Rome’s newest Calabrian restaurant and food laboratory, Forte, is a welcome game changer for the Roman dining scene.
While it’s perhaps common knowledge that the range of ethnic restaurants in Rome is patchy at best, you might imagine that the Italian regions would be comprehensively represented. That’s not entirely the case, especially if we look at the new generation of restaurant concepts. While restaurant owners from all over Italy have been setting up shop in the capital for decades, many have rather broad menus interspersed with several Roman dishes. Furthermore, most of the city’s recent openings have been less about celebrating Italian regional cuisine, punting instead for a safe-but-boring pizza / burger combo, or tipping their hat to other international food trends with mixed results.
Forte, in the energetic, high-rise Tiburtina area, is an entirely Calabrian experiment which takes no prisoners – there isn’t a token carbonara in sight. Forte (strong) by name and forte by nature, expect strong flavours and equally strong ideas.
Its brightly lit interior suits a street food vibe if you want to grab some fried goodies to go, but the pasta and pizza are so good that I would recommend staying for dinner. Forte is a true food laboratory, bringing the best of the toe of the boot to Rome with excellent, regional deep fried specialities, including zippula, made with ‘nduja or anchovies, vrascioli (croquettes) made from aubergine or meat, vecchji (dough balls), plain or with anchovies, as well as with zucchini flowers, and potato curudi. The prices are extremely modest, ranging from €2 to €3.50 per piece for the most part.
Beyond that, there’s an excellent range of southern-sourced cheeses and salami, pizza – costing no more than €9 for the most ambitious toppings, pasta – fiery with ‘nduja again or red onions from Tropea – and even two distinctly Calabrian varieties of tiramisu, infused with the regional crops of bergamot or liquorice costing just €4.50.
Even better, this eatery is also an all-Calabrian store, selling Calabrian wines, home-made bottled vegetables, sauces, dry pasta and condiments to take away and nosh at home. It’s as if you kidnapped your very own Calabrian grandma.
Owner Giuseppe Marturano chose Tiburtina for his restaurant and workshop after gaining experience running a pizzeria in the Roman suburbs, but says that should the experiment go well, he’d consider opening another in the historical centre. That’s good news for visitors to Rome, but for now, I’m more than happy to enjoy this rather lovely local secret far from the tourist crowds.
Testaccina was a guest of Forte
Via Giuseppe Marcotti 20, Rome | Tel. +39 06 69321414