There are plenty of temples, ruins, churches, fountains and museums to see in Rome, yet there is also great local pizza (Il Brillo makes exquisite thin-crust pizza topped with courgette flowers or potatoes), creative artisanal gelato (Gelateria del Teatro is one of the best with choices like Ricotta, Almond and Fig or White Chocolate and Basil or Cheese and Cherry) and some excellent gastronomic restaurants.
It is a shame there are not more gourmet pleasures in Rome like Il Pagliaccio, whose chef Anthony Genovese, holds two Michelin stars. Most places in the Italy’s capital are either too touristy or all about the same – pasta, pizza and roman meats. Thanks to Epicurus for Il Pagliaccio!
The restaurant’s contemporary colourful interior design surprises but is also sobering in an overwhelming city paved with stones and gargantuan historical monuments. As you enter through the narrow, inconspicuous glass doors, the see-through colourful cubical wall is even more stark with the grey streets of Rome. The seating is modern as well, but comfort was kept in mind. A small inner garden patio freshens up the space, while private dining area near the entrance suits any dinner party.
Located in a tucked away cobbled Via dei Banchi Vecchi near to Campo Vecchio, Il Pagliaccio is not ostentatious. Many other, much less quality driven, restaurants proudly strip off their shirt to display their chest of nude views of the eye-popping Colosseum or the curves of the Trevi Fountain, yet the food remains more like woman’s face under a veil. You do not know what you will be getting until you get to know to it – taste it, and only then you will shiver with pleasure or shake with disappointment.
The à la carte menu was our choice the night we dined at Pagliaccio.
Starting with Crunchy scampi, eggplant water, red pepper and raspberry cream; we knew that the dinner was promising an unforgettable experience compared to the mostly disappointing gastronomic outings we underwent in Rome to date. [Many of the casual restaurants are excellent though as everywhere in Italy] The chef’s blend of unexpected turned to work symbiotically. The crunch of scampi was freshened by eggplant consume and smoothened by the slightly sweet but acidic raspberry cream dollops.
The tender Scallops, artichokes water, kombu seaweed and wheat brought Asian flare into smooth raw scallops.
In the Italian style an appetiser was followed by a First course, that is usually pasta or risotto. The Grilled dim, white shrimps, crunchy oxtail had a Chinese foundation. Juicy, fresh yet deepened with the addition of crunchy oxtail cubes.
While the Green tortelli, pistachio and almonds, sheep broth were more light, less savoury but wonderfully balanced yet complex.
The Main courses usually contain either fish or meat like veal, pork and guinea fowl. Their preparation as that of the previous courses changes with seasons and as chef’s new ideas flow through the kitchen.
The deserts are masterminded by Marion Lichtle, the pastry chef. We went for the original Cheese snack – a plate of cheese gelato, parmesan, pecorino and soft cheese all accompanied with honey , toasted nuts and jelly. It was superb and any serious cheese lover would appreciate this variation with sweet accompaniments.
Wrapping up the food extravaganza at Il Pagliaccio with Frozen nougat slice and strawberries in lime our palates were refreshed and we were ready to walk, to walk a lot. Strolling through the romantic thick-walled streets, with my heels stuck constantly in between the cobbled stones, we had to change our minds and took a taxi back to the hotel.
My advice: Walk in Rome only if you have comfortable shoes on you (or put them in your bag if going to a nice dinner).
Italian wine selection:
La Spinetta Vursu Vigneto Gallina 2005 Barbaresco DOCG, Italy
This Barbaresco made from the top vineyards in Neive, one of the most famous areas for making Langhe’s Barbaresco, is one of the winery’s high-scoring icons. Launched in 1995, Gallina was the first bottle to carry the rhino label. Giorgio Rivetti, the current owner, admired the celebrated rhino drawing and woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, once known as a symbol of progress.
The Rivetti family were one of the pioneers of modern winemaking in Piedmont. Only hand-picked indigenous grape varieties typical for the region are used to “make a wine of the vineyard not a winemaker’s wine” – meaning no filtration, no clarifying by adding substances, 100% Nebbiolo, and using none or the least possible amount of chemicals. This approach contrasts with the blended wines embracing international varietals by another revolutionary local producer Angelo Gaja. Gallina is full bodied with solid yet fresh grey tannins and stunning elegance with long woody finish. The late ripening Nebbiolo grape exudes typical black cherries and wild herbs with notes of dried thyme.
Food pairing: Grilled food, pasta with meat, red meat, veal, ox tail and wild game.
Il Pagliaccio’s private wine tasting room is a little Roman treasure underground the restaurant. A wine connoisseur’s dream dinner party in Rome would surely take place here of not inside his/her own cellar.
Address: Ristorante Il Pagliaccio, Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 129/A – Roma, Italy
Lunch Wednesday – Saturday: 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
Dinner Tuesday – Saturday: 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm
Closed on Sundays & Mondays, Tuesday for lunch
Contact: Tel. +(39) 06 6880 9595