We had read about Taverna Trilussa on Tripadvisor. Rick Steves also mentioned the establishment in his Italy guidebook. They only open for dinner so we decided to take a chance and walk in early. The Taverna is a hundred year old restaurant on Via del Politeama about a block off Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere, Rome.
The restaurant’s outdoor seating is lined with some mature plants that provide a semblance of dining in someone’s back garden. On our first night there, we opted for the garden seating. The manager was holding a swaddled infant when we walked up to his podium. He looked at us. We peeked through the blanket. We all smiled understandingly. He informed us we were early. They opened at 7:00 p.m. We told him we did not have any reservations but would be happy to wait. And beg. He told us to return at 7:00 and he would squeeze us in.
We walked idly around the surrounding vias and piazzas. By half a minute to, we were back. A server wearing a crisp white shirt, a tie and a vest, seated us in the garden. He handed us the menu and a thick wine book. My hubby was curious about some of the dishes recommended by previous patrons on Tripadvisor. We opted for some salad greens to start and then, the Mimosa Ravioli and the “Spaghetti del Perfetto, Ottimi!” I ordered a glass of a 2009 Brunello di Montalcino by Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo. Well, why not, I thought! When in Rome…right?
My spaghetti arrived in the pan used to put it together, handle and all. Its wondrous aroma floated from the pan and to my waiting nose! I inhaled it all shamelessly. It was al dente with “sweet cherry tomatoes called “datterini,” some Nostrano pecorino, and Ventricina salami from the Abruzzese Fracassa company.”
My hubby did not expect the Mimosa Ravioli to be so creamy. It was described in the menu as “a small secret, neither fish nor meat, winner of a contest in Rome and Milan.” Whatever it was, the layering of flavors and textures was sublime.
Halfway through the meal, we decided to exchange plates. Our eyes locked and we both nodded slowly in agreement: Yes, this is probably the best pasta created in the face of this earth yet! We ate slowly, savoring each spoonful.
My wine was not too heavy for a pasta dish. It had good body and balance. I enjoyed it so much I asked to see the bottle. I knew I chose well when our server gave me a barely perceptible nod of approval.
We knew we had found a treasure in this restaurant. Rome has undoubtedly many dining choices. But we were intrigued with Taverna Trilussa, with its unusual location and unimposing exterior. We dined in other restaurants. But we just had to go back on our last night in Rome.
It was a Friday evening, and promptly at almost 7:00 p.m., we walked to the podium where again, the manager, Massimo, stood. He was on his cell phone talking animatedly, but he smiled and beckoned us with such Italian flair. As he ended his call, we told him we just had to come back. He nodded understandingly.
“Si. Si. I understand.”
It was our last night in Rome, we pleaded. He nodded knowingly and asked us to wait. When he came back, he led us inside. The place is an almost contrived mayhem. It felt like going into a gourmet grandmother’s lair. Well, a gourmet grandmother with a penchant for tennis, that is, aside for the obvious trappings of great food and wine.
There were shelves and tall glass cabinets of wine. Then we passed the rows of prosciutto legs held up on stands. There were traditional cheese cabinets made of rich wood and thin glass, and wide earthen bowls on a long table with marinated veggies, more cheese, and mounds of different olives. There were the dessert carts full of pies, crostata, and fresh fruits. Our mouths began to water.
This time, we opted to start with their salumi platter for two. This came with crusty bread and a plate with a mound of fresh buffalo ricotta. Our server explained we could either alternate the cured meats with the cheese or eat it together with the bread. There were about nine different kinds of salami on the platter, garnished with olives, capers, the reddest cherry tomatoes and some arugula.
I asked for a glass of 2009 Amarone del Valpollicella by Gerardo Cesari. When it came, the server watched as I took my first sip. He was the same server from our meal in the garden. I nodded to him. This was even better than the Brunello. It was perfect for the salumi platter, and even more. He came back and poured a little more on my glass. My appreciation must have been so clear on my face. He showed me the bottle. He remembered!
The different meats on the platter were like the variations of ballroom dancing. One was a samba while another was clearly a paso doble. A third was a divine waltz while another was a peppery jitterbug. The ricotta buffala was a rich and creamy swing.
I had ordered a Bucatini all’ Amatriciana for my second course. My hubby said he had to order the spaghetti “del Perfetto, Ottimi!” again. He vowed he would eat it again before he left Rome. He just had to experience the fresh pasta married to the reddest and sweetest tomatoes, coupled with salami with its salty aged meatiness to anchor the sweet. The pecorino cheese completed the union like a pontiff’s blessing.
My Amatriciana was probably the best I have tasted to date. It seemed to have been made simply, although the restaurant boasted that theirs came with the approval of Commune Amatrice, the origin of the recipe. The bacon used was Guanciale bacon. I deliberately slowed my mouthfuls to savor the flavors.
After our meal, we walked sadly away. There were no more evenings left to explore the restaurant’s offers. The next morning, we would be off to Dubrovnik.
Would I go back? Of course! In fact, I already wrote it in my bucket list: I am willing to stay for at least a week in Rome and dine at Taverna Trilussa every night until I taste all the favorites on their menu. Maybe next time, we will make it to their Secondi selection.