Thursday, January 10, 2013
Rome has been going through a bit of a restaurant explosion lately. Crisis? What crisis?
Or maybe it is the result of the financial crisis. If you can’t go on vacation, buy a house or a new car, at least you can afford to go out to dinner, right? That seems to be the thinking these days. Because not only have there been lots of new openings, the existing restaurants are all full, all the time.
Among the most exciting of the new openings is Romeo. Like many of the other new places, this one is an extension of an already established team. Romeo brings together Cristina Bowerman and Fabio Spada of Glass, with the brothers Pierluigi and Alessandro Roscioli of the famed restaurant and bakery.
What is Romeo? Not just a restaurant, that’s for sure. Following a new trend in Rome (Eataly, Porto Fluviale, RED) Romeo is all about breaking down boundaries.
The first big surprise is the setting itself. The space, located in Prati (not far from the Vatican) used to be a workshop where spare parts for Alfa Romeos were fabricated (hence the name) so the huge space stretches loft-like from front to back, with industrially framed windows letting in oodles of light. Architect Andrea Lupacchini has taken the space and turned it into something completely unique in Rome. You have to trust me when I say that it works. Because the amoeba shaped light/sculptures and geometric poles hanging from the ceiling are completely impossible to photograph. But they are stunning and light the space in a way that is bright, cheerful yet at the same time flattering and warm.
The front of Romeo is Pierluigi’s domain, with a full counter of both breads and pizzas, as well as cakes and cookies. During the holidays they were turning out what may have been the best panettone on the planet.
Next up on the right is the mouthwatering counter of cured meats and cheeses. For anyone who already knows Alessandro’s banco at Roscioli Salumeria, you get the idea. French cheeses, Spanish hams and everything in between.
The tables and counters in this half of the restaurant are for casual eating, including pizza as well as sandwiches made from the goodies on display.
And finally the back part is dedicated to the the restaurant, where Cristina reigns. While you can certainly sample the cheeses and cured meats from the ‘shop’ don’t you really want to dive into this Michelin-starred chef’s version of ‘casual?’
That’s what Gillian and I did when we were there a few weeks ago. I was in a bit of a quandary at first, since all I really wanted to do was eat the fois gras sandwich, even though I felt like I should order a couple of other items off the menu to try. Luckily for me, I could just sit back and enjoy the ‘degustazione tutto con le mani”, a tasting menu of fajita, tortelli, fried pork rinds, home made pickles, and then....panino di fegato grasso. All to be eaten with your hands. (that's certainly taking casual to it's street food origins) The tortelli came to the table wrapped snugly in a napkin. Grabbing each one and dipping them into hazelnut sauce was as fun as it was delicious. And the fegato sandwich, served on a brioche bun, was other-wordly. Loved the home made potato chips and ketchup too.
Gillian's more traditional version of ravioli with pumpkin and anchovies, was just as good.
Somehow we also managed to share a plate of perfect burrata, made more so by the alice ‘mar cantabrico’ wiggling around on top.
After the creamy and crunchy deconstructed montblanc, and assorted cookies you’d think food shopping would have been the last thing on our mind. But we both managed to stock up - bread and jamon for me and panettone and robiola for Gillian - before finally making it out the door.
I for one like this new Roman trend where you can eat, then shop. Then go home and eat more, I guess.
Crisis? What crisis?
Via Silla 26/a
tel (+39) 06 32 110 120
Open daily, 9am to Midnight.
Perfect for lunch after a visit to the Vatican.
For more information on dining in Rome, download my app, EAT ROME , available on iTunes and for Android.