A few months ago, on a slightly windy, rainy and otherwise dreary Roman winter day my friend Gillian and went foraging. I bet you’re wondering what there is to forage in Rome in the middle of February? Plates. We were foraging for plates.
Lately I’ve become borderline obsessed with piatti di buon riccordo. The ‘plates of happy memories’ are given out by certain restaurants to commemorate signature dishes. The ceramic plates are hand painted in Vietri sul Mare on the Amalfi coast, but are offered in restaurants up and down the boot. Even since I first discovered them, on a family trip to Sicily in the ’70’s, I’ve been fascinated with them. But it’s only been in the last couple of years that I have been actively expanding my collection.
The problem is that the plates are not actually for sale. You have to a) go to a member restaurant and b) order that year’s featured dish. Or, you can take the alternate route: haunt flea markets and scour ebay.
Which is how Gillian and I found ourselves headed out the Casalina, south of Rome, on our way to ‘meet a guy’ who supposedly ‘had some plates. ‘
After plugging in his coordinates to google maps (he was in the middle of nowhere just off of a street with no name) I saw that we would be passing right through the Centocelle neighborhood, and so right past Osteria Bonelli, which has been pinned onto my map as ‘must try’ for ages.
If you’ve never been to or heard of the Centocelle neighborhood, that’s because this highly residential working class neighborhood is far from Rome’s center. Not surprisingly, this is also where you can sometimes find the most authentically good Roman food for extremely fair prices.
Osteria Bonelli is located on the ground floor of a nondescript building. The fact that the main view is of the parking lot meant we could drive right up to the front door.
Once inside our main problem was trying to decide what NOT to order. It was lunch time. We were two girls (as opposed to the rest of the customers which seemed to be on breaks from construction sites) so you would think we would have gone light. But really? The only ‘salad’ in sight was made from nervetti (veal tendons).
Our attempt to stay on the light side meant we eschewed the secondi and just stuck to pasta and veggies. I had the classic tonnarelli alla gricia while Gillian had a heaping plate of pappardelle di ragu bianco di cinghiale e porcini, but we shared both. The gricia was perfect, with a massive amount of chunky bits of guanciale, cooked just right so that the pork was tender yet crisp. The pappardelle was equally delicious, with fat eggy sheets of pasta bathed in a delicate meat ragu flecked with silky porcini.
Since we were road warriors on a mission, a 1/4 litre of the house Montepulciano d’Abruzzo gave us each the half glass to wash it all down in trattoria style.
I’m still slightly regretting not having ordered the ‘tris al sugo’ a plate for those who can’t decide between involtini, sausage and ribs. But the 12 plates I ended up buying from Maurizio down the road slightly relieved my regret. Also? Maurizio still has another 20 plates, and is expecting to have more next month. So I’m thinking there is another road trip in my future.
Viale dell’Acquedotto Alessandrino 172/174
Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday.
Gillian and I drove, but there is a bus that leaves from Termini, that takes about 20 minutes.
For more information on dining in Rome and Italy download my app, EAT ITALY. EAT ITALY is a free app, and contains guides to Venice, Milan, Rome, Florence, Torino and Puglia (and an ever expanding list of regions and cities) available as in-app purchases for both iPhone and iPad.
And don’t forget my book: Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City.