Everything we ate, from pizza to gelato, was so rich in flavor and character. We mostly ordered your typical, traditional dishes as to not regret ordering something overly fancy that we might've not enjoyed. Call us crazy...
Let's dive right into la cucina romana.
Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè
This is the first place we went upon arriving in Rome and settling into our hotel, even before doing any sightseeing. It's a true coffee experience in Rome where you order at the bar (or outside at a lovely table on the piazza, but for a pretty penny). This gem is just steps from the Pantheon and right around the corner from Piazza Navona. Simply delightful, delicious coffee; make sure you pick up some to take home! Oh, and Mario Batali loves it here.
Obikà Mozzarella Bar
A mozzarella bar is my dream come true. I love this cheese so much that I planned our entire day's activities around lunch at this place. Though Obika's become a little chain now, the restaurant sources wonderful fresh cheeses from the south of Italy - and know what they're doing with them, which makes all the difference. We ordered a variety of meats and cheeses and breads that were heavenly. It was Cloud Nine for me.
Another one of my favorite foods is pizza. I couldn't wait to get to Rome and eat pizza to my heart's content. I did my research and found that Dar Poeta, a pizza restaurant in a cute alley in Trastevere, had some of the best in town. I can verify that this is indeed true. You're probably sitting there thinking, "yeah yeah...what is so special about this pizza? New York is the best." These pizzas were so different than anything we'd eaten in America; not only incredibly delicious, but also very unique. The crust was light and doughy, and didn't taste greasy or crunchy. The toppings were amazing (potato, speck, cheese)...I could not stop staring at the other diners to see what was on their pizzas. Oh...and they serve large Nutella and ricotta cheese calzones for dessert. Enough said.
This isn't your typical tourist pizza place. Pizzeria Leoncino is tucked away on a small, off-the-beaten path street a few minutes from Piazza di Spagna near Via Corso. Our waiter actually spoke zero English. We pointed at the menu and awkwardly laughed at each other and then a few minutes later, out came our pizza -- with the wrong ingredients. Well, not totally wrong, but we attempted to add salami to the sausage pizza and it was somehow lost in translation and didn't make it on. No worries though - we got around the language barrier and "told" our waiter, who promptly brought us an entire plate of salami to add on ourselves. I did know how to ask for the check in Italian, which I think was our saving grace. But service aside, this is simply the best pizza I had in Rome, due to its super thin crust and flavorful tomato sauce and toppings. It carried slightly more grease than Dar Poeta (#yolo). The restaurant is small and cozy which gave it a very traditional and authentic feel.
Brian and I made a point to seek out a few restaurants that were a little more off the beaten path. We found Da Sergio, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant located on a side street and decided to try it. It seems unassuming with its unflashy red-and-white checkered table clothes but the simple pasta entrees were terrific. The penne arriabata was nice and spicy and the carbonara was filling and rich.
We tried to pick one "fancy" restaurant in both Paris and Rome and Il Bacaro was just that. It's a fantastic little hideaway restaurant with nice service and a romantic, relaxing ambience. We sat in a table outside on the quiet, cobblestone street. I ordered pasta with truffle oil, prawns and cherry tomatoes and Brian got risotto with sausage, mushroom, and mint. The tiramisu dessert was heavenly.
Okay, so we ended up doing two fancy-ish dinners in Rome, but that's only because we knew we had to go somewhere special on the night of our two year wedding anniversary. At the recommendation of my friend we selected Colline Emiliane for the occasion, and it didn't disappoint. We made reservations in advance and showed up (with about 20 others) to the unassuming yet charming entrance to this little restaurant that has been serving dishes from the Emilia region in northeastern Italy since 1931. The atmosphere inside is friendly and relaxing and the staff was extremely helpful and nice. We enjoyed tagliatelle alla bolognese and pasta triangles filled with ricotta, chard, and sausage. And, even though we had mozzarella for lunch at Obika that day, we couldn't pass up getting more fresh mozzarella at dinner.
Giolitti is an pastry and gelato shop near the Pantheon, founded in 1890. The fact that it's over 100 years old and some change confirms the fact that the Giolitti family knows what they're doing when it comes to sweets. We frequented the shop twice because there was a books-length of flavors that we couldn't decide. We both always went with the due gusti (two flavors). I tried Nutella/coffee and banana/hazelnut. Brian got dark chocolate and regular chocolate. Even in Rome, the man is still obsessed with chocolate.
Il Gelato di San Crispino
I only just found out this gelato was the favorite of author Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat, Pray, Love, and after sampling the sweet treats here, I can agree. We arrived right before closing time and were able to taste several of their unique flavors from this fine modern gelato shop. There is no place to sit (at least at the Pantheon location) so you have to grab and go or eat standing inside. This place believes cones ruin the flavors of the cream, so their gelato is served in a cup only.
Not that that would be bad...this is just way better!
That's a wrap on our adventures in Rome - and Europe! I hope you enjoyed following along!