Just outside of the city of Rome is the ancient port, Ostia Antica. It is now an inland archeological site similar to Pompeii and Herculaneum for the quality of monuments and preservation, providing insight into ancient Roman life.
A few minutes from the site is the coastal town of Ostia. It is filled with private beaches on the lido (the Carabinieri state police have their own as does the national television network RAI) but there are public ones a short distance away.
Taking a quick train ride from Ostia Antica, if you get off at the Castel Fusano stop and walk two minutes towards the beach, there is an upscale restaurant called La Vecchia Pineta, whose name translates as ‘old pine forest’, those glorious Roman umbrella pine tree woods scattered throughout the area. The restaurant is located in an historic 1930s building and the architecture is amazing but the food and the view are very good too. Massimo, the owner, greets you at the door and, weather permitting, will escort you to your table out on the terrace overlooking the sea (reservations, especially during summer, are suggested).
Obviously fish and seafood are in order and both are brought to your table in an ice-filled cart so you can choose amongst the catch of the day. One of my favorites is an antipasto of moscardini (baby squid), fried with leeks. After, depending on the mood, I like a simple baked sea bass with roasted potatoes and a side of vegetables, which will vary according to the season. Their wine list is nice and a good, cold Greco di Tufo goes beautifully with both the food and the scent of the salt water nearby.
For a less expensive meal, on the other side of the lido, is an area called Capocotta. A more relaxed environment, it is a bit harder to reach but there are buses that stop there frequently or taxis can be found at the Ostia lido train station. One place that I always go to is Osteria Mediterranea, which is nestled behind incredible dunes that are a Municipality of Rome protected area. It is a simple restaurant filled with families and also single diners and one can get great fish, pasta, other seafood, and a cold glass of white wine, then take a walk on the beach or swim. The service is friendly and efficient and the view is fantastic.
A short distance down from Osteria Mediterranea is another spot frequented mostly by locals: Dar Zagaia. A family-run place, they specialize in the freshest fish and seafood of the day. The wine is average but the atmosphere is familial, including the cranky sisters who often serve tables. It’s my son’s favorite spot when he wants to go to the beach with friends to swim and play beach soccer. The menu is classic seaside at a great value and their sgroppino is perfect after a meal on a hot sunny day. It is a lemon sorbet with prosecco and a little vodka. After that it’s back to the beach for a well-deserved snooze.
La Vecchia Pineta, Lungomare Lutazio Catulo at P.za dell’Aquilone 4 – Tel. +39 06 5647 0255
Osteria Mediterranea, Via Litoranea km. 8 Capocotta – Tel. +39 347 210 9002
Dar Zagaia, Via Litoranea km. 7.6 Capocotta – Tel. +39 06 563 05026