It’s such a blessing to travel somewhere new in the first place, but to have the chance to go back? Even more so. My first trip to Rome was during my first-ever trip to Europe, right before I did undergraduate research in Athens, Greece. And while the amount of countries I’ve visited isn’t too high, I can say that I’ve been able to go back to certain destinations and peel back another layer of the place each time–getting to know it on a much more intimate level than someone rushing through on a hit-every-major-European-city trip. This is the kind of travel I prefer; slow, and intentional.
So, knowing I’d have another chance to explore The Eternal City, I picked a neighborhood to stay in that was outside of the center of Rome, that’s hip and still very much a local’s scene; Pigneto. The likes of Gourmet Traveller and Bon Appétit already disclosed the secret back in 2009 in their write-ups about the neighborhood, but it remains largely untouched by mass tourism. There’s the occasional hotel or two, and you’ll likely find some menus in English, but otherwise the restaurants, street markets and shops were full of locals.
The best part of staying in Pigneto, aside from feeling like you’re getting an authentic experience, was the café/restaurant/wine bar down the street; Primo al Pigneto. As I was exploring Pigneto’s main artery, Via del Pigneto, looking for a warm plate of pasta to tuck into after a tiring journey in from Spain, the windows of Primo al Pigneto caught my eye:
Inside, the restaurant was buzzing with Italian–the decor, modern and inviting and the staff attentive and accommodating. While I examined the menu, I was poured a refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio.
To start, I selected the smoked mackerel in burrata cheese, topped with toasted bread. Burratta cheese, is the queen of all cheese as far as I’m concerned. It’s a mozzarella shell with a savory cream on the inside. The dish itself was reminiscent of smoked salmon from my home, the Pacific NW. A plate that evokes memories of home is always good for the soul.
Next up was the pasta: Mezze Maniche Alla Amatriciana, a macaroni dish tossed in a tomato-based sauce folded with pecorino cheese, pepper, and pancetta. It was cooked perfectly al dente but it wasn’t the most impressive pasta I’ve had in my life. Maybe it’s not authentically Italian, but I tend to enjoy my pasta with a more generous dollop of sauce.
Of course, I’m not one to ever refuse dessert, no matter how full I am, and when in Rome…
This was a delicious pistachio mousse topped with a crunchy amaretto wafer and chocolate. I love how pistachio has such a presence in the Italian kitchen.
All in all, Primo al Pigneto was a great dining experience. I returned to have a cappuccino and the service was excellent again…also didn’t hurt that they gave me a generous portion of biscotti with my coffee! If you go to Pigneto, I definitely recommend stopping for a meal here and going to the cute wine bars on the same street.