Best place for spring lamb in Rome?
We will be in Rome mid-April. Any suggestions for the best place to try spring lamb? Near center city and not too outrageously expensive are my only two constraints.
Rome has three basic lamb preparations, scottadito (little chops grilled till they're crunchy), alla cacciatora (stewed with rosemary and vinegar/wine), and arrosto or al forno (cooked in the oven, usually with potatoes, flavored with garlic and rosemary). The name of the baby lamb in Rome is abbacchio, which has an unpleasant etymology, which fortunately nobody thinks about. It is easier to find good scottadito than the rest. Our local, La Piazzetta near Via Cavour, has excellent scottadito. Checchino, a superb traditional restaurant in Testaccio, has both scottadito and cacciatora, and both wonderful. Under pressure from a waiter at Al Moro last year, I had the roast lamb, but it was dry and pretty awful. It's a typical trattoria dish, I think usually best on Sunday and probably reheated the rest of the week. I know Hostaria Nerone almost always has abbacchio al forno, but I'm not sure what day they make it. Al Moro's cacciatora is excellent but uses the (paradoxically) northern style, with tomatoes, not the standard tomatoless rosemary/vinegar. Also, it may be in your category of outrageously expensive. In any case, cacciatora is labor-intensive, which most Roman trattorias try to avoid, so the dish is not that common. Scottadito is perfect for the trattoria and so the standard is generally high. Have scottadito and ask for a contorno di patate. Note that Roman lamb is traditionally cooked through, not served rare or even pink.
My own opinion of the restaurants recommended already is that Beltrame and Sora Margherita are way past their prime. My most recent meals at both have been pretty much busts, though both should be able to throw some lamb chops on the grill. I do like Armando, with reservations. With the exception of a place like Checchino, for which tradition is practically a religion, these are dishes to have lower down the scale. You don't want some creative chef messing with your abbacchio.
wow the meal my family of five adults had at Sora Margherita Jan 05 was top notch, delicious. If past its prime its still churning out great stuff in its limited range.
I think we had both the scottadito and one called caccitoria at Armando and both were very good but we liked the latter even better. However I dont remember they did the latter as a stewed presentation - it was also fried or grilled, just seasoned differently from the scottadito. Re Armando, we had a couple of dishes I didnt like there (saffron pasta, veg soup), but given the fact that we had 5 adults ordering two full multicourse meals and no duplication I think their performance was excellent.
Great to have a broader range of recommendations here - we infrequent visitors can never dig as deep.