Benco Rome, a new, affordable gourmet restaurant near the Vatican, combines the warmth of the Italian south with smart, modern style.
Benco launched right at the end of February, so had to take a three month hiatus right at the start of operations. However, happily, the restaurant reopens on 11 June, serving lunch and dinner, with the addition of pavement tables for the summer season.
While the family behind Benco Rome are restaurateurs from the Southern Italian region of Calabria – the ball of Italy’s foot on the map – this bright, contemporary restaurant in Rome’s Prati district offers seasonal Mediterranean dining for locals and travellers in the know.
The name is a portmanteau of owners Arturo Converso and Manuel Bennardo, uncle and nephew respectively, while the menu is designed by executive chef Paolo Cappuccio, who is also a professor of Mediterranean cuisine.
Naples-born chef Gennaro Pernice, whose former experience includes gourmet restaurants in Rome and Sardinia, upgrades traditional recipes with carefully selected aromas, plating dishes with finesse.
Benco is a great spot for an evening meal, but also comes into its own at lunchtimes offering a specially designed menu with antipasti at €10, traditional pasta dishes for €12 and second course dishes for €12-€14. Bread, water and cover charge is included so this is exactly