It’s an inspiring time for the Catholic Church as Pope Francis brings a fresh energy to the faith, making disillusioned members do a double take on an institution that has been severely suffering from the disconnect between the congregation and the clergy. Inspired by his first homily delivered in Italian, here are a few favorite restaurants in the city of Rome, in case you’re planning to visit it sometime soon:
Trattoria de Gli Amici
The Rione di Trastevere is a 15-minute walk from Vatican City. This is like Serendra with its cluster of restaurants. It is especially alive at night, when musicians and vendors set up tables in the alleys. If you are on a tight budget, look for Ristorante Carlo Menta where everything costs just 5 to 10 euros.
But my favorite find here is Trattoria de Gli Amici, introduced to us by Father Paolo of the Communita di Sant’Egidio. The restaurant offers fresh burrata served with prosciutto, real carbonara (no cream!) and to-die-for tiramisu. It is a great restaurant to begin the Italian experience. Best of all, by eating here you are supporting the charity arm of Sant’ Egidio for the deaf and mute as the restaurant’s servers are graduates of its program that seeks to introduce the handicapped into the real world. On the walls are works of art worthy of display in a museum but are even more special since they were done by autistic kids. It’s a great restaurant that celebrates both a love for food and a love for life.
Ristorante Mario’s and Ristorante Tullio
If you are in search of bistecca, these are the restaurants to visit. Ristorante Tullio is a place for a power lunch (Pinoy real estate magnates Jun and Rory Sicam fit right in!). Word of mouth must have made this restaurant popular among Filipino politicians as we saw a couple when we walked in. The bistecca here is perfectly charred and gigantic. The cannelloni is also worth recommending.
But for a splurge dinner, hit Ristorante Mario’s, recommended by no less than renowned Italian jeweler Damiani and our own ambassador to the Vatican, the ethereally beautiful Merci Tuason. They serve the perfect blue steak.
Of course you have to visit Margarita Fores’ favorite restaurants when you are in Italy and this is one she recommends. Try to get a table on the patio as there are musicians who might just serenade you while you devour your truffled pasta. For a little pasalubong shopping, across the restaurant is a shop that sells great stuff for your kitchen.
San Crispino and Old Bridge Gelateria
When in Rome, have gelato. No less than Gourmet and Gaita recommended San Crispino on via della Panetteria near the Trevi fountain. Gourmet hailed this gelateria as “the finest in all of Italy.” No artificial flavorings are used. Best of all, there’s a Pinoy behind the counter!
But if you are coming from your tour of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, just walk down the block to St. Peter’s Square to find the Old Bridge Gelateria. There is always a line, a testament to this gelateria’s popularity.
For a night-out with friends, hit Campo dei Fiori. There’s a statue in the middle that semi-Vatican resident Paulo Tuason calls “Darth Vader.” For the best pizza bianca in Rome, go to Forno (discovered once again through the Gaita connection). It is located to the northwest of Darth. There’s a line so you know it’s good. Take note that their pizza bianca is not like it is here—it’s not slathered with loads of cheese or tomato sauce, as opposed to pizza “rossa.” It’s almost like flat bread but with a fresh and crusty dough and oh-so-delish olive oil. You get it like pandesal—in a brown bag—from the forno (breadmaker) which is like their panaderia.
On our last night in Rome, we tried Italian baccalau—which is actually more like the English fish and chips. We happened to sit beside two Italian gentlemen. When my mom asked for tartar sauce, they chuckled as if to say, “Sacrilege!” Apparently you just eat it as is.
As a final note, don’t go home without a taste of Barolo, “the wine of kings, the king of wines.” I looked for Chianti and a priest kindly advised me that Barolo is the way to go. Guess it’s the better way to salvation! •