Restaurants go up and down in quality, I understand that. Some new restaurants start out great, then fizzle when the shine wears off. And some old favorites decide to begin catering to tourists – trying to make a fast profit – or else change hands and slip downhill.
And then there is the problem of expanding too fast. Lately in Rome a few places have taken advantage of lower retail rents to expand into more central neighborhoods. I’m all for better food closer to where I live, but if it comes at the expense of the quality of the original? Not so much.
Something like this happened to one of my favorite places, Flavio Velavevodetto. When I first went in 2010, it was fantastic. And continued to be so until about a year and a half ago or so. That’s when Flavio, the owner, expanded and opened a new place in Prati. Unfortunately once he decamped, not only the food, but the service, went south. It wasn’t that it was horrible, but it just wan’t the stellar presentation of Roman cooking I had come to love.
I’m glad to announce that the slump seems to be over. They’ve gotten their act together and are once again serving what is some of the best Roman food in town. A recent lunch included all the greatest hits.
We started out with a bunch of appetizers to share. Toasted slices of pane di lariano came heaped with perfect creamy burrata and a fat briny anchovy, all drizzled with fruity, peppery new harvest olive oil. A plate of nervetti had just the right balance of chewy meat nubbins and crisp pickled veggies.
So attentive was the service that the minute we sat down the waiter informed us that there were only two more portions of fried lamb chops left, did we want them? Did he have to ask twice?
Since we had been indulging a bit too much over the holidays we mostly decided to skip pasta, although my niece Clementine insisted on a portion of tonarelli al cacio e pepe, which was the prefect creamy consistency that is so hard to find these days. And enough pepper, and of good quality, to justify it’s name.
The rest of us indulged in all things meat. My sister, who almost never eats meat, managed to work her way through one of the most tender – and biggest – involtini I’d seen in a long time. We were all stretching our arms across the table to sop up the brilliant tomato sauce. I loved my pea-covered ossobuco, with the meat falling off the marrow filled bones.
I’m often disappointed when I order puntarelle in a restaurant, since the dressing is usually too watery, since the greens are never drained properly. I’m happy to say that Flavio does things right. In other words, the way I do it at home. The puntarelle was dry as a bone, and so able to be coated with the dressing. And a word about the dressing: a mixture of olive oil, garlic, anchovies and lemon juice, it was obviously mixed in a blender to achieve the creamy consistency. I’m sure purest would disagree, but I think this is the perfect method, and the one I use at home, to achieve the correct consistency.
For dessert I ordered a semifreddo di torrone , which was eggy and full of honey and nuts. The winner though was the tiramisu, which was thick with mascarpone and just enough fudgey chocolate.
Did I mention the wines? This is one of the most affordable and best wine selections in this part of town. I love that they do away with a wine list, so that you can just go grab your own bottle off the shelves in the hall. We had the last two bottles of the Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which went perfectly with everything.
Even though Flavio himself has completely moved to the new place in Prati, I’m glad to see that the original restaurant has returned to what it was.
Via di Monte Testaccio 97
Open daily, for lunch and dinner. Even holidays.
For more on dining in Rome, download my app, Eat Italy, available on iTunes.