I’m a big fan of tradition when it comes to eating out in Rome. I much prefer the old style trattoria over the fancy and creative any day. And Armando al Pantheon is about as old school as you can get in Rome.
Located in the shadow of the Pantheon, this family-run trattoria has been going strong since 1961. Focusing primarily on traditional Roman standards, the small dining room has been a favorite with Romans – and tourists – since the day it opened. As the area around the Pantheon has changed much over the last twenty years – becoming ever more touristy- it’s a comfort to know that Armando is still serving up plates of pajata, amatriciana and saltimboca.
But there has been one big change recently. The family decided to update the dining room, doing away with the much loved, but perhaps tired, cork board covered walls. They also opened up the kitchen area, installed new warmer lighting, and took down the drop ceiling to reveal the original wooden beams.
Emma and I went a few weeks ago to check out the new interiors. Thankfully they’ve done everything with such a light touch, that if you didn’t know better, you’d think it had always been this way. (And I mean that in the positive sense, of course.)
Thankfully they’ve left the food as is. Although I have to say it seemed, if anything, even better than I had remembered it.
We started out with a special of the day, eggplant parmigiana. Actually, the waiter practically forced us to order it. He assured us we would be very happy. And we were. Light as a feather, the rounds of olive oil soaked eggplant were bathed in a slick of almost pure tomato concentrate, with the individual stack held together with barely whipped ricotta.
Of course we couldn’t resist the grilled lamb pajata. Thin cords of intestine were served heavily seasoned with salt and pepper and then grilled till toasty brown. Two thick slices of pane di lariano were also toasted and drizzled with olive oil to make the perfect accompaniment.
For our main course we shared a big plate of involtine and lentils, as well as cicoria and a big fat carciofo alla romana. All as simple as could be, and all approaching Roman perfection.
The only ‘modern’ touch to our meal was the tiramisu. Served in trendy glasses, the thick and eggey mascarpone was layered between coffee soaked cookies and thick slabs of nutella like chocolate. Delicious.
As we finished our dessert and lingered over coffee, I looked around the dining room. A pair of priests chatting over plates of steaming pasta, a quartet of what looked to be politicians probably scheming the next government’s downfall over stuffed zucchini, and various other tables of tourists and Romans, happy to find this timeless refuge in a city center where change is too often the norm.
Armando al Pantheon
Salita del Crescenzi 31, Rome
Open for lunch and dinner
Closed Saturday dinner, and all day Sunday.