Gourmet Roman gastro-destinations for fashionistas

Rome’s most fashionable street offers delectable cuisine to suit all tastes: classic cucina romana and a thrilling avant-garde, Japanese-inspired take at Michelin-starred Imàgo

“Tandoori-style” duck is scattered with brownie crumbs at Imàgo
“Tandoori-style” duck is scattered with brownie crumbs at Imàgo

The smart shops that line Rome’s Via Condotti run the gamut of stellar Italian fashion brands from Armani to Zegna, via Prada, Ferragamo, Gucci and a host of others. The street is less blessed with restaurants, but – this being Rome – a good place to dump the designer bags and pick up a knife and fork is never far away.

At the southern end of the street, head to Matricianella, a splendid trattoria that specialises in classic cucina romana. This is the place to try dishes made with the quinto quarto: the so-called “fifth quarter” of an animal’s carcass, offal that traditionally fed the poor, while the rich feasted on prime cuts. Rigatoni con pajata is a case in point: fat, springy tubes of pasta with a rich tomato sauce and the intestines of milk-fed veal – delicate, slightly cheesy and thoroughly delicious. And coratella: the lungs, liver and heart of lamb, cooked with onion, white wine and artichokes, that noblest of Roman vegetables – not a dish that would set an Instagrammer’s pulse racing, admittedly, but one with fabulous depth of flavour. Matricianella has a motherly, nostalgic charm, as well as a terrific kitchen and a cracking wine list.

Should your tastes tend more towards ocean than farmyard, climb the Spanish Steps at the northern end of the Via Condotti, stroll through the lobby of the opulent Hotel Hassler and take the lift to the sixth floor for dinner at Imàgo, where chef Francesco Apreda has earned a Michelin star for his thrilling reworking of Italian cuisine. He has visited Japan for inspiration on several occasions, and so does his menu, fusing the umami-rich elements of both native ingredients and those from his travels.

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The views of Rome through Imàgo’s vast picture windows are stunning, as is Apreda’s food. Tiny, crunchy cubes of potato, shreds of Savoy cabbage and soft white beans shimmer in an algae-rich broth, like a fusion of minestrone and a rockpool. Apreda is not immune to the embellishments of avant-garde cuisine, but he handles them intelligently: plankton is reworked as a verdant, ozone-rich gel, and his trendy spongy wisps are richly flavoured with excellent Parmesan.

The same cheese – a long-aged, almost chilli-hot version – fills perfect cappellotti, topped with katsuobushi (upmarket bonito flakes) and drenched in a cool tuna broth: “double umami”, as the menu describes it. A gloriously silky cacio e pepe-inspired risotto features five different kinds of both pepper and sesame seeds, while the rockpool returns in an exquisite dish of spaghetti in broth with sparkling, jewel-like shellfish, draped with sea lettuce.

Apreda’s cooking is both audacious and playful – “tandoori-style” duck, for instance, is scattered with brownie crumbs – but his culinary intelligence lends it rare class: as the renowned couturiers of the Via Condotti will confirm, trends may be temporary, but style is permanent.

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