People ask me for my favorite restaurant in Rome on an almost daily basis. This was one of the reasons I wrote the app Eat Italy. Now, instead of sending out individual emails I can just say “Buy the App.” And most people do. But you want to know something? Even though I spent an awful lot of time pulling together my list of favorites in Rome? I still get emails from people asking me to narrow the list down. What are you favorite five restaurants? What is your very very favorite place to eat?
How am I supposed to answer that? Depends on the weather, how I’m feeling, how you’re feeling, how much money you have, what neighborhood you’re in. Not an easy question, no simple answer.
That said, what with the recent Rapture and Earthquake scares, I finally got to thinking. What would my very last meal in Rome be if I had to choose? My very last meal if I would never be in Rome again? Before I got raptured up to heaven or sucked down when the Earth split open?
Well, if you put it that way, the answer’s easy: Perilli.
This old fashioned Testaccio trattoria has been going strong since 1911. And even if they recently spruced up the place, the important things remain the same. Certainly the food, and – I suspect – even some of the waiters, haven’t changed in decades.
I guess some people are a bit put off by the fact that it feels like an insider’s only-Roman place to go. And in fact, you’ll find few tourists there (especially at Sunday lunch). It always has been, and remains, a place frequented by regulars.
While I love the waiters, and the slightly frumpy over-lit, mural-covered dining room, of course what keeps me coming back is the food. My favorite dish: hands down the carbonara. This is (and you heard it here) the best carbonara in Rome. Al dente rigatoni bathed in a wet gooey coating of egg and cheese, studded with huge chewy chunks of guanciale. I could eat it three times a day, every day.
My daughter Sophie prefers (although prefers is putting it lightly – rather ‘would kill for’) the Amatriciana. This is her obsession and if she could stop by on the airport on her way back to London and fill up her suitcase with Perilli’s Amatriciana she would do so.
Their roast pork and roast lamb are both covered in crispy, salty skin, moist and tender on the inside and served with what may be the best roast potatoes in town. In spring I sometimes skip the meat, and get a heaping portion of vignarola. (ok, I never skip the meat, but get both meat and vignarola). Since this is Testaccio, there is offal galore: rigatoni con la pajata and coratella are favorites. I also love the osso bucco, smothered in fresh peas.
When you go (notice I didn’t say ‘if’) and more than one person at the table orders carbonara make sure you get the serving bowl. After serving out portions of pasta to the table, one lucky diner gets to eat their pasta straight out of the serving bowl. This means extra cheesy, eggy, gooeyness and all those stray pieces of guanciale that sink to the bottom.
Don’t wait for the next rapture.