This is a place I came across randomly while doing restaurant research for Rome on Chowhound. Usually I troll their message boards but this recommendation came from an article on their site which had the tagline of “You can get a bad meal in Rome.” This however, was an example of what the writer considered an authentic, non-touristy place, so I filed it away in case we were in that neighborhood at some point. On the day we were headed to visit the Baths of Diocletian, we needed somewhere to have lunch and this little spot was only about 5 blocks away.
After a lengthy, hot bus ride across town, one where the bus veered unexpectedly off the map, we walk up to the restaurant and I am praying we will find it open. I don’t have a lot of options otherwise in this area, and it’s already getting late for lunch given our little adventure. Fortunately, Cantarini is open and they have a table for us. But it’s tiny and quickly filled. We are the only tourists in evidence here and I like that.
An older gentleman who we think is the owner waits on us. He rattles off the specials in rapid fire Italian. When he walks away from the table, my friend asks me, “what did he say?” I have no idea past the first couple of items, but she says I looked like I understood (and that counts for something, right?).
We order an arugula and tomato salad and a caprese salad along with two penne arrabbiata, a buccatini alla amatricciana, an order of liver, plus sautéed chicory and an order of broccoli. The salads and pastas are both good, especially the arrabbiata which is very flavorful without being overly spicy. I could eat the sautéed chicory every day.
Those who had the liver (not me) enjoyed it. For dessert, we have panna cotta with chocolate sauce (odd) and one tiramisu (excellent).
The owner’s wife and teenage daughter are there working as well. Teen exasperation is clear in any a language. The girl clearly does not want to be there. We are all amused watching her roll her eyes when asked to do anything, sigh, and begrudgingly make espresso.
Half bottle white wine, 1 L bottle of water and 3 coffees is about 75 euro for four people.
Cantina Cantarini-Piazza Sallustio, 12-Tel: 06 485528 Closed Sundays.
Armando al Pantheon
When we were in Rome last year we had dinner here twice. The first time, because I had read so many great reviews and the second, because we had such a great meal the first time. For this return trip, I made reservations by emailing them in advance and “reserving” two orders of their famous oxtail which is only served on Thursdays. I’m not going to lie and say this is a “hidden gem” because it’s a well-known spot on the tourist radar. But the service is friendly, the location can’t be beat (a half block from the Pantheon) and the food is consistently very good. I’d say the diners are about half local, half tourist.
Unfortunately, by the time our reservation time rolls around this evening, I’m not hungry. I’m not feeling well because (after a little self examination) I figure out I have the dreaded “Late Afternoon Hangover.” This occurs when one has too much wine at lunch and not enough water. Four hours later I am regretting this. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. I’m told to have a drink which will somehow make it me feel better and we order a nice bottle of organic wine from Sicily. It helps a little.
We order a mixed vegetable antipasti plate and two of their wonderful artichokes alla romana to start. We get two pastas; one, our favorite alla verde with aruguala, cheese and lemon, and one with asparagus and pomegranate. For our main courses we share two orders of oxtail which they only make on Thursdays and I have pre-reserved, an order of the lamb chops, and an order of sautéed chicory.
Everything is very, very good. Coffee and Amaro Lucano round out the evening. I’m not sure what the dinner cost because my incredible friend Jessica picked up the tab as a “thank you” for all my trip planning. Thank you Jess, for a lovely meal.
Armando al Pantheon is open daily for Lunch and Dinner, closed Saturday night and all day Sunday. Salita de Crescenzi, 31, tel:06/68803034
For more on Rome from this trip please see Days 4 and 5 of Rome 2009 at wired2theworld.com
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