Barbieri 23 is the kind of restaurant I love. It’s perfect for those in-between nights, when you would like to share a good bottle of wine and some excellent food, but you’d prefer to graze informally, rather than raise your cutlery across acres of starched table cloth beside equally stiff waiters.
The brain-child of chef Giorgio Baldari, Roman born but enriched by international experiences, Barbieri 23 reflects his love of travel and a passionate search for great ingredients at their source.
With less than 25 covers, the vibe is intimate and refined in one of the prettiest corners of old Rome, along the cobbled streets that lead to Campo de’ Fiori.
The bar area in the first room is a great spot to perch and enjoy a glass of wine or a quick bite on the go. But if you want to sample the real Barbieri 23 experience, you’ll probably want to book a table in the main dining area.
The sharing platters are the jewel in the crown of the varied menu. They have esoteric names which transmit their ambitions: above, Poseidone, named for the King of the Oceans, represents a journey through some of the freshest, raw fish I have ever tasted. It includes raw Mediterranean seabass with honey mustard and black truffle sauce; albacore tuna fillet with cured yellow tomatoes; Norwegian salmon with apple-scotch bonnet sauce and elderberry juice, plus cobia tartare with artichoke salad (€30).
The salmon selection, Boreale (€35), was also excellent. This includes a portion of dill dry-marinated salmon gravlaks; Norwegian smoked salmon; organic farm-raised Scottish salmon from Orkney; Wild Canadian red king salmon, and Keta salmon caviar. I feared this dish would prove repetitious, but it was absolutely sensational.
The salami platters were a huge surprise. Giorgio loves to confound expectations, and the sharing platter, above, is distinguished by a complete absence of pork products. Dubbed Impressioni di Bovino, it includes cuts of smoked beef and bresaola, beef pastrami, beef speck, and even beef versions of capocollo and culatello. Sensational. (€37).
We also tried another selection of rare and local cold cuts and salamis which Giorgio combined for us on the spot. The sharing platters make an ideal light dinner for two, shared with a bottle of wine or bubbly.
I would normally have stopped here, but I wanted to try the ‘regular’ menu too. Barbieri 23 also caters for diners who want to follow an antipasto, first and second course route. (There’s also a white lasagne that I will definitely come back to try).
This incredible whole goose liver was a delicate and creamy treat (€18) served with apple sauce and roast potatoes, ideally paired with a glass of Amarone.
My dining companion tried the Mediterranean seabass, lacquered with pimento peppers, and served with crushed hazelnuts and tomatoes (€22).
There was still room for dessert, and I was pleased to see that the rich seam of originality continued to run through this part of the menu.
One of the house specialities is this sensational jiggly cake, or Japanese cheesecake, distinguished by a rustic texture which is perfect for absorbing flavours, such as this cherry sauce (€8).
I tried a light and tart dish dubbed Cosma & Damiano, comprising crispy meringue, with jellied strawberries and lemon (€8) – sweet and fresh.
Overall, the Barbieri 23 experience was an extremely satisfying one, with chef Giorgio combining a genuine passion for sourcing only the best ingredients, with a willingness to range across the Mediterranean region and indeed all of Europe to find exciting flavours.
There’s lots left to explore on the menu, and I was impressed with the prices too, more than reasonable considering the extremely high quality on offer. Barbieri 23 also calls itself an enoteca and there isn’t space to talk about the depth and breadth of wines available, all selected by the owner. All in all, a fantastic voyage of discovery which only inspires further wanderlust in the curious diner.
Testaccina was a guest of Barbieri 23
Barbieri 23 | via dei Barbieri 23 | Rome | Tel +39 06 6880 7047