thought, they use Guanciale. This is from the cheeks of fatty pigs unlike Pancetta that comes from the belly. I could tell the difference as there was very little meat on the nuggets of of pork rinds it was predominantly fat with the tinniest of layers of pink meat running through it. Slightly crisp, this gives the meaty flavour and the emulsion of oil to help bind the egg yolks too.
Unlike my bastardised version of the Carbonara featuring half a kilo of garlic per kilo of bodyweight of the peson I’m cooking for some recipes do without any at all using just the cheese, egg yolk, Guanciale and splashes of cooking liquor.
I’m all about flavour so mine combines shallots, shit loads of garlic, mushrooms and a bit of oil or butter to help gloss the mushrooms too. I’m glad I tried this traditional Carbonara but I think my interpretation of the dish was a bit more tasty and packs a bigger punch. I had a fork full of the veal and red sauce dish from Mwsh and that was also good but think I prefered my plate I was chomping on.
Secondi or second course I chose the Polpette or meatballs in red sauce to non locals. not knowing to me but they came just as described on the menu with meat balls and red sauce…and nothing else. It was a good job we ordered some bread and potatoes on the side as these added to a bit of stodge to the plate not that I needed it after a first course of pasta. Mwsh went for the Involtini dish with tender slices of rolled beef in a tomato based sauce and cheese.
Two giant meatballs swamped in a generous helping of red sauce took centre stage on my plate. I gentley crushed my fork into the meaty balls expecting a bit of give with course chunks coming off but but they were so tender and just crumbled under the pressure of my fork. When i’ve cooked meatballs in the past i’ve fried them in the pan or baked them on 200c in the oven usually turning them into something that resembled the conkers in colour and hardness.
Due to the sheer size of these meatballs they must of been baked low and slow in the sauce so they cooked through gently and melted in the mouth. We had to ask this time for some Parmagianno / Pecorino but it balanced the dish perfectly so it wasn’t overly tomato based anymore.
I wasn’t overly fussed on dessert and didn’t have much space for it.
Things started to wind down and I think they waiter and waitresses seemed to take their foot off the gas from being worn out form the converyor of punters through the door that evening as we did ask for the bill but had to wait about 20 minutes for it after asking twice.
I’m glad we found this little gem of a place because the Taverna Romana really did ooze traditional Italian charm. It was so cosy inside with us parked up next to the large glass fridge there was no pretence and you could tell people were just there for the food and on our 3 day trek across Italy we never saw anywhere quite like this place with qeues waiting outside to be seated with a mixture of locals and those who had been lucky enough to stumble upon such a great eatery too.
I did enjoy the Carbonara and they stay true to the authentic recipe without any of the essential items i’ve got in mine although I couldn’t tell if they had a little drop of cream to the mixture as they couldn’t get it that creamy from just cheese, cooking liquor and egg if i’m honest but it was good to try with the Guanciale instead of my Pancetta flavoured back bacon from Cure and Simple to compare.
One of you needs to order the meatballs if you’re going in a pair but make sure you order some carbs or side to go with it as it comes with just the meatballs and sauce. We ordered bread and the delicious roasted and percectly seasoned potatoes. It was a struggle to get the two plates down and I did sit there and have a breather till I had a second wind but I wasn’t leaving till i’d consumed both including the bread and potatoes.
I couldn’t comment on the desserts as I didn’t sample one but what I would suggest is you visit the restaurant earlier in the afternoon or evening to book a table as it was a normal Monday night and they were one in one out waiting for a table. We asked the waitress too and she confirmed it was like that every night, which also goes to show how much in demand a spot is valued by locals and visitors to the Italian City.