Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I’ve been eating in Rome since I was 12 years old, when my family moved here from St. Louis. While a lot has changed in the Rome restaurant scene since I first came here in the ‘seventies, much has stayed the same.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the new restaurants that have opened, and the exposure to a more ‘international’ way of eating (i.e. you don’t always have to have a huge lunch if you don’t want to) has opened the door to a entire new generation of chefs, cooks and restaurant owners. Want an craft beer and a gourmet burger at 4 in the afternoon? No problem. It’s all good.
While I’m always trying new places, my heart (and stomach) tend to gravitate towards the old classics. So ingrained are these favorite haunts, that I end up taking them for granted. I wrote my supposed list of ‘classics’ for epicurious a while back, and have included what I thought were my all of my favorites on my app Eat Rome.
But a few weeks ago I realized a glaring omission. I picked up my iPhone and tapped on Eat Rome to look up the number for Pierluigi. Not there. At first I thought I had misspelled it, or was looking under the wrong category. But no. It just wasn’t there. I hadn’t included it.
Pierluigi is not a secret place. It’s not off any beaten track. But I had taken it for granted, like many people do. It doesn’t make it into many of the hot foodie guides, since it’s not new, nor is it rustically charming. Instead, it’s just one of the best places to get some of the freshest fish in town, perfectly prepared, in a beautiful setting, with excellent service.
Which is kind of what you want in a restaurant, right?
And in fact, Pierluigi is the restaurant that I most often recommend to friends and visitors to Rome. Why? Primarily the food, of course. But also the setting. You’d think it would be easy to find a nice place to eat outside in Rome, that also has good food. But it’s not. Most of the better restaurants have no outdoor seating, and none have as charming a location as this piazza lined with sixteenth century palazzi.
But back to the food. While you can certainly eat things other than fish, why bother? Walk inside, and you can see it all on display. Fresh and glistening. I usually go for one of the two house specialties to start. The Soppressata di Polpo is octopus that has been cooked, then pressed into a loaf pan. Once it has ‘set’ it’s sliced so thinly you can see through it, then drizzled with olive oil. If I’m feeling more like a salad, I order the insalata catalana, which is rughetta tossed with potatoes, squid, shrimp and tomatoes. Simple and delicious.
This is the place to order Spaghetti alle Vongole, of which they are masters. Thick strands of spaghettoni, bathed in a rich, clammy broth. If you aren’t in a rush then the Risotto a Crema di Scampi is pure indulgence. They make it the old fashioned way, with rich fish broth with the shrimp heads passed through a mill to produce the fishy creaminess.
Second? Grilled fish. Always cooked perfectly (never over done) with just the right salty charring on the skin.
If you already have Eat Rome, don’t worry. I’ve just added the entry for Pierluigi, which will show up on the next update. But in the meantime, the number’s below. Sorry for the inconvenience.
A few things to keep in mind. The piazza is best enjoyed on a summer night, or on a spring or fall afternoon. Summer days are way too hot, so if you’re there for lunch (which I was a few Sundays ago) choose a table inside, where the a/c makes a cool respite.