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During my first week in Rome my friend Giampiero invited me to a dinner party at his girlfriend’s home. Giampi and I met through a friend of friend back in Los Angeles. At the dinner party I was still jet lagged and trying to get my bearings after leaving everything I knew behind and moving to a foreign country.
Giampiero’s girlfriend’s friend was making Amatriciana, one of my favorite Roman pasta dishes. He cooked his with onions. This created quite a debate. Folks were very much in their feelings about whether or not onions belong in the dish that is in the canon of Roman pastas. I knew then and there I had found my home. In Los Angeles no one was arguing about pasta as my friends and I tried to live a carb-free life. This was a sin against nature. I have repented.
The main ingredients in Amatriciana are, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and guanciale. I see some recipes in the US saying you can use American styled bacon. Nope. That’s another dish. The sauce is usually serviced with bucatini, spaghetti, or rigatoni shaped pasta, topped with a generous dusting of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
These are my 6 favorite places in Rome for proper Amatriciana.
Located in the Prati neighborhood, Chef Arcangelo Dandini is known for his Gnocchi spin on this dish. Gnocchi can go so wrong easily, turning into a gooey mess. L’arcangelo’s are light and airy.
Via Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, 59
Tel. +39 063210992
Even when I lived in the Historic Center, getting to this restaurant in Monteverde was a schlep. Now it’s way on the other side of town from me but I will make it my business to go whenever I can.
Via del Casaletto, 45
Tel. +39 06536015
This is in my old neighborhood. As the area turns into one giant AirBnB, filled with random stores no locals want or need, Da Tonino survives. For three generation it’s been feeding locals and visitors the classics at reasonable prices. It’s a simple trattoria with a tangy Amatriciana sauce. Its official name is Trattoria Antonio Bassetti. We call da Tonino. Cash only.
Via del Governo Vecchio, 18
Located in a wine cellar built into Monte Testaccio, the reviews for this restaurant are all over the place. I’ve only had the Amatriciana and the Cacio e Pepe pastas and both were delicious.
Via di Monte Testaccio, 97
Tel. +39 065744194
This restaurant is small. The service is hit or miss. Their Rigatoni Amatriciana is worth it. Pasta cooked to perfection.
Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22
Tel. +39 066875287
Located in Testaccio, it’s a favorite of one of my friends who lives around the corner. There’s no English menu and most of the waiters do not speak English, so bring your translator app.
Via Evangelista Torricelli, 2/12
Tel. +39 065746311
Where did you eat the best Amatriciana in Rome?
Arlene Gibbs is a decorator, writer, and recovering Hollywood film executive.
Born in New York City to parents from the French/Dutch Caribbean island of St. Martin, Arlene (and her French passport) has found her home in Rome.
Arlene co-wrote the hit Hollywood film “Jumping the Broom” (aka Amore e Altri Guai in Italian) and was VP of production and development for several high profile actors/directors. She has written travel articles about Italy and the Caribbean for Fathom magazine. Arlene is currently working on interior design projects in Rome, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Anguilla, British West Indies.