Lungotevere Testaccio 7, Roma Testaccio
Lo Scopettaro is one of the best restaurants in Rome. Placed in one of the most characteristic neighborhoods in Rome, Testaccio, traditionally home to some of the most authentic restaurants in Rome, Lo Scopettaro has emerged as one of the best.
I am totally fond of old fashioned restaurants with hidden stories behind them. Lo Scopettaro was born in 1930 in the heart of Testaccio, and it was originally a worskshop where brooms were made (“scopettaro” is an ancient word for the artisan making and usually selling its own brooms). One day, the artisan’s wife started cooking pasta with beans for her husband, but the smell was so inviting that… she has some unexpected guests. From that to cooking more dishes… and changing from workshop to trattoria, until becoming one of the best restaurants in Rome… the step was short.
The location nowadays is still simple, with wooden tables and chairs and those plaid tablecloths, so typical of trattorias in Rome. Tip: when you book a table, I suggest you ask for the ground floor, since they have also an underground floor, less pleasant.
Well, Lo Scopettaro is all about traditional food from Rome, at its best. I travel to Rome quite often, mostly for business, so I had the opportunity to test many restaurants during the last decade. But if you ask me now for an advice on where to have dinner in Rome… Lo Scopettaro is currently my first choice!
We started with two antipasto (starters), both very typical:
- carciofo (artichoke) alla romana. Disclaimer: I simply love artichokes, I cannot be in Rome without having one or two. People from Rome are as serious with artichokes as with carbonara or amatriciana. They grow a particular kind of artichoke, called mammola, and they cook it in two ways. The first way, carciofi alla giudia, is a typical Roman – Jewish recipe and consists of deep fried artichokes. The second way, and my favorite one, is carciofi alla romana. Artichokes are stewed with parsley, mint, garlic, salt and pepper.
- coratella. In Rome food traditions, innards have a relevant place and coratella will make you understand why. Coratella is the Italian word for the innards from small animals, like rabbit, chicken or, like in this case, lamb. The dish is rich in taste and not a light starter, but at the same time delicate. Delicious.
How can you be in Rome and not having some of their amazing pasta? If Bologna is the place to be for fresh pasta, Rome to me is an authentic paradise for pasta, so my wife and I went for two great classics rigatoni recipes:
- carbonara. Together with amatriciana and cacio e pepe,the most worldwide famous pasta from Rome. A great carbonara is as difficult as it seems simple to cook, and some rules define Dos and Donts about this recipe – no need to say, Lo Scopettaro passes the test with full marks :
- use guanciale, not pancetta (bacon). Guanciale is another fat part of the pig, but it comes from the cheek, not from the belly, like pancetta does
- use pecorino, not Parmigiano Reggiano (general rule: original recipes always have local ingredients, back in the centuries it was not so usual to move food from one place to another. So if a cook from Rome wanted to use a cheese… of course it was pecorino and not Parmigiano Reggiano!)
- egg must not be cooked, that’s why final preparation step must be performed far from the heat
- no onion, no garlic, no spicy stuff apart from black pepper. And, of course, no oil, no butter, no cream (omg…) – guanciale is fat enough!
- pajata. Less famous than carbonara or amatriciana, pajata is one of the most authentic choices if you want a truely Roman pasta: you will not find it anywhere, and can be considered the distinction between a touristic and a real Roman trattoria. Pajata, or pagliata in Italian, is the intestine of an unweaned calf; cooked in a tomato sauce, it partially melts in a creamy sauce. A dish you definitely have to try, also because you will find it only in Rome!
As you can easily imagine, me and my wife where quite done after this, so we shared a meat dish, with two side dishes:
- abbacchio. Abbacchio is the unweaned sheep. Sheeps are very common in Central Italy, and so their presence on a table. Abbacchio is usually cooked in the oven, with rosemary and other herbs, and keeping its juices it is a tender, delicious meat, to be eaten with roasted potatoes or one of the many typical side dishes of this incredible city. Like…
- cicoria (chicory). Very simple, very tasty. Take the chicory, just boil it and then sauté it with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and chily pepper.
- or puntarelle. These are simply the chicory shoots that are cut into thin stripes, put into water and ice to partially lose the bitter taste and make them curly, and then seasoned with garlic, anchovy fillets, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper. Easy as it sounds, delicious as only if you visit Rome you can believe.
Wine and spirits
I strongly believe a part of me wanted an excuse to be back as soon as possible, so… I forgot to take pictures of their Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine and the local amaro we had, lol. Being this very unprofessional, I promise I will visit Lo Scopettaro soon! Just a little note about the wine. There is a little bit of confusion about Montepulciano, not only abroad but also among some Italians. To make a long story short, the same word “Montepulciano” is both a village in Tuscany, where Vino Nobile di Montepulciano comes from, and a type of grape, used to produce Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. If you want to read a detailed analysis of this, a good choice is this page: https://bit.ly/2TNriKG .
Service is typically romano. Young guys with strong accent, local sense of humour and funny jokes: you will feel like being served by old friends.
Price / quality ratio is really good, most of all for being located in Testaccio, where prices are not cheap and aligned among the many restaurants.
So, if you are in Rome, book your seat at Lo scopettaro. But if you are in Bologna, a great choice is Le golosità di nonna Aurora!
And if you simply are at home, planning for a truely Italian dinner with your friends, and you want to try your best carbonara ever, follow the instructions here!