ike many, I am an abitudinaria, a creature of habit. When friends suggest we go out for dinner and ask for ideas, I usually recommend the usual handful of restaurants I know and frequent.
While I’m convinced you can’t go wrong dining at the likes of Roscioli, La Campana and Cesare al Casaletto, these days I’m more inclined to keep to less renowned haunts.
My everyday locals are a small collection of affordable, informal eateries that aren’t particularly trendy and no longer receive prominent mention in the current food press. Lately, though, I’ve felt more secure falling back on these tried-and-tested places rather than seeking out new ones. Part of this is the fear of possible disappointment. In any case, time and again I return to the familiar.
D.O.L. The acronym D.O.L. stands for di origine laziale and dining here is indeed like hoofing through Lazio without ever leaving your table in Rome, the region’s capital. Vincenzo Mancino, owner of this Centocelle district’s deli-meets-restaurant, consorts with the region’s best farmers, in search of top-notch ingredients.
The front room displays his remarkable “shopping” skills. There’s prime quality charcuterie, cheese, bottled and canned goods, wine, craft beer, bread, sauces, organic eggs and preserves, all from Lazio. The restaurant menu changes with the seasons and is updated daily on the large chalkboard in the dining room adjacent to the shop. The kitchen offers a good choice of appetizers, pasta dishes, soups, meat entrees and sides. In the evening, be sure to choose from the many delightful pizzas baked in tin pans and served sliced.
D.O.L. Di Origine Laziale, Via Domenico Panaroli, 35. Tel. +39.06.2430.0765. Closed Sunday.
Trattoria Monti can serve me cod forever. Despite being recommended in virtually every Rome guide, this brightly lit, 12-table family-run trattoria in the Esquilino neighborhood maintains quality and unspoiled authenticity. The marchigiana cuisine relies on hand-rolled pasta all’uovo dishes, a favorite of which is tortello al rosso d’uovo, a single large ravioli-type pasta pocket, stuffed with spinach, ricotta and runny egg yolk, topped with crispy sage and brown butter, or a delicate tomato and basil sauce. Visit it in autumn, when the fresh porcini are cooked in the most beguiling of ways and their aroma drifts through the restaurant. After flirting with the owners, the handsome Camerucci brothers, I order one of their legendary tortini (savory egg flan of mixed vegetables and cheese) and olive ascolane, meat-stuffed jumbo olives that are then breaded and fried. Leave room for dessert.
Trattoria Monti, Via di San Vito, 13. Tel. +39.06.446.6573. Closed Monday. No website
Cacio e Pepe aka da Gianni serves a dish so famous it’s now on everybody’s 10-best lists. I’ve been enjoying the creamy version (also served in half-portions) served at da Gianni in Prati ever since I can remember, long before other more lionized venues took the lead. I don’t recall ever reading a menu. The waiters (Gianni or his sister) will recite what is available that day. Menu choices are limited, but there’s always cacio e pepe, of course, and a mighty fine carbonara, too. Seating is mostly outside on a street corner where rickety tables are crammed together. There’s always a line, so make sure you book a table. Great for people watching and the €20 check.
Cacio e Pepe, Via Giuseppe Avezzana, 11. Tel. +39/06.321.7268. Closed Sunday.
Agustarello in Testaccio is run by shy and quiet Alessandro, who also cooks. When I offered to film a segment of my TV show on cheese at his place, he turned me down, blushing. He and his wife Antonella consistently serve up some of the best cucina romana in town. His coda alla vaccinara (braised oxtail) is far better than any I’ve had elsewhere, including places universally lauded for making the dish. Pastas and other Roman classics grace the daily menu (the gricia rocks!) as does an impressive selection of seasonal side dishes. The homemade desserts are phenomenal, crostata di visciole above all others. The informal dining room walls are painted bright yellow, and in the back you can spot a portion of an ancient Roman aqueduct traversing Alessandro’s property.
Agustarello, Via Giovanni Branca, 100. Tel. +39.06. 574.6585. Closed Sunday. No website.Enoteca Corsi is for intimate lunches only. It has had its ups and downs over the course of a 60-year history. Of late, locals have flocked back to the enoteca for its home-style cuisine, warm welcomes, and daily specials — not to mention its paper-tablecloth-covered tables and bentwood chairs. The menu follows classic Rome standards, so on Thursday you’ll find homemade potato gnocchi, on Friday baccalà (cod) cooked in tomato sauce and served with potatoes, and on Saturday, you may see tripe served. Menu items shift, but staples include amatriciana, ossobuco, sweet and sour insalata di bollito and other classic trattoria fare. The limoncello-soaked dessert is to die for. The wine list showcases more than 300 labels, but I much prefer the house wine, poured from glass quartino or mezzo litro wide-mouthed bottles