Category Archives: Rome

Old Bridge Gelateria

Vatican, V. dei Bastioni d. Michelangelo 5
0639723026

This is just a tiny hole in the wall, just across the street from the bend in the Vatican museum’s outside wall. This is probably our favourite gelato place in all of Rome. It is also extremely conveniently located, and it would be a very good idea to get your gelato at The Old Bridge, and eat it while you walk into the Vatican City, or queue for the museum.

 

The first time we were here we had our gelato in a cone, and the portions were so huge that it was literally a battle against time to finish it before it melted right in our hands. This time round we had our gelato in a cup. The pistachio was fantastic, with the correct amount of little bits of pistachio, yet still maintaining the smooth, creamy texture of the gelato. The hazelnut was also very good – not as intense to overpower the pistachio, yet still strong enough to impress.

The fruit flavours we tried were also very nice. In particular, the banana was simply divine.

Food: 7.5/10

Il Gelato di San Crispino

V. della Panetteria 42
066793924
http://www.ilgelatodisancrispino.it/

Renowned as the best gelato in Rome, a scoop from San Crispino’s is worth throwing a coin into the Trevi fountain, so claimed our guidebook. Our experience couldn’t have been more different.

 

There was just one server in the shop, and he was probably the most unfriendly person ever to work in the service industry. He served the gelato in record time, scooping it and literally throwing it on the counter. No hellos, no can-I-help-yous, no thank-yous, not even a smile offered. You had to put the money on this little tray and not anywhere else, or he would mutter a not-so-subtle curse under his breath. I absolutely kid you not. The sitting area was fenced off, and he literally scolded anyone who tried to enter. This was the worst example of customer service (or lack of) that we have ever experienced. It was just shocking beyond words. This horrible server also got LM’s order wrong. She wanted dark chocolate chip, and was given dark chocolate, and insisted that the gelato he gave her was dark chocolate chip when it clearly wasn’t, since the tub of dark chocolate chip was on the opposite end of the counter from where he scooped the gelato from. When A went after LM and ordered dark chocolate chip, he went to the correct end of the counter this time and scooped from the dark chocolate chip tub. We were just disgusted.

 

As for the gelato, we were unimpressed. We tried to be objective and not let the horrible experience in the shop affect our opinion on the gelato, but we still felt that this was definitely undeserving of the title of best gelato in Rome. We would rather cross over the river and walk to the Vatican City to have gelato at The Old Bridge than have gelato at Crispino. The gelato was icy, as if it had not been kept at the right temperature, and froze when it was re-introduced into the proper temperature. The mango tasted artificial, and the pistachio was a little too chunky. The dark chocolate was nice though, but not worth the short walk from the Trevi Fountain at all.

Overall, this was a completely waste of time, money and calories. The gelato is not cheap as well – the cups are easily the smallest I’ve ever seen in all of Italy. To sum it up in four words: DO NOT GO THERE.

Additional Comments: We were there on a Tuesday yet it was opened, but as mentioned, we weren’t allowed to the seating area, so perhaps there’s just a limited service on Tuesday.

Service: 2/10
Food: 5/10

Il Pollarola

P. Pollarola 24-25, Rome
0668801654

We flew to Rome immediately after our exams, as a post-exam reward trip. We went with S, who flew into London from Singapore just the day before, and met up with LM who was travelling in Italy. We had one of the best carbonara in Rome the last time we were there, so we headed straight for Grappolo near Piazza Navona for some blow-us-away carbonara. Alas, it was not opened for lunch (how stupid of us, we should have checked). We were starving, and didn’t fancy walking somewhere too far away, so we flipped through our guidebook to see if there were any recommended restaurants nearby. Sure enough, Il Pollarola was just around the corner, so we went there.

Perhaps since we were still recovering from the disappointment of not being able to eat at Grappolo, we weren’t very inspired by the menu, so we just went for whatever dishes were mentioned in our guide book. We ordered 2 canelloni (lasagna with meat), 1 spaghetti alle vongole and 1 penne all’arrabbiata. According to the guide book these were all fine examples of traditional dishes, exquisitely prepared. Deciding that we wanted some meat, we ordered a veal chop as well.

Overall, we were quite disappointed. The spaghetti alle vongole tasted processed, and the spaghetti was overcooked. The penne was decent, but it was such a plain and simple dish that it got boring after a while. I guess since Italians eat pasta as a pre-main course they tend to keep it plain and simple. We definitely wished for a little more excitement.

