Get a true taste of the Italian capital as wine expert Nina Caplan shares her selection of the best places to visit for authentic cuisine and great wines.
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Al Vino al Vino
Where to find it: Via dei Serpenti 19
As unpretentious as its name, but lined with interesting bottles, this bar just up the street from the Colosseum is a great place to relax after visiting Rome’s sights. A few glasses of good, inexpensive wine and a plate of superb caponata, surrounded by understatedly hip locals, will revive any jaded tourist.
Rome’s only three-star Michelin restaurant has extraordinary views from the top floor of the deluxe Cavalieri hotel on Monte Mario, the city’s highest hill. Heinz Beck’s food is exceptional but the cellar is even better, with old vintages of Bordeaux and a range of Italy’s top labels.
Formerly a medieval bishop’s palace, this cosy, wood-panelled bar, with its painted ceilings and tiny tables, has rows of bottles within tantalisingly easy reach. Wines by the glass start at €5 (£4.30) and there are plates of good antipasti to mop them up. You can buy bottles to take away, too.
Next to the grandiose curves of Emperor Hadrian’s Pantheon sits a restaurant that has its own claim to longevity: the Gargioli family has been serving delicious local, seasonal specialities here for over 50 years. The stained glass in the lobby sheds a mellow light, and the wide range of wines by small Italian producers adds to the feeling of wellbeing.
Felice Trivelloni was a legend in Testaccio, the working-class Roman neighbourhood that used to house the city’s abattoirs: his food was enticing, but if he didn’t like you, you weren’t coming in. These days, his son runs the trattoria and everyone is welcome to the calm space with its exposed bricks – you just need to make sure you have a reservation.
The food may be modern fusion, but the cellars here, which can hold up to 20,000 bottles, were originally built as catacombs in the 4th century. Visit during the day to sample miniature versions of dishes from the evening menu, such as tiger prawn and squid salad with asparagus sauce. Booking required.
Cristina Bowerman’s innovative food has won her a Michelin star. Think ravioli stuffed with foie gras and amaretto, with ingredients sourced from local producers where possible. The wine list does the food justice, which is no mean feat. Booking required.
Ai Tre Scalini
Ai Tre Scalini, its violet door framed by green creepers, would be kitsch if it weren’t so obviously authentic. Founded in 1895, this old-fashioned bar, charmingly decorated with posters and Dante quotations, serves favourites such as polpette al sugo (meatballs in tomato sauce) and offers an array of simple Italian wines.
This unpretentious place in Testaccio has a cluttered counter of things to eat and drink. It looks like a delicatessen, because it is one: cheese, salami and prosciutto can all be taken away. At mealtimes, however, they are artfully sliced on huge wooden chopping boards, beside a fine array of wines. Owners Rita and Emiliano keep the atmosphere lively.
Anthony Genovese’s food, Italian with a touch of Japan, is beautiful in every sense: with an inventiveness and sense of fun that has earned him two Michelin stars. His lengthy wine list runs to 1,300 intriguing options.
Nina Caplan is an award-winning wine journalist and the author of The Wandering Vine: Wine, The Romans and Me (£10.92 Amazon)
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