ProLoco D.O.L. can’t easily be categorized. It’s a place where you can shop for sublime local products as well as pick up your CSA box every Wednesday. But, it is also a place where you can stop by for a quick lunch, grab a glass of wine or a beer with snacks after work, or book a table for a full five-course dinner.
And, this is no ordinary dinner! Dining at ProLoco D.O.L. equals traveling across Lazio – the region of which Rome is the capital – without ever leaving your table. Vincenzo Mancino, mastermind behind this deli-restaurant in the Centocelle suburb of Rome, is a tireless scavenger. He scouts out the region in careful search of the area’s best ingredients originating in Lazio (the acronym D.O.L. stands for “di origine laziale”) and he succeeds: his shop boasts an unrivaled and always growing supply of local, quality products.
Mancino’s efforts to highlight the once looked down upon Centocelle neighborhood started in 2005, when he opened D.O.L – originally located a block away from the current ProLoco – with the intent of bringing Lazio quality products to everyone, including residents of the city’s less affluent periphery. The term ‘Pro Loco’ in Italian is the city-managed local tourist office. With this addendum to the name of his expanded business in 2013, Mancino suggests the desire for his shop/bistro to be an informational “help desk” for locavore consumers.
Entering ProLoco D.O.L. the first thing you are greeted with is a blown-up black and white photo of a 1950s Centocelle tram car, in front of which sits the large refrigerated display case spilling all manner of charcuterie and cheese. Think aromatic Conciato di San Vittore – an almost forgotten cheese that Mancino helped resuscitate – or the delightful Fiocco della Tuscia, and then mozzarella di bufala from Amaseno, or “Tiella” (stuffed pizza typical of Gaeta), all kinds of local olives in various brines, prosciutto from Bassiano, lentils from Onano, Mangalitza cured pork cuts, plus bottled sauces, canned legumes, brown eggs, pasta, bread, olive oils, wine and beer. All from Lazio. If you thought the often overlooked region offers little in terms of a variety of products, microbreweries, natural wine producers and Slow Food presidia, you’ll have to think again. There’s even a choice of rabbit and poultry sourced at Cibo Libero, the farmstead inside Rome’s Rebibbia prison, run by female inmates.
Lovely decor with flea market finds and antique pieces, great mid-century vintage chairs, an open kitchen and a pizza oven introduce us to the other face of ProLoco D.O.L: the restaurant.
The menu is in constant evolution according to the seasons and updated daily on a large chalkboard in the dining room. It offers a good choice of appetizers, pasta dishes, soups, meat entrees, side dishes and fabulous pizzas (only for dinner) that are baked in round tin pans and served sliced.
An ideal meal at ProLoco D.O.L. may begin with cheese and cured meat grazing boards, then continue with assorted pizzas (I personally am intrigued by the Mangalitza pork belly, caramelized apple & onion pie as well as the chickpea cream, bufala and mortadella one). Indulge in a plate of pasta (if available don’t forego the one dressed simply with anchovies, tomato and toasted breadcrumbs). Help yourself to some ‘DOLpette’ al sugo (meatballs made with local beef, stewed in a hearty tomato sauce) and end with the ricotta and dark chocolate dessert. Don’t forget to pair your dishes with a nice Lazio wine as there’s an ample choice of natural and biodynamic labels to choose from!
Average price per person, €30.
Via Domenico Panaroli, 35 – Tel. +390624300765
Opening hours: 9:00 am – midnight, closed Sunday
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, freelance food and travel writer, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her shows “ABCheese” and “Uazz’america” are broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso Channel. Her podcast “iCheese” is recorded live on the Radio Food Live network.