While it’s unusual – and some people don’t think it’s possible – I am actually very good friends with my ex fiance’. In what feels like a lifetime ago we spent nearly a decade together, having met back when I lived in the picturesque neighbourhood of Trastevere, in Rome. Known for some of the best food in the city, we’d frequently go out to eat at any one of the delicious local establishments, and then for an evening stroll around the city. Those were some of the best moments of my twenties… and so when he told me that a new restaurant had opened near me that actually served authentic Roman food, I was incredulous. I had to see it to believe it- and so, we decided to make an evening of it.
Taverna Trastevere is inviting from the moment you arrive: I quickly took mental note of the outdoor seating for dining al fresco the warm summer months. And when you walk in, the warm colours and wood decor are reminiscent of a typical of a Roman taverna. I was greeted by one of the staff (all of whom are Italian if not Roman; it adds to the genuine feel of the place when you can converse and order in Italian), and shown to a table in the upper level of the restaurant. While I don’t typically drink much, we did start with a well-prepared Aperol spritz while we perused the menu…
…and enthusiastically peruse the menu we did! I couldn’t believe my eyes at the site of so many of my old favourites. So many classic Roman dishes: spaghetti alla carbonara, saltimbocca alla romana, and rarest of all: the humble suppli’. I lost count of how many years it had been since I had seen that on the menu. I couldn’t wait to get started! But where to begin?
We decided to have a bruschetta with our spritz while we evaluated our options. Let me tell you, it was outstanding. You may wonder how hard it could be to get something so seemingly simple so wrong, but so many people do! Not Taverna Trastevere: the bread was of the perfect thickness and crispy to the right degree, while the tomato topping was seasoned perfectly without being too runny from the natural tomato juices and salty to the right point. It was the best bruschetta I’ve had outside of Rome.
Having been reassured by the strong start, I ordered the suppli‘ in confidence. Aside from being just the slightest bit larger than I remember (not a bad thing at all!) they were EXACTLY like I remembered. That beautiful, hot ball of flavourful fried rice that oozes the most delicious mozzarella! Those smells, tastes and textures transported me back in time by over fifteen years: suddenly we were back in Rome, eating suppli‘, talking about life just like we used to. It was like having been put through the best kind of time machine and teleportation device.
Traditionally back then we’d usually start with bruschetta or suppli‘ and follow with a light margherita pizza, so we respected tradition and did the same thing. Now, I’ve written before about my love of pizza and my appreciation of different kinds of pizza. Some of my favourite types are Neapolitan, New York… but I have quite a soft spot for Roman style as well. The crust is crispy and paper-thin, but somehow robust enough to support the toppings. The topping on this pizza in particular was heavier than is typical of a Roman pizza, however. Most people, certainly most Londoners, wouldn’t even notice, but I do have a preference for the lighter topping that is more traditional. It’s no coincidence that when I lived in Rome and ate pizza five to six times a day I was at my thinnest: traditional Roman pizza really is a light dish. This one? Not so much (next time I go to Rome I will photograph it for comparison so you can see). But it was really delicious all the same: I just wouldn’t have it as frequently if I’m watching my figure! Oh and for what it’s worth? I love that they gave me a proper sharp knife with which to cut it before the pizza came out. A small thing which improves the experience.
Although I was more than full after all this food, with a bit of arm-twisting I was convinced to share a dessert, and we opted for a classic: torta della nonna. I have no doubt that any dish on the dessert menu would have been exceptional as they were all made freshly that morning, but this was absolutely a solid choice. The cream filling was divine: the vanilla flavour was amazing and it was no wonder: vanilla pods were used in the making rather than just an extract (you could see the vanilla seeds). The crispy crust combined with the creamy filling and that touch of traditional pine nut on top… it looked and tasted like comfort food like you’d expect your grandmother to make (no wonder its name translates to “grandma’s cake”).
Tradition also calls for an espresso to follow this point, and it was much needed as a digestion aid, given all the food we’d eaten. Fortunately this espresso was perfect in taste, smell and colour, as you can see below. I’d have expected nothing less from an authentic Roman establishment. We were kindly offered a limoncello to aid in our digestion as well, but I felt it best to save that for another time.
And I most definitely do expect there to be another time! I had such a good meal: the chef Vincenzo – a Roman himself – kindly chatted with us and gave me sufficient confidence to return and try their carbonara (for which I have already shown to have a high standard). I look forward to returning and eventually trying everything on their menu – if I get to it in time: they regularly update their menu to make sure you won’t get bored.
The only point of slight concern is around the financials: while the food brought me back some 15-20 years, the bill brought me right back to modern-day London. I used to be able to get some water, a couple of suppli‘ and a margherita sometimes for ten euros. The bill tonight came to £96 for two – and we had no wine. So, how did we get there? We each had a cocktail (our starting spritzes) for £8 each, and 2 bottles of still water came to £9 so with gratuity we are nearly at £30 before having eaten anything. Also worth noting is that many of the starters were priced similarly to mains (see photo of menu, above). It just felt like it was a bit on the high side. Regardless, it was of no matter: my ex was – and still is – the most generous man I’ve ever met, so he insisted dinner was on him. But while I will undoubtedly be returning for the carbonara, I think I’ll personally keep to the tap water.
*Calories: We went all out… I’d be surprised if the evening came to less than 1500 calories. I’ll be clawing back the calories for days after this.
Food taste: 4.2 / 5 (when food transports you to another place and time, that’s something special.)
Food/table presentation: 4 / 5 (everything served in the classic Roman way)
Service: 4 / 5 (friendly and warm, like you were a part of the family)
Atmosphere/decor: 4 / 5 (a perfect blend of the traditional with the modern)
Value for money: 3 / 5 (Prices felt steep… maybe because part of me still remembers the original prices in Rome? Surely it can’t be just that. However I’ve given above average points anyway, because finding authentic Roman food is a near-impossibility and I acknowledged both authenticity and scarcity)
Overall rating: 3.8 / 5