She somehow tracked down ‘da Gino’ – and it was truly a memorable meal – one of those places that if you came here at the very start of your trip, you’d come here again before you left. She made a reservation for 8pm – and we showed up on time, were greeted warmly, and given a good table. Immediately, we knew we were in the right place. There were 2 other tourists at the back of the restaurant and every other table was full of locals.
This is an old restaurant, that has been making customers happy for ages. Places like this aren’t the latest in design – instead, they find something that works, and often don’t change it because it’s just one more reason why the regulars keep coming back. While some would say the lights inside are a bit too bright, the chairs aren’t that comfortable, the tables are too close together – really, that’s not why you’re here. You’re here for the food – so leave the concerns about the tiny details at the door.
We’re hungry, and while it can be a dangerous idea to order both primi and secondi (ie you run the risk of getting way too much food) – we notice that many of the other tables are doing this, and so we decide to do the same. D starts with the pasta cacio e pepe – a classic roman dish of noodles with pepper and cheese, while I go for the house specialty, the tonnarelli alla ciociara it’s pasta with bacon, peas and mushrooms. The noodles are somewhere between spaghetti and pici – they’re thick, perfectly cooked, and the dishes are absolutely spectacular. The cacio e pepe is made with sheep’s milk cheese, so has that strong grassy flavour that some folks aren’t a big fan of, but with the sharp pepper it’s perfect. The tonnareli alla ciociara is perfect – literally, perfect pasta. The noodles are just perfectly chewy, the sauce of mushrooms and peas with little bits of bacon/speck/lardons is so good, if this dish was twice as large, I would have eaten it.
For the secondi we decided to go with the saltimbocca and stewed lamb, with a side of green beans. Both the meat dishes were amazing. The saltimbocca (from wikipedia – literally ‘jumps in your mouth’) – was great (and very salty), while the stewed lamb literally fell apart – the kind of dish you could eat with a spoon. Not too gamy, in a nice wine-based sauce. Perfecto! The beans were nice – boiled but dressed with olive oil and lemon and at least something green to go with the meat and pasta.
Dessert was perfection – tiramisu. We’re learning (after having made it twice in two different cooking classes) – to appreciate the subtlety of what goes into perfect tiramisu. The ladyfingers can’t be too soggy, the cream has to be fresh, the chocolate chunks can’t be too big – and yes, everything was perfect.
The waiters were extremely friendly, service was very fast, and all in all, this was one of the best meals that I’ve had in Italy. We had a half-carafe of house white wine to go with the meal, and while Robert Parker wouldn’t think too much of it, for the price (€3.80), it went with the meal just fine.
Bon vivants should come here, come here soon, and try anything and everything. Just remember to make a reservation, and before you complain that anything is too this or too that, also remember: the place has been open for about 50+ years – obviously they’re doing something right. Oh – also – as the place is full of locals, it is mainly full of couples wearing suits/ties and dresses, as Romans tend to be more formal in their evening dress than North Americans. While I’m sure you’ll be warmly welcomed no matter what you’re wearing, you may want to dress it up a little bit.
Bottigleria da Gino
Vicolo Rosini, 4
00186 Roma, Italia
Tel: 066 873434