f you can’t make a coastal getaway this summer, dining in Rome calls for fresh seafood, plenty of chilled white wine, and an early sunset buzz. Here’s my shortlist of pesce musts (consider applying for platinum credit card before booking a table).
Acquolina Hostaria Located in northern Rome Fleming residential neighborhood, Chef Giulio Terrinoni indulges his all-Italian clientele by employing only top quality ingredients and applying original methods for his all-marine creative preparations. There is a 13-course tasting menu for €100, plus two variations with half the number of dishes for a fraction of the price. All the items included in the tasting menus can be ordered à la carte.
I am particularly fond of the Tsarskaya oysters served with a sweet onion sorbet, and the delightful sandwich di triglia (red reef mullet) packed inside a thin, crisp homemade mozzarella bread, deep-fried like good old mozzarella in carrozza, smeared with anglerfish liver pâté, and served over slivers of radish.
Another hit is the tartare e fumo, the day’s freshest chopped fish, presented in a cloud of chestnut wood smoke. Here you get a comfortable atmosphere, a nice outdoor deck, superb service, and high prices. Terrinoni is a member of the Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe and Acquolina earned a Michelin star in 2009.
— Acquolina Hostaria. Via Antonio Serra, 60. Closed Sunday. Tel. +39.06.333.7192.
Cru.dop The inspiration behind this gem is Polish-born Nestor Grojewski, Martin Scorsese’s personal chef during the interminable “Gangs of New York” film shoot. Grojewski is now the owner and executive chef of this restaurant and wine bar in Tuscolano, whose name combines Cru (beginning of crudo, the Italian word for “raw”) and DOP, signifying the covered “designation of origin” of the ingredients employed.
Wine tastings and aperitivo service run from 6 p.m. but seafood snacks are available noon to midnight. Don’t miss the layered apple and tuna tartare or the ambrosial mixed ceviche platter. A wine bar that serves raw and cooked seafood comes very close to my definition of paradise. Especially when located miles away from the throbbing center of town.
— Cru.dop. Via Tuscolana, 898. Closed Monday. Tel. +39.06. 7690.9916.
Fish Market Dining in grungy and bohemian locations is trending, which makes the Fish Market loft in Pietralata — with its shabby-chic atmosphere, recycled furniture and suburban feel — the new “non” restaurant.
There is no service, no tablecloths, and drinks are bought separately. Clients place their order by writing their own dupes, paying at the cash register, and waiting in line. Here they pick from the available catch of the day at a fishmonger’s counter manned by a tattoo-heavy Harley man, who cleans and trims it, according to recipe. Then you bring back the cooked (usually fried or grilled) fish to your steel table with mismatched chairs and eat out of plastic plates. The seafood may not always be perfectly seasoned, but the price and ambience surely make up for it. Expect €25-30 per person, including wine.
— Fish Market. Via di Pietralata, 149/A. Closed Monday. Tel. +39.347.0095.009 (Reservations can also be made via text message).
Quinzi e Gabrieli Friends Alberto Quinzi and Enrico Gabrieli opened this place in the 1980s as a modest little oyster bar. Since then it’s grown into a Rome classic. After Enrico’s premature death, wife Annamaria took over and ushered the place into notoriety. Beloved by locals and often underestimated by foreigners, Q&G focuses on using very fresh and locally sourced ingredients in classic, unpretentious preparations. Dishes are cooked in the open kitchen, right under our eyes, and the staff is courteous. Prepare your pocketbook (it’s €50 for the raw antipasto alone).
— Quinzi Gabrieli. Via delle Coppelle, 5. Closed Sunday and Monday. Tel. +39.06.687.9389.
Tuna This very elegant Via Veneto seafood restaurant opened in 2008 and flocks of incredulous stop to photograph its window display, which features an array of lobsters and shell fish. The all-white minimalist décor inside is an empty canvas that makes the colors of the floating shellfish jump out and scream, “devour me!”
The winter lunch menu focuses on raw carpaccios and tartares, a few key pasta dishes and three entrées. Dinner quadruples that offer and includes divine miniature grilled Mont Saint Michel mussels, exquisite leek, a potato and shrimp bisque, feather-light scampi and calamari tempura.
All pair wonderfully with the wide selection of French Champagnes. Leave room for the homemade desserts. The oyster bar serves Happy Hour bubbly and Charente Maritimes between 6:30-9 p.m.
— Tuna. Via Veneto, 11. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Tel. +39.06.4201.6531.
La Rosetta A passion for the sea has always been in Massimo Riccioli’s bloodline and part of his daily life. Working in father’s kitchen, Massimo caught on quickly and developed his own style that soon attracted drooling acolytes. Ingredients are carefully selected, examined and purchased daily at fish auctions in nearby locations on the Lazio coastline, with two deliveries daily (morning and before dinner) to the restaurant’s Pantheon location.
If you happen by early in the day you’ll smell the aromas of fresh baked bread and homemade pastries, another twice-daily routine. Despite the exuberant price tag, don’t miss the seasonal Belon oysters or the Spaghetti with calamari and sautéed greens, flecked with white truffle and gold leaf.
— La Rosetta. Via della Rosetta, 8. Closed Sunday for lunch. Tel. +39.06.686.1002.
La Gensola Claudio and Irene Dordei have built a solid reputation serving seafood and traditional Roman cuisine since 2001. Their Trastevere restaurant has expanded from a single room to a more elegant sprawl at the center of which is a life-size Codognotto sculpted wood chestnut tree that enriches the informal decor.
Here you can find both spaghetti with sea urchin and simple Amatriciana. The mixed grilled platter excellent, whether surf or turf. Flavor combinations are especially interesting: calamari with porcini mushrooms and cous cous salad with chopped raw veggies and anchovies. On the dessert side, don’t miss the apple lava cake with cinnamon gelato on the side. Negatives: tables are a bit too close together, and the mint is often used too liberally in many summer preparations. The Dordeis recently opened a new place called “il Localino” near Via Veneto. It has a piano bar and a fixed price menu of €41.
— La Gensola. Piazza della Gensola, 15. Open daily (except Sunday in summer). Tel. +39.06.581.6312.
Tempio di Iside A short walk from the Coliseum, Tempio is rated among Rome’s best seafood restaurants for good reason. In the gaudy vestibule are hills of ice covered in fresh spiny lobsters, red shrimp, crabs and a wide variety of whole fish. Begin with raw appetizers: scampi, sea urchin, tartufi, oysters, tartares and carpaccios, each served on multilayer trays. But leave room for cooked antipasti as well (which include sweet red shrimp wrapped in lard from Colonnata, scallops au gratin, swordfish involtini, zucchini blossoms stuffed with shrimp, fried baby squid called moscardini). Owner Francesco makes the daily choices.
Pasta dressings vary greatly depending on the catch of the day. Unbelievable is red shrimp and grated pecorino (yes, that would be cheese on seafood!) atop homemade tube-shaped perciatelli pasta. Entrées always include steamed, grilled or broiled whole fish, mollusks and crustaceans. Nice outdoor seating, perfect for summer.
— Tempio di Iside. Via Pietro Verri, 11. Closed Sunday. Tel. +39.06.700.4741.