Osteria dell’Arco is a neighborhood restaurant in the northern suburbs of Rome set in a cozy space filled with flea market treasures and is known for its cuisine and small but excellent wine list. Cristina is in the kitchen and Nicoletta, the sommelier, is in the front of the house advising on all things delicious regarding food, wine and spirits.
As a culinary enthusiast and professional, when I’m not working I prefer to eat at home where I know I have the freshest most seasonal ingredients prepared by me. If I eat out, I go to a place that reminds me of home: good, fresh, solid food in an ambience of warmth and hospitality. This is exactly the experience I have here.
Thinking about home cooking and childhood memories of food made me reflect on the fact that most meals that I ate as a child (and I imagine I am not alone) were likely prepared by women: mothers, grandmothers, aunties, etc. This thought brought me to consider today’s culinary culture, which is mostly dominated by men. Even more so in the world of wine: I personally know many talented female sommeliers but as this NYT article painfully reminds us, they’re mostly invisible in the mainstream food and wine world.
I digress. Outside of Rome’s main tourist areas, Osteria dell’Arco is a breath of fresh air from the frenzy of the city center. The neighborhood is between via Nomentana and Piazza Fiume and has become a magnet for young people and families looking for a night out and a good meal. At Osteria dell’Arco, nestled in a small, quiet corner near the beautiful covered market in Piazza Alessandria, the clientele is mostly regulars from the ‘hood with a few tourists who’ve luckily wandered in by chance. I’ve been so many times with my son, Francesco, as he insists on going there for lunch the minute he gets off the plane from Los Angeles and i frequently go there alone as it is so warm and friendly.
One particular autumn Friday evening was memorable: I jumped on the tram with my friends Gina, Eleonora and Elliot, three stops later we were starting to unwind, settling into a corner table with the lighting perfectly adjusted for tired, late week eyes. The aromas from the nearby kitchen made us start salivating and Nicoletta brought us menus but also told us what was ‘off the menu’—the whimsies of Cristina that night. Since it was Friday, I went for fish knowing that’s one of the best days to find it at its freshest, starting with fried anchovies then roasted sea bream as an entrée. Elliot chose ravioli stuffed with sausage and broccoli rabe in a bagna cauda Piedmontese garlic sauce, and the lovely ladies indulged in vermicelli pasta with butter, anchovies and bottarga (cured fish roe).
We clearly were dreaming of a mix between mare e monti (the seaside and the hills). Bliss! Add a dish of roasted guinea hen stuffed with chestnuts in a sauce made with juicy, whole grapes and that hearty, sweet kick was perfect. The grapes turned us to wine and Gina, my favorite wine expert, chose a Sicilian volcanic, natural produced by Val Cerasa near Mount Etna.
Moving ever so slowly into the weekend, we finished with some warm apple cake and cinnamon gelato, plus castagnaccio, traditional Tuscan chestnut-flour cake, studded with pine nuts and rosemary, and a slice of classic Roman cherry tart crostata di visciole, accompanied by amaro: an herb-based liqueur made by Cristina’s aunt.
Warm and cozy, chatting with the owners about the week, the food, the wine and life in general we then strolled back home to peacefully settle into a hiatus of rejuvenation. Taking time to live well!
Elizabeth Janus is a passionate traveller, and makes it a point to peruse the farmer’s markets in every place she visits to get an immediate pulse of the city. For the last decade, she has been guiding discerning clients on food adventures at farmer’s markets, speciality shops and into her home for unique Italian meals to experience Italy as an Italian..