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I first met our indispensable features intern Nick Pandolfi at around this time last year, waiting on a line at JFK airport, headed to Rome to visit his extended family. Here, he recounts his most recent food-filled trip there:
Last week I was in Rome, faced with quite the challenge: trying to taste as many local or obscure regional specialties before it was time to hop on the plane back to New York. I was certainly up to the test, and I think I did a pretty good job seeking out Jewish-style artichokes (deep fried to a crisp for...20 minutes!) and Aperol spritzes (my family became so obsessed the first time we went to Italy that my brother made it the signature drink at his wedding), and trying bucatini all'Amatriciana at every place we went to compare the various styles of the tomato-guanciale sauce. All the scouting around was pretty exhausting (now I know why tourists are always wearing sneakers, and by the end of the trip I was ashamed of it), and occasionally going to a restaurant that we knew was a welcome break.
Luckily, my parents found the restaurant Alle Fratte di Trastevere last year on our trip to Rome. When we returned again this year and the owners remembered who we were, we knew it was
the perfect spot.
Alle Fratte di Trastevere is my family's ideal Roman restaurant, and the only one we returned to several times during our precious ten days. First and foremost, in a country where service isn't too highly regarded, Alle Fratte is an exception. Probably because most of the customers were from the local Trastevere neighborhood (slightly outside the center of Rome), the servers are used to treating them with friendliness and recognition that is rare at the tourist spots. (After they learned what a fan of prosecco my dad was the second time we went, they had glasses already poured when we arrived for our third visit.)
The servers always knew what to suggest, and the food was incredible—very traditional, but extremely well done. The antipasto della casa included the best salumi I tasted in Rome, and their Mozzarella di Bufala tasted like it had been made moments before they brought it out of the kitchen. The pastas and main courses were also simple and traditional, but often had an added element of thoughtfulness. I especially loved the extra creamy orecchiette caccio e pepe, typically served with just Pecorino cheese and black pepper.
But what really topped off the whole experience was the check. House wine (never has our executive wine editor Lettie Teague's Wine Matters column been more helpful then on this trip) and three courses for the five of us wasn't much more then 120 euros—a steal given the quality of the food and service, and a very welcome one with the unfortunate exchange rate.