WITH MUSIC: At the RISTORANTE LA CISTERNA (tel. 582.543), on a side street
across the Tiber, the waiters wear medieval costumes, the walls are covered
with hilarious murals misrepresenting Roman history and the several dining
halls reverberate to the rhythm of a string quartet and the throaty wail of a
tenor. La Cisterna, founded more than three centuries ago, is the most
picturesque, the noisiest and the liveliest of Trastevere restaurants, and
provides an amusing evening—count on about $4 for a gay repast—with music and
song, wine and laughter, and good food as well. Gianni Dalino is the
headwaiter, and the scampi e calamari fritti are particularly good.
COOL IN A VAULT:
The sheltered terrace of RISTORANTE DA PANCRAZIO (tel. 561.246), on a little
piazza near the Farnese Palace, is not unusual, but once inside you catch
unmistakable glimpses of antiquity. For this restaurant is built on the
foundations of the Teatro di Pompeo, a marble amphitheater long since
disappeared. Here the subterranean vaults of ancient Rome have been converted
into a cool summer dining place, and the proprietor of Da Pancrazio, a
cheerful, plump man named Pietro Macchioni, will, if you are interested, take
you into the vaults, unchanged for two milleniums. There you may lunch or dine
(for about $3.50 to $4) on food well above the average, surrounded by Roman oil
jugs and fragments of sculpture and marble columns.
ACROSS THE TIBER:
In Rome a trattoria is supposed to be a more modest dining place than a
ristorante, but there are exceptions, and CARLO (tel. 580.244), which calls
itself la tipica trattoria, is one of them. Located on a wide street just
across the Tiber, Carlo's is quiet and dignified, the cooking is good, and an
ambitious menu—the seafood is superlative—is filled with good things at
reasonable prices—around $2 or $3 for a meal, including wine and service.
UNHURRIED: One reason why you may like AL CHIANTI (tel. 861.083), a topnotch
trattoria in a cheerful setting near the Porta Pia, is that it is not a tourist
place at all. The guests are mostly urbane, well-dressed, unhurried Romans; the
proprietors, Ernesto and Mario (who speak English), take exceedingly good care
of them, and the surroundings are gay, colorful and informal, with bright
Gauguinesque paintings everywhere. The prices run to around $2.50 with service
and a flagon of red or white wine, and Tuscan dishes are the favorites.
FOR MEN OF
LETTERS : Situated across the Tiber and just inside the Roman walls, ROMOLO
(tel. 588.284) is a natural favorite with Roman celebrities and men of letters.
The atmosphere is a delightful blend of ancient architecture and modern
painting. The cooking is pure Roman, with such old favorites as saltimbocca
alla romana, roasted giant mushrooms, and grilled Tuscan steaks, for around $3.
You may need the help of a taxi driver to find this venerable trattoria.
Romolo, or his son, will greet you at the door.
ON THE PIAZZA
SANTA MARIA: In terms of setting alone, GALEASSI (tel. 503.775) is the most
fortunate of trattorie. Its broad, awning-shaded terrace is set on one of the
loveliest of Roman squares, with an illuminated fountain bubbling in the middle
and the polychromatic facade of the Church of Santa Maria looming in one
corner. The wine list is exceptionally good, the service attentive, and prices,
ranging from $2.75 to $3.50, are reasonable. There is an English version of the
ON YOUR OWN: It
is otherwise at DA GIGGETTO (tel. 561.105), where the menu is in Italian only.
Here you are part of the Roman street scene. At the end of a thickly populated
street—Via del Portico d'Ottavia—you come to an ancient Roman archway, preceded
by the crumbling stumps of marble columns. The sidewalk tables of the trattoria
Da Giggetto are placed in this open-air setting, with an aisle left between
them for strolling musicians, pedestrians, dancing children and lean, darting
cats. It is pure picture-book Rome, discovered by relatively few tourists. The
dishes are good Roman, the wines are reliable and the price should average
about $2.25. You will like the spaghetti specialty, called tonnarelli alla
zingara, in the company of a good bottle of Valpolicella, and if you want a
whole chicken cooked alla diavola or a fillet of beef grilled over charcoal, Da
Giggetto is eager to comply—provided you can make your wants known, for the
staff doesn't dabble in English. You are on your own here, and your evening
will be a highlight of your stay in Rome. In case you should wish to consult
the headwaiter, his name is Olindo Cicala, but he doesn't speak English,
either. As we said, you're on your own.