The cannelloni was quite nice, but it was swimming in a pool of scaldingly hot melted cheese that was quite excessive. By itself the cannelloni was quite al dente and tasty, and really didn’t need all that cheese at all.

Our veal chop never came. They ‘ran out’ of veal at 1pm.

Service: 6/10
Food: 6/10

Roscioli

Via dei Giubbonari 21
00186 Rome
06 6875287
http://www.salumeriaroscioli.com/

When we visited Grappolo d’Oro Zampano, there was a sign outside the restaurant, showing a list of the top ten carbonaras in Rome. Grappolo was ranked only 4th, yet K already loved it to pieces. However, since the address of the restaurant selling the number one carbonara in Rome was provided on the sign, why stop at the 4th? So we made a special trip to Roscioli in search of the best carbonara in Rome (and possibly the best in the world as well).

Roscioli is a relatively small restaurant. The cured pork meats, cheeses, vinegar and olive oil bottles made this place seems more like a produce and wine shop on the outside. We did not make any reservation, but the benefit of travelling in pairs is that you get a table relatively easily and quickly without the need to reserve one.

Deciding on our dishes was not a problem at all. K was clearly there for carbonara, and only carbonara. Since I am not a huge fan of carbonara, I opted for La Matriciana o Amatriciana, which is a simple and traditional Italian pasta.

 

The carbonara served in Grappolo was so mind blowing that K could go on and on and on about it the whole day. I was really questioning the ability of Roscioli to bring that to the next level. But boy was I wrong. K felt that Roscioli did indeed serve a better plate of carbonara than that at Grappolo. The pasta was perfectly cooked, and the consistency of the carbonara sauce was fantastic. The bacon bits were also perfection, and they didn’t taste like your average bacon bits. They tasted almost like they were marinated somewhat. That’s attention to detail for you. K’s mecca in search for the perfect carbonara was complete. He was immensely satisfied. It’s amazing how mind blowing a simple plate of carbonara can be. The only down side is the price. Well, it’s not as if Roscioli is unaffordably expensive, but K felt that Grappolo gave the better value for money, even though Roscioli did have the better carbonara.

 

The La Matriciana o Amatriciana that I had was good. However, that was not the real reason why we were there. Nevertheless I enjoyed my plate of pasta, but all the more I enjoyed watching K savour his carbonara.

Service: 7/10
Food: 8.5/10

I Buoni amici

Via Aleardo Aleardi 4
06 7049 1993

As long time users of Let’s Go guidebooks, we know from past experience that the food section in their city guides is very reliable. After all, it has brought us to amazing restaurants and fantastic foods, so we were confident that I Buoni Amici would be no different. However, we felt a little let down by our experience at I Buoni Amici.

Once we entered we saw the salad bar, with a huge variety of squid, olives, and some vegetables. The restaurant was quite empty when we first entered, but quickly filled up.

 

We ordered an octopus salad, which was rather nice, but it was as if it was just scooped from the salad bar a minute ago. It didn’t blow us away, mainly because it didn’t taste as fresh as it should have been.

 

Our frito misto (mixed fried seafood) came next. This looked quite promising. It was definitely far better than the octopus salad, and K loved the batter, which he felt help bring out the flavor of the calamari and the prawns.

 

Our vongole (clam) pasta was flavorful, but a huge let down because the pasta was not fresh. It might have been that we’ve been pampered silly by the plates and plates of fresh pasta we’ve been having all trip long, so we’re particularly critical to this plate of dried pasta, but we just felt that it didn’t hit the mark.

 

The most disappointing dish was the steak, which was just as dry as it looked, and cut rather thinly. The meager salad on the side was also sloppily chopped up and not one bit appetizing.

Overall, we felt that our calories would have been better saved for another carbonara at Grappolo d’Oro, and it was a shame that we spent it at I Buoni Amici. The food was not horrible, but considering the other fantastic options available, this one falls short completely.

Service: 7/10
Food: 6.5/10

Grappolo d’Oro Zampano

Via della Cancelleria 80
066 897080
http://www.grappolodorozampano.it/

Usually, restaurants that are located near touristy places are those we tend to avoid. Hence, when our guide book brought us to Grappolo d’Oro, located near the Piazza Nuovo in pretty much the heart of touristy Rome, plus the fact that it was practically empty when we were there, you can imagine how apprehensive we were.

