Best non-fusion Italian in Rome
What are your favourite non-fusion restaurants which know exactly what they are doing and are sourcing high quality ingredients? I like mom and pop shops and family run restaurants; they do rustic flavours well but they usually don't have the best ingredients.
The one place I have found so far that fits these criteria is Roscioli.
I'm also unsure what you mean by "non-fusion". Roscioli imports a great percentage of its stuff. My bias, but I think even high quality ingredients lose a lot traveling away from their source, and that is questionable whether Rome is the place to get the best experience of buffalo mozzerella from Paestum -- especially when Roscioli is putting it on hamburgers. That isn't "fusion" -- ?
I just grabbed this from Roscioli's online menu:
SFORMATINO DI PARMIGIANO € 14,00
Brown cows milk parmesan cheese from the Alps flan garnished with Passito from Pantelleria jelly and raspberries sauce
Again, sounds like what I would call fusion. Their menu goes on and on with this kind of stuff. What is "MIX OF VEGETABLES FROM THE SEASON COKE WITH TOFU" --? Even if they don't mean coca-cola (I'm sure they don't), what is tofu doing on a non-fusion menu?
If you find the right family restaurants in Rome, they are getting their ingredients right out of the markets or from long-time local suppliers and I wouldn't assume they aren't getting the best ingredients just because they aren't flying in stuff from Cantabria Spain or Sant Malo France. A lot this "sourcing" hype is just that, and "branding" and flavorless, like I said, once you've put it through all the ups and downs of air travel. If you want "sourcing", put yourself on the plane and go to the source. When in Rome, eat Roman.
I like Settimio al Pellegrino. They use good food to make good food.
kmzed: I hadn't even noticed the hamburger on the Roscioli Menu - I am sure that is there to please foreigners. I'm going for their pastas, cheeses and meats. I agree that many Family run restaurants try their best to get good ingredients straight from farmers. I want the best of these; people who are sourcing the best cheeses, best olive oils, and best meats sourced locally, regionally or nationally. I didn't mean international; If I wanted Spanish olives, wine, cheeses, meat or olive oil I would go to Spain.
I own food businesses from wholesale to retail to restaurants. I have seen many of my customers and know how restaurants function; one of the basic tenets of running restaurant is the need to be economical - I've even seen Joe Bastianich who owns some of the most expensive Italian restaurants (Del Posto, Babbo, Osteria Mozza, etc) say this. At my own restaurant we use lower grades of meat to be able to match our price point; the food still tastes great but could be better, or much better depending on your taste, given a price increase. I want restaurants that aren't too restricted by low prices so they can afford to pay for better ingredients and have the knowledge and expertise to use these ingredients. The Roscioli's seem to fit this bill. La Pergola, Imago, or Glass Hosteria seem to have the knowledge but their food looks too fusion.
Elizabeth: Yes. Straight forward cooking, traditional. I don't mind the chefs using good/fancy techniques as long as the dishes are traditional (ie sous vide). Cesare al Casaletto was second on my list of places!
My list is as follows:
I haven't had too much time to update it recently, but the list is basically in order of preference
Cesare al Casaletto
Armando al Pantheon
Checchino dal 1887
Tempio di Iside
If you are willing to pay for quality ingredients, I don't think you will have a hard time tracking down in Rome wonderful traditional restaurants that take pride in serving the best of locally sourced ingredients. You are right to point out that the neighborhood family run joint in Rome might not be able to afford to stay in business if they serve precious products and charge accordingly. They will price themselves out of the market. But there are food guides and blogs that can help you distinguish between who might be cheating with supermarket produce and who is keeping faith.
Don't assume that Roscioli's hamburgers are there for toruists or are mainly eaten by tourists. It is very trendy in Rome to eat burgers and drink beer. I am not knocking what Roscioli does because they are very upfront about the fact they are importing signature artisinal foods from all over the world. But if you go to their website and look at their menu, you can see that a lot of the emphasis is on bringing imported foods to Rome.
There are a lot of places on your lsit I never have eaten at, but some of them are not serving the local cuisine of Rome or run by natives of Rome. They are serving dishes from other regions of Italy or the cooks are from Sicily, etc. Also, some of them are what I would describe as "modern" or "inventive!. (To me Pierluigi is modern.) So if you are strictly looking for traditional roman cooking that was developed over time based on the seasonal availability of local ingredients -- which I think is definitely the best way to eat if you are visiting Rome and I applaud you for seriously looking -- then places like Trattoria Monti (cooking from the region of Le Marche) or Colline Emiliane (emilia area) aren't that.
I am happy with any cuisine that is Italian. I still haven't experienced enough Italian food to be able to differentiate between the dishes of different regions. I dont mind fusion. I may eat at one of those fusion restaurants I named but I would prefer traditional for most meals.
Which other restaurants do you recommend?
Actually I would recommend that you not eat the food of the other regions of Italy while in Rome because regional food in Italy is best in its own region. Just like the US. Also, people running restaurants need to make a living, and if they find out Romans prefer certain tastes and aren't used to others, they will change their recipes to please local palates.
I really like Armando al Pantheon and Settimio al Pellegrino for roman food. I like Roman pizza and Roman Jewish food but I don't like eating offal, which is popular in Rome. How many meals will you be eating in Rome? Don't you want to eat near your hotel at night or close to places you will be visiting during the day?
"...But if you go to their website and look at their menu, you can see that a lot of the emphasis is on bringing imported foods to Rome."
And a light bulb goes on over my head...
I'd always been somewhat surprised by the glowing reviews and stellar reputation of Roscioli on CH until I read this. My own experiences there have been underwhelming; couldn't help the feeling I just didn't "get" it. Now I can see why - you've put your finger on it perfectly.
It's that emphasis on exotic imported foods that just doesn't sit well with me. If I'm in Rome I'm more interested in eating what's genuinely local/traditional. However the same might not be said of native Romans. They have that stuff every day. A change of pace - something they don't see all the time - may be exactly what gets them excited.
Thanks so much for the insight.
You list is looking pretty good! I think I would take off Colline Emiliane, but only because I have been getting very bad reports from there lately. Horrible service, and two forced seatings a night, which makes things very uncomfortable.
I've never eaten at Corsetti, so can't comment on that.
All of your other choices are good ones. You might want to add L\Asino d'Oro to your list. Very high attention to quality of ingredients pared with careful eye on the bottom line. Try to get there for the fixed menu lunch (you must reserve).