Just before the holidays I had the chance to eat at one of Rome’s newest restaurants, Bellacarne. I’d been hearing about it way before it even opened from Sophie. “Mom, I had the most amazing pastrami today!” Yes, you heard me right. Pastrami in Rome.
And yes, tasting things like pastrami, pizza bianca and various other goodies is now part of Sophie’s daily routine (was it never?) since she has been working for Dario Laurenzi Consulting for the last few months. Laurenzi, a Rome-based consultancy firm, is the name behind some of Rome’s newest restaurants. And this is their latest.
If you speak even a smidgen of Italian then you’ve already figured out that Bellacarne means, literally, Beautiful Meat. But even if you are Italian, unless you are part of the Roman Jewish community then you probably didn’t know that ‘bellacarne’ is also a term of endearment, usually made while grabbing the cheeks of a particularly cute little boy or girl and giving them a good pinch while saying ‘bellacarne!’ (Jewish aunts are the same round the world I guess)
In this case, the restaurant name is a play on words, focusing on the meat part. It is the newest Kosher restaurant to open in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto. Since being Kosher means you can’t mix dairy and meat, this means strictly Kosher restaurants have to focus on one or the other. Bellacarne….well, you probably understood by now that they are into meat in a big way. In fact the owner is from one of Rome’s best known Kosher butcher families, the Ouazanas.
I’ve only been once so far, since they’ve only just opened. But I can report back in that Sophie is right. The pastrami is indeed fantastic. We had tiny pastrami sliders, served with a dollop of mustard and a sliced gherkin. While the bun had unfortunately been cut open earlier in the day and was a bit dry (it was a press dinner, hard to organize I know) the pastrami itself was outstanding. And not just because we are pastrami starved in Rome. It was perfectly cured, not too salty and just juicy and fatty enough.
And cured meats are something you should definitely head here for, since this is Ouazana’s speciality. Since pork is prohibited, everything is beef. I loved the thinly sliced breasaola, served over a bed of arugula and topped with sliced almonds. If you’ve only had industrially produced bresaola, then you’re in for a treat. Tender, pink and beefy tasting, it was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
We all devoured the mixed plate of various cured meats, which included carne secca, a Roman dried beef specialty, as well as three different types of salami and cured meats, all beef based, and all perfectly spiced.
One of Ouazana’s ‘inventions’ is curing beef cheek, to make a sort of kosher guanciale. This was used to make one of the first Kosher amatricianas that I’ve had that is as good as the original porky thing. A deeply flavored tomato sauce that was flecked and flavored with big chunks of fatty, cured beef.
Since the owners are butchers, meat is the main star here, and in fact when you walk in there is a large open rotisserie to your left, spinning away with various cuts. They also do a few middle eastern inspired dishes like cous cous and hummus. One of my favorites dishes of the dinner were the roasted potatoes that spring to life beneath the rotating rotisserie and so are just about the most decadent, meat juice and fat soaked potatoes you can imagine.
We finished with a trio of desserts including small sour cherry jam filled tartlets that looked boring but were anything but.
I loved the interior design, which is relaxed with brick exposed walls and low lighting. Very low key and hugely sophisticated for this neighborhood.
Now it’s January, and of course I’m trying to cut back and undo the recent over eating which happened during the holidays. This year I’ve decided to eliminate carbs for the month. Which means that Bellacarne, with meat, meat and more meat, may be my newest bestest friend.
Via Portico d’Ottavia 51