Hidden Gems in Rome: Al Cantuccio Restaurant
Most of the places I go to eat in Rome come with the stamp of approval from friends, family or one of my favorite foodie bloggers. It’s very rare that I’ll try somewhere new on a whim, especially if it’s on the pricier side because there are so many mediocre options around that it most likely will end up a disappointment.
When it comes to Al Cantuccio though, I’d say the only way to find out about out about it is by word of mouth. It’s tucked away on a small side street in a lesser-known area of Rome, which would take some effort and planning from someone staying in the center or south of Rome. There’s no signage, the street number isn’t really visible either and they don’t even have a website. Aside from a few Google and Trip Advisor reviews (which can be so, so wrong), Al Cantuccio is basically incognito.
I found it by walking along Via Tripoli on my way to the very popular Dolce (expect a post on this dessert fav very soon!) and did a double take as I saw some of its very interesting decor out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t sure if it was someone’s home but it did seem like a restaurant so of course I started Googling the minute I walked by.
Two days later I called and begged for Saturday reservations for my birthday, which they were just barely able to fit me in for, after telling me that they were booked up 2 weeks out. Of course, all of this piqued my interest even more and I was beyond excited to check it out, hoping that it wouldn’t be a dud and leave me unsatisfied with my birthday dinner.
Fortunately, it was better than I could’ve hoped and today I’m sharing what I think makes this place so special and why I’d go back again in a heartbeat.
Alice in Wonderland decor vibes
The stand out features of Al Cantuccio have to be the decor and the service, followed closely by the lovely, homemade food that you can just tell is made with love. Carla, the owner, is so welcoming and immediately greeted me by name, telling us to sit where we’d like and enjoy the prosecco/aperitivo options that were brought over right away.
Edoardo and I got there at 8:30, which is crazily the earliest reservation available, and were immediately seated in the back of the restaurant in a small grotto/wine cellar that was private from the rest of the space. There are multiple rooms available in the restaurant, including an outdoor area that still feels secluded because it’s below street level and covered
Walking in, my head was swiveling back and forth, taking in the very eclectic decor made up mostly of antiques, which I later found out were all collected by Carla’s family and added in over time. The walls are full of art, tea cups, garden hats and the random tchotchkes you’d find at your grandmother’s house. When I wandered into the bathroom, I almost jumped out of my skin when a motion-detecting frog started ribbeting, if that gives you an idea of their eccentricity and unique style. It was completely different from any other restaurant I’ve been to in Rome.
The handmade, seasonal food
I want to clarify that at no point in the night did I see a menu. Everything was verbally shared by Carla or a waiter and we were offered a few pasta options, meat dishes and then dessert. There was also a fairly robust wine list with wine by the glass options and bottles available.
The primos were what I was most looking forward to because I had seen a picture of some pretty beautiful ravioli online earlier, but I ended up going for the crepes with zucchini because it was my birthday and #cheese. They were tender, oozing hot mozzarella and slightly lighter than their saucey counterpart. Edoardo got tagliolini al limone e zafferano (lemon and saffron pasta) which had an interesting flavor combo and the most tender, fresh tagliolini as a base. He was full by the second course, probably because I’d forced part of my crepes on him, so opted for some vegetables while I got the roast beef in a Barolo reduction that was outstanding, so tender and flavorful. The roasted vegetables were also great (they offer a polpette di melanzane, zucchine and other sides) but didn’t have any vegan options for a first course, as all of the pasta is made by hand with eggs.
Then came my biggest regret of the night, when we skipped dessert. I thought we were headed to Dolce after for drinks and dessert (which in the end didn’t end up happening) but when I heard Carla listing off the options, I was so tempted. This was completely confirmed when the couple sitting next to us said it was the best part of the WHOLE MEAL. Safe to say, save room for dessert, people.
In terms of pricing (which you don’t find out until you get the check at the end), the pasta dishes were around €16, the seconds from €18-22 depending on if you get meat or veggies, and our wine was €8 a glass. Our total for 2 people came out around €80, which I think is a great value for the attention, quality and overall level of the food we got.
The family-run, super friendly service
By far, the biggest reason why I would go to Al Cantuccio again (and plan on doing so very soon!) is the restaurant’s history and family values. Carla runs the restaurant, but it’s actually her mother in the kitchen who supervises and sends out these Roman classics with a twist. Each plate is thoughtfully put together with fresh, local ingredients and the menu is seasonal. Hearing someone who is so obviously passionate about food and her business list off your dinner options makes the experience so much more personal and meaningful.
I love supporting family run businesses here, especially when the quality and service is so outstanding. I think Al Cantuccio is the perfect place to celebrate an important date or even a normal day with people you care about. The entire experience is laid back, yet romantic and there’s plenty of time in between courses to catch up over the candlelight and enjoy the completely unique surroundings. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch a sight of one of the two cats who wander around.
Run, don’t walk, to Al Cantuccio for your next dinner out in Rome, but make sure to give Carla a call first and tell her Abigail sent you ;)
71, Via Tripoli, Roma
06 8621 4102