In a country that takes food as seriously as Italy, you did not expect there to be just one word meaning “eating establishment”. In fact, there are 5 or 6. Osterias and trattorias are older, historic places, whilst the term “restaurant” is generic and is always combined with an adjective describing the base ingredients of the menu, whether that be a food type or a geographic region e.g. “Etna - Ristorante Siciliano - Specialità Pesce” (The Etna - Sicilian fish restaurant).
How and where the ingredients in your dish were grown/reared makes all the difference. Look out for the use of D.O.P (Denominazione d'Origine Protetta) in dishes listed on the menu. This means the cheese, meat product or dressing has come from a certified producer in a region that is strictly identified with that product e.g. mozzarella di bufala Campania D.O.P (Campania buffalo’s mozzarella). Similarly, if a breed is protected to encourage bio-diversity and/or protect a name with established excellence you should spot I.P.G (indicazione geografica protetta), perhaps not on the menu but in the meat display. Finally, if all the fish in the seafood display are all the same size it’s a good chance they have come from a fish farm costing 1/3 of caught fish.
Area: via dei Cappellari al n. 66 (Centre)
Tel: +39066873462 • www.acchiappafantasmi.it
Tip: Get a good bottle of robust Calabrian wine and go with the antipasti.
Area: Piazza Pasquino (Centre)
Tel: +3906683077 • www.ristoranteterradisiena.com
Tip: This the place for a “Fiorentina” steak (a high T bone). Make sure you choose a traditional breed of Tuscan cow like the Chianina.
Area: Via Garibaldi, 68 (Trastevere)
Tip: Fish and sweets are what Sicilians do best and Isole di Sicilia does them better than any other Sicilian in Rome.
Area: Via Sardegna, 34 (Via Veneto)
Tip: This Sardinian restaurant offers a more up market take on a regional cuisine that is peasant based. Try a fish pasta dish with bottarga (dried, grated “poor man’s” caviar), which is best with Malloreddus a traditional pasta type.
Food at this type of establishment is classically Italian – nourishing, well-presented and easy to enjoy. In these restaurants expect to find a fair few regulars - Sicilians, Sardinians or Tuscans living in Rome and missing home. An evening of regional Italian cuisine will cost you 35-55 Euro per person, plus wine. A good approach is to go heavy on the appetizers and then have either a primo or a secondo, leaving room for dolce and regional liquors.