Eternal City eatery Roscioli sets benchmark for stellar pasta dish
Stars and Stripes May 11, 2023
Visitors to Rome who are hungry for some of the city’s best cacio e pepe should put Roscioli salumeria con cucina at the top of the list.
But before I get to the details about the typically Roman pasta dish, some tips are in order.
First, make a reservation. Ignore that warning and you’re unlikely to get a table at the popular eatery, situated just a block or so away from the Campo de Fiori.
Lunch and dinner crowds swell the wait times to an hour or more outside the tiny salumeria, which also sells cheese, Italian meats, wine and gourmet food items.
Second, if you’re a party of one or two, sit at the bar, where the server will keep your wine glass filled and you’ll be treated to a cross-section of conversation from all over the world.
The clientele during my recent visit included Norwegian and German tourists, a Roman delivery worker on his lunch break and a local businesswoman. I also had a front row seat to goings-on behind the salumeria counter.
Get there no later than 1 p.m. if you want a bar stool. Traditional Italian lunch starts around 2 p.m. and lasts until about 4 p.m. The restaurant will be packed.
Roscioli’s unassuming exterior and lack of outdoor seating, at least on my visits, can make it easy to miss, and to the casual eye, the place may seem like it doesn’t have much to offer.
But step inside and you’ll find a charming family-owned delicatessen transformed into a bistro-like dining experience.
The menu is extensive but focused on traditional Roman and Italian fare that makes the best of seasonal vegetables and seafood.
It also honors the restaurant’s salumeria origins with a selection of cheeses, including two buffalo mozzarellas from the Campania region. And you can get plates of prosciutto, parma ham, bresaola and other deli meats.
My recent visit started with an amuse-bouche of rich, creamy ricotta topped with diced red peppers and a splash of olive oil. The complimentary appetizer was light and satisfying and offered an expert way to pace the rest of the meal.
For antipasto, I chose the caponata della tradizione Siciliana, featuring eggplant with onion and pine nuts. The dish, served at room temperature, was slightly acidic but balanced with the addition of dried fruits and rich olive oil.
An accompanying selection of freshly baked breads helped with sopping up the juices.
From there, it was on to the star attraction.
Cacio e pepe traditionally is made with parmesan cheese and a stupefying amount of black pepper, expertly emulsified into a creamy, decadent sauce.
The dish is on nearly every menu in the city, but many places lack the requisite skill to do it well. Roscioli stands out for its mastery of the technique and the results it achieves.
Its version features freshly made pasta strands coated with a velvety sauce, topped with more parmesan and a flourish of pepper. It’s rich and packs a flavor punch. So much so that you might think you can’t possibly eat it all, but you will.
The dish doesn’t skimp on the cheese, but unlike those offered by other restaurants, this variation isn’t cloying. You’ll need the bread served with it to get every bit of the sauce.
A glass of Greco di Tufo, a medium to full-bodied white wine with citrus, spice and herb notes from Campania, was an ideal complement to the pasta.
My meal ended there, as the restaurant didn’t offer vegetarian options for secondi plates, which are traditionally meat, fish or chicken. But a selection of cheeses could be an option.
Roscioli also offers a tempting array of desserts, from tiramisu to cannoli, cheesecake and tarts.
I’ve never had them. That’s because patrons who don’t order dessert are nonetheless served a treat: crisp, house-baked cookies dusted with granulated sugar and accompanied by a warm chocolate sauce.
The unexpected gift offered just enough sweetness to finish the meal. Maybe I’ll try dessert sometime, but the sweet freebie is hard to pass up.
It takes a bit more effort for visitors to choose Roscioli of the easy-to-find restaurants that line Rome’s piazzas and cater to tourists. The food at those other options is usually OK, but not spectacular.
Roscioli proves a walk down a side street is well worth it.
Roscioli Salumeria Con Cucina
Address: Via dei Giubbonari, 21, Rome
Hours: 9 a.m.-midnight, Monday-Sunday; lunch, 12:30-3:30 p.m.; dinner, 7-11:30 p.m.
Prices: appetizers, 14-55 euros; pasta, 14-25 euros; fish, 18-38 euros (some dishes at market price); meat, 16-35 euros; side dishes, 8-14 euros; dessert, 9-11 euros; beer and cocktails, 8-12 euros.
Information: Phone: +39 06 687 5287; Online: salumeriaroscioli.com/en/home-english