Enotecas, or wine bars, have made a big splash in Rome over the past decade. Romans come here for the private-club atmosphere and the extraordinary wines accompanied by such delicacies as smoked turkey wrapped around truffle-infused ricotta. You may be awed by the dining room, but ask to go downstairs to view the cellars, where the massive stone walls date from the first century.
The most formal of the Gusto restaurants, the Restaurant, on the floor above Gusto Pizzeria, serves up a refined modern ambiance with a Mediterranean menu and major wine list. Consider starting with crispy cheese and spinach paired with dried beef Chianina or pumpkin flower stuffed with sea bass and truffle crème fraiche. Among the favorite main courses are poppy seed crusted tuna with sliced fennel and smoked duck carbonara.
The self-dubbed “oldest restaurant in Rome,” La Campana serves up classical Roman cooking and has impeccable service. Staples like the spaghetti alla carbonara and ravioli still draw an it-crowd, which makes for great people-watching. Closed August.
Headed by Italian star chef Antonello Colonna, the Open Colonna restaurant is a more casual, affordable spot to sample the innovative Roman cuisine that put Colonna on the map when he opened his first restaurant in Labico, some 25 miles outside the capital. Housed in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, itself a masterpiece fusing ancient and contemporary architecture, the restaurant occupies a soaring, glass-paneled dining room. The size of the space make for a bustling (and at times noisy) scene, but the modern decor, innovative cuisine and affordable prix-fixe make this a god spot for lunch. Dinner at the more formal Antonello Colonna restaurant on the top floor is a much lengthier and pricier affair, although fodies rate it highly as well.
No longer a secret address (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had their rehearsal dinner here), Nino continues to serve reliable Roman cuisine with some Tuscan influences. It’s a favorite of Alberto Moncada, who own the lovely boutique hotel Margutta 54. The scene is slightly more upscale than your average Roman trattoria and service can be hit-or-miss. Says Moncado: “Nino is similar to Al Moro, in its authentic, Italian feel. Its best to ask your concierge to book your table unless your Italian is pitch-perfect. Nino has great meat, pastas and starters and is good for both lunch and dinner. Two of my favourite dishes sformato di carciofi (a sunken artichoke soufflé) and vignarola (a melange of broad beans, artichokes, peas and sometimes bacon), which can only be ordered in season, namely between October and February. The vitello tonnato is also heavenly.”
This salumeria, wine bar and tiny restaurant specializes in such gourmet treats as artisanal meats and cheeses. The counter up front is always packed with customers sampling from the hundreds of options. (The staff is well-prepared for visitors from abroad: I didn’t have to mime “vacuum pack” for long before they assured me they would expertly package my slice of parmigiano.) The cozy back—dark, candle-lit and lined with shelves of fine wines—is a great spot for lunch or dinner, especially if it’s a rainy or colder day where you don’t mind being inside. The menu is full of Roman specialties and, of course you don’t want to skip the heaping platters of charcuterie and fromaggio. Roscioli is in walking distance to the Campo dei Fiori.