Finding restaurants in Rome that serve up authentic fare can be daunting for the tourist. Italians, especially those who live in Rome, will often say to you when asked where to eat that it is difficult to eat well in the city (È difficile mangiare bene a Roma…). They do have a point: sometimes it is hard to know where to go, especially if you do not speak the language. A lot of hotels will push their own restaurants or push for you to visit places nearby. People will often say that touristy places serve up bad food and are not worth the trouble, but this not always the case as there are quite a few excellent trattorias near the Vatican that are heavily patronized by tourists that are not trappole (traps).
In today’s post, I want to highlight a pizzeria (also a restaurant) in Rome that is pretty good, a bit off the beaten path and seems to be a popular favorite for the locals in San Giovanni. A friend of mine put me onto it last year: it’s called Al Grottino and is just a short walk from the San Giovanni or Re di Roma Linea A metro stops. The Italians love it because they are open pretty late! Reservations are always recommended, the staff are very friendly, and the owner speaks a fair bit of English as do some of the staff.
One of the coolest aspects of his pizzeria is the beers that they stock! Ask for the iPad with the beer selections. They’ll bring you an iPad that showcases all of the various beers that they carry from all over the world. Italians tend to prefer beer with their pizza, although there’s nothing wrong with having wine, water, or a soft drink if you prefer, too. Even if you do not like beer, it is fun just to browse the different beers on the wine list and see what is out there. If you are a beer lover, then definitely pass by for a pizza!
The pizza is not your typical Roman style pizza nor is it Neapolitan. It’s something in between and unique (even the pizza crust is different with a lighter texture and unique flavor that is a blend of different flours). Some of my friends are often put off at first by the strangeness of the pizza, but after a few bites, the taste improves, and you get used to the different flour blends used to make the dough. One of the best things about the ingredients is that everything is pretty fresh, and you can taste the difference immediately, especially if you are more used to American pizza like I am. Try La Tropea, one of my favorite pizzas that is topped with mozzarella, prosciutto and caramelized red onions from Tropea that are then made into a form of marmalade that is placed on the pizza in dollops. Il baccalà is worth trying, and it is served up fresh daily as well as the fiori di zucca which are also quite good. The desserts are also quite good, too: they have a varying selection of desserts, too, that are pretty amazing.
WHERE TO FIND:
The pizzera is located on Via Orvieto, 6 in Rome. Take the Metro Linea A to San Giovanni or Re di Roma and simply walk there. From Re di Roma, it is about 5-7 minute brisk walk. Via Orvieto is hard to miss. The street is separated in the middle by vendor stalls and a market that is open during the day (typically closed at night): you’ll find the restaurant at the top of the hill on the corner of Via Orvieto and Via Voghera. During the spring, summer, and fall, there is outdoor seating, and it is recommended since inside can get a bit warm with the pizza oven going. Reservations are highly recommended. Call after 5:00 PM to make your reservation for that night. Take note that the restaurant is closed on Wednesdays but open every other day of the week.
You can also check out their web site (you can see the menu, although it is missing a few items). To make a reservation, call (+39) 06 7024440 after 5:00 PM.
The restaurant is reasonably priced. Last night, my friend and I each had a pizza, we ordered two appetizers, a small carafe of white wine, and two coffees. Our bill came to 36 euro (18 euro per person).
top picture: la Tropea
bottom picture: gli sfizi di baccalà