Our server was a very nice Albanian, who was very attentive and, perhaps because there weren’t any other diners, we ended up chatting with him for quite a while. He gave us some recommendations on what to order, and we went ahead with it. The result was a fantastic and unforgettable meal. We loved it so very much we went back again on our last day in Rome, and this time, the owner himself served us.

 

We had the cod (if memory serves us well) carpaccio salad, which was fantastic. It was a very crisp and clean salad, with nice fresh herbs and tomatoes, perfect for a hot summer day. Sadly, when we went back and ordered it again, it was as if a totally different dish was presented to us. The fish was cooked and was rather hard, as compared to the translucent, thin delicate slices the first time round. This was a major disappointment for us as we loved it so much the first time we had it.

 

We also had the beef in balsamic vinegar. This was fantastic as well, and A loved the way the sauce complemented the beef in such an unexpected way. The beef was tender and cooked just the way she liked it. It was a very light dish, despite it being a steak, and extremely novel in the use of the balsamic sauce/dressing.

 

On our second visit, we had the fried fishes, which I loved thoroughly. What’s not to like about fried food? The amazing thing was that through all the frying, the fishes still tasted fresh. With a little more salt, this dish would have been perfect.

 

Inspired perhaps by our fantastic baby squid pasta in Hosteria Toledo, we ordered the seafood pasta. This one didn’t quite match up to the pasta dish in Hosteria Toledo, but it was still pretty good in its own right.

The highlight of the whole entire meal, and perhaps also our entire food experiences in Italy, would be the Carbonara at Grappolo d’Oro. Outside the restaurant is a proud sign showing the top 10 Carbonara in Rome. Grappolo d’Oro is featured at Number 4. As such, there were very high expectations put on this dish, and we’re very happy to announce that this met all expectations, then some. The carbonara at Grappolo d’Oro absolutely puts all other carbonaras to shame.

To begin with, it was artfully twirled on the plate, with a generous sprinkling of cheese and bacon all over it. There was no cream at all, and the egg yolk that was stirred into the pasta held up the entire dish very well. Words completely escape me here, but this was the holy grail of carbonara, and we were honored to be able to find it, and taste it. The combination of the black pepper, sea salt, bacon, and all the yummy goodness in the eggy pasta was simply divine. In fact, after my second visit to Grappolo d’Oro, I swore off all carbonara as I refused to let that divine memory of that perfect carbonara be tainted by a lesser carbonara. It was indeed that good.

 

As mentioned, on our second visit the owner himself served us, and after our meal he brought out this amazing bottle of Moscato di Pantelleria, from which he poured 2 shots, one for A and one for myself. We love sweet wine, and Moscato was our dessert wine of choice for that particular trip of ours to Italy. However, we’re used to having it with just ~5% alcohol content. This wine which the owner poured for us was ~17%, and was incredibly rich and totally sealed the deal for us. Grappolo d’Oro is now our favourite restaurant in all of Italy.

Service: 8/10
Food: 8/10

Il Brillo Parlante

Via della Fontanella 12
00187 Roma, Italy
06 324 3334
http://www.ilbrilloparlante.com/

Once again, we followed our guide book to this restaurant. According to the guide book, the one dish that diners at Il Brillo must have is the goats’ cheese and honey with walnuts starter. Despite A’s protests (she hates cheese), I decided to have it, since I do like cheese, and with such a strong endorsement, there was no chance I was going to miss out on this.

 

The dish was served on a very warm plate, and even for a cheese lover like me, I felt that the cheese was slightly too strong. I could almost see and smell the goat with every bite. The walnuts helped distract from the cheese, by providing a slightly bitter taste which was quite welcome. The honey was poured generously over the whole entire thing, and gave a strong contrast to the cheese, but after a while, got too strong for its own good as well. Overall, I felt that indeed it is one dish that every diner should try when they’re at Il Brillo, as it is very special indeed, but it’s one dish that I would only try once.

 

A had the pasta with tomato sauce and minced beef, which came in a sauce that looked rather thick and gooey. It tasted quite nice though, and the fresh pasta was cooked perfectly al dente. We love our pasta to be cooked al dente, just like how the Italians do it, so this was very satisfying. My carbonara was good, but not as amazing as I hoped it would be. Rome, to me, is the best place in the world to have carbonara, but this plate of carbonara fell short. This was definitely not good enough to satisfy my search for the perfect plate of carbonara, and I left wanting more. My search for the perfect carbonara would take me to a few other restaurants, which will be featured in the next few posts.

Service: 7/10
Food: 6.5/10