Usually I just love the internets. I spend hours and hours reading online reviews of restaurants, trying to figure out the exact best place to dine when I travel. It sometimes (ok, maybe all the time) gets really exhausting weighing the opinions of hundreds of online reviews, from professional critics to online strangers, always trying to figure out which are crazy and which might have the exact same taste as me.
So when I didn’t troll the internet for days prior to my first Rome trip, it was weird. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I guess I figured that it really would be tough to go wrong eating anything in Rome. For the most part, I was right. Most everything we ate was delicious, but we did unfortunately stumble into a few tourist traps.
Since I’ve returned to the US, mainly due to the fact I have a really bad case of jet lag and was up at 3am today, I’ve found so many wonderful blogs (in English, woo hoo!) and articles about life and food in Rome*. And one restaurant that keeps coming up is actually where we ended up on my first evening: Antico Arco. I had posted a status update on Facebook about my trip to Rome, and an old friend told us that we should definitely fit in a visit even though it was on the edges of town. Turns out that it was about a 10 minute walk from our b&b and she was right – it was amazing.
Of course, we got despeately lost trying to find the place and just as I was about to give up, we rounded a corner and it was there: a wonderfully adorable ivy covered exterior leading into a chic, modern dining room. We stumbled in the door at 6:30, committing Roman faux pas #1 of what I can already tell will be thousands. Being much more civilized than Americans, Romans would never dream of dining so early. We were told to come back at 7 when the restaurant opened, and they’d fit us in sans reservation. Trying to play it cool, we re-arrived fashionably late at 7:10. Yeah, we still weren’t fashionable and the restaurant was still empty, but they were nice about it, sat us at a table near the kitchen and our evening began.
The helpful staff gave us pointers on navigating the Italian wine list and brought out a delicious amuse bouche and I was already in love. When they brought out a small side plate of my pasta dish for my husband to try (apparently they do this with every pasta dish that’s ordered at a table so guests don’t have to reach to try their companion’s dishes), I swooned. What an adorable touch/why doesn’t anywhere in the US do this!? I started with Crispy Buffalo Mozzarella with salted tuna roe and confit tomato and moved onto the star of the evening: Cacio e Pepe topped with fried zucchini flowers.
If you’ve never had cacio e pepe, the best thing I can liken it to is a delicate, sophisticated Italian version of the most heavenly mac & cheese. I’ve never had a great version of it in a restaurant in America (though, NYC residents: I’ve heard Lupa‘s is yummy), but Bon Appetit has a decent recipe that I tried over the summer and liked if you’re up for making it yourself. I had to place a bet, I’d say this is the first of 100+ times I will eat this dish in Rome from now through December. It is that good.
Antico Arca’s cacio e pepe was fantastic, and the fried zucchini updated the dish, giving it the restaurant’s signature modern touch. Afterwards, we took a short walk to admire the view of the city from nearby Gianicolo Hill which was absolutely gorgeous. Sadly, I didn’t have my camera so can’t show you the scene, but believe me: I will be back to both Antico Arca and the hill itself and will document it next time. (PS – I must admit that I stole the images above from www.scattidigusto.it. I’m not that professional at blogging yet!)
*If you’re interested in some delicious and highly entertaining reading, I recommend visiting Parla Food, Un Americana a Roma and An American in Rome. I had a blast reading through these sites this morning and it made me SO antsy to get back to Rome. 2 more weeks!