Casual Dining, 2 Nights in Rome - A Report
I got a lot of help from Chowhound before we left for Rome –the general reviews, and the responses to my questions - and Chowhounder Meeno’s spreadsheet list of Roman places was a marvel. Thank you!
We landed in the afternoon, and while walking around a bit, wanted a quick pit stop. In Trastevere, we stopped at Enoteca Trastevere (on Meeno’s list!) and had a glass of Barolo and of Nero d’avalo , (Nero a bargain) and a plate of salami. Perfect little place for an afternoon snack. Trastevere at night we found a real restaurant zone - very lively, busy, loud, (almost like London’s Soho, minus the XXX shops, or Boston’s North End, but louder). No one restaurant stood out to us as what were in the mood for (Paris was the place I had an eye out for, but we didn’t end up going there.)
For evening meal, we sought out Trattoria Lilli, and it was exactly what we were looking for (relaxed; casual rather than formal; and good). The help could not have been nicer or more pleasant. Menu is in Italian and English, the staff speaks limited English. The menu is smallish, and good: tripe; veal; zucchini stuffed with ground meat , and several pastas. Real standouts: The ravoli with ricotta - superlative. The zucchini stuffed with meat was our favorite of the meat dishes. The veal Cacciatore was also good – not a tomato based ragout as cacciatore tends to be in much of the USA, but instead pan juices, rosemary, garlic. And a dark chocolate cake, flourless, like a collapsed souffle, dusted with powdered sugar and served with whipped cream was terrific. Not formal, not elaborate, not rarified, not fancy, but genuinely elegant, because they do their thing, and they do it well.
It was a delight all around. The other diners I think were all Italian, and many were clearly regulars. One patron didn’t finish his vegetables (spinach) and the proprietress came out and asked him why, at some length. The chef is married to a woman from New York, and when he heard English, (me Boston USA, husband North of England) he came out to speak to us. (He also teaches cooking at Broken English in Brooklyn New York).
The next night we intended to eat at a different place, didn’t look seem like what we were hoping it would be, and wound up at Trattoria Lilli again - and were delighted to be there. Table wine was good (the red was more unusual than the white, almost a Fernet Branca undertone): and the price points were also very reasonable. A real little gem. Exactly in keeping with the insight Meeno had in his now legendary post on Rome: in terms of enjoyment of dining out in Rome, he found “less is more.”
Directions to Trattoria Lilli: Cross the river at Casel Sant Angelo, walk along the river Lungere tor di Nona towards the Napoleon Museum. On the right side, go down a flight of stairs, Via di Tor di Nona - and Lilli is at the end of that road. (In Sept), dinner opens at 8 pm)
We had lunch at Enoteca Corsi, near the Pantheon, and that was very good too - friendly service, good price, nice hearty food. (braised mixed meat), and even a nice dessert menu. . Good prices, a great bottle of Nero d’Avola, and a stupendously generous serving of Amaro for my husband (he really likes strong herbal Italian digestifs. If you know of any beyond Amaro and Fernet Branca, please let me know!)
For a pastry during the day, we trekked over to Regoli, nearish to the Coliseum, towards Piazza Vittoria. The guidebook said this area (Esquilino?) was seedy, but as a chaser, I actually liked it – workaday city, people on way to work. (Maybe it’s different and night, and possibly the beacon of Pastry In the Offing rendered me oblivious to “seedy” surroundings) ….the berry topped tartlets were especially fine. Double-plus yum, for you Orwell fans. (Not a sit down place.)
On the hoof, we also nabbed a cookie at Innocenti in Trastevere, and that was wonderful- spicy and rich, like something almost medieval, in a good way. And the old-fashioned style of the shop was also great.
A great break, in a wonderful (and walkable) city . (Overall, walking seemed a lot faster and more interesting than a cab would have been. A compact city, in the main areas a tourist is likely to be in, and distances took less time than we thought). Thank you, caio hounders (forgive me)!
Thanks for your report and I'm glad to see you went back to Trattoria Lilli. I often think feeling one must try lots of different restaurants is the wrong strategy in Italy. And I'm glad you ventured into a quarter of Rome a guidebook might have discouraged you from experiencing and found a treat.
Thank you - we didn't want to be "sticks in the mud" and intended to eat elsewhere, but nothing we ran across appealed to us as much as the first place. Thinking about the neighborhood of the bakery, it was near Termini that somebody tried to pull a scam - a "sales rep" for Versace (uh huh) visiting from Paris, he said, waved us over to his car, to ask for directions. He flipped through a looseleaf binder of photos of clothing, and said he had a lot of samples he had to unload, to avoid customs - were we interested. We said uh no (this was a popular scam in England a few years back) and then he zoomed away in his Smart Car. Part of the berry tartlet experience!