For whom want to know, what you should order for authentic Roman dish, and what you shouldn’t ask from an authentic Roman restaurant!
Last week, we went out for a spontaneous dinner with a friend from Milan. As usual, Luigi, picked up a list of restaurants and together with restaurant, we made the decision. Why together with restaurant? Coz, in Rome, when Google map tells you a restaurant is open today doesn’t mean it is open, and even it is open, it doesn’t mean you will be that lucky one to get a table for the night, even it’s a random Wednesday night!
Testaccio zone, with a vocal fame of being authentic and beloved by the locals, is where we headed to, and Flavio al Velavevodetto, is the place. It is a traditional restaurant in an inconvenient location (metro to Pyramide, then walk around 5-10 mintues, while on the way, you will not encounter more than 5 persons in a pre-dinner hour)! We’ve been lead into the basement on the ½ floor, where really gave me an illusion of dining in a Grotto.
The menu is absolutely THE perfect self-portrait of this and many authentic Roman restaurants, which we find super entertaining and 100% worth for shout-out!
In Rome, “never rush those guys in a restaurant”, is a well-known rule. If you don’t know it, you know now. The guys working in a restaurant has all their rhythm, which is part of the dining culture in Italy too. They need to entertain their clients (especially a table of ladies) and they don’t like to rush around. Most of the restaurants are family run, which means, the kitchen is professional only on the taste, but not necessary on the efficiency and time management.
“WE DON’T SERVE…”
Just as written, some of the world-known “Italian” dishes are absent here. The Chef will never compromise to make one for you, as probably, he even doesn’t know how to do it! To most of people, Italian dishes are simply pasta and pizza, however, we shall know, before this country is united in 1861, this is a place with many counties (states) and the locals from their own county consider their own food culture has its unique identity (which mean, they don’t accept or even don’t appreciate others’ dish). To be simple, a pasta dish from Milan is absolutely not the same as the “similar” one from Rome, and you never claim those two are the same in front of Milanese and Romans.
Alfredo style / Bolognese style / Lasagna
Alfredo style is from northern Italy with butter, Bolognese style is from Bologna with tomato and mined meat, Lasagna is from Naples, and therefore none of them belong to a menu of a Roman restaurant (In the old time, people from those different regions even fight fiercely).
Spaghetti with meatballs?
Sorry, meatballs (Polpette) shall never appear together with spaghetti – they are a dish by themselves, as tradition.
Are you kidding! Cappuccino, with a 30% or less coffee, frankly speaking, is a “milk” drink to Italians. Noon, is the deadline for your last cappuccino of the day. After that, everything would be a café (espresso). No negotiation.
OK, so what we shall eat if we are banned from those familiar “Italian” dishes in Rome? Velavevodetto, shows a good example of almost all traditional dishes, in a pretty professional way!
Spaghetti with meatballs / Fettuccine Bolognese style
Bucatini all’Amatriciana OR Rigatoni con la Pajata
A lot of traditional Roman dishes are tomato-based, and of course, central Italy is never a vegan place. In Rome, one of the most traditional pasta dish is Bucatini all’Amatriciana. In Italian, “Buco” means hole. So, naturally, we can imagine Bucatino is a pasta with a hole – let’s say like a tube. It is said, this shape is easier to cook in the boiling process, and also easier to grab more sauce when you eat.
Amatriciana, is a type of sauce with tomato, pecorino cheese from Amatrice and guanciale (cured pork cheek), originally from Rieti (province of Lazio region). Now you will find it a bit spicy because many make this sauce with black or chili pepper.
Rigatoni is a central-to-south Italian pasta type, like a big brother version of penne. Together with the very traditional Pajata sauce, Rigatoni con la Pajata belongs to the most traditional Roman cuisine. Pajata, is the intestines of the calf only when it still feed on mother’s milk. The intestines have to be well skinned and cleaned then stewed in the typical tomato sauce. The creamy consistency with the good balance from the acid tomato sauce, is the key for this dish. Unfortunately, I don’t see this dish available often in Rome.
Fettuccine Alfredo Style
Carbonara OR Cacio e Pepe OR Gricia
As one of the most well-known Rome pasta, Carbonara is what you must try! Bacon, cheese, egg and pepper is the major 4 ingredients to make Carbonara, while pasta choice can be many, but mainly fettucine, spaghetti or rigatoni. Here in Velavevodetto, they make with rigatoni.
The origin of Carbonara is not 100% clear, however, there is a mainstream theory I found it creditable and interesting. Carbonara, the name derived from “Carbonaro”, which in Italian words, means charcoal burner. Probably the word refers to the working class with charcoals or let’s say miners, who have the absolute love to Carbonara!
The other saying about Carbonara’s origin is related to an American-Italian chef during the Italian immigration to US. The Italian Chef finds the best way to save those “left-over” bacons, eggs, cheese from American’s breakfast, and invented the beautiful Carbonara, by mixing those breakfast ingredients with Italian pasta!
A good carbonara will never to be milky white, instead, should be golden yellow with many black dots. You might find it very different from the “Carbonara” outside Italy, as a lot of restaurants make it with cream sauce (absolutely not acceptable). The ingredients look so simple that I imagine to do it at home easily. Truth is I’m naïve. I can always make a Carbonara edible and fairly tasty but never presentable as those from the good restaurants.
You might notice in Rome, Carbonara has few cousins, which might be confusing when you have to order. Cacio e Pepe, means cheese and pepper literally. Normally, it is a pasta of spaghetti with pecorino cheese and black pepper, which is very similar to Carbonara but without eggs. Another non-egg “cousin” is Gricia, which is an ancient Roman dish with a long history back to 400 AC. The main ingredients are guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino cheese and black pepper. You can find also in Velavevodetto.
This is just a short extensive talk about Rome’s traditional dish after I saw the menu from Velavevodetto. I would like to write a full list of Rome’s traditional dish, from starter to dessert, so that you can take it as a guide when dining around in Rome. If you have visited some cool traditional restaurants in Rome, please recommend to me by leaving your comment below. I would be happy to go for a try.
Flavio Al Velavevodetto
I specially mention a few impressive dishes we’ve ordered that night at Velavevodetto, just in case, you are going for an authentic Roman dinner, remember to include them in your table 🙂
Recommend this very much awesome starter! You have to try!
Steccata di Morolo
If you are cheese lover!
(Left) Noci liquore (Walnut liquor)
(Right) Tiramisu in the glass
If you are a fan of Tiramisu, you will be satisfied with this little version in the glass, coz it’s so rich and smooth!
If you are a fan of Italian dessert wine, this one, very much like a home-made version, will be the best to replace any dessert, or simply drink with your dessert! Double up, why not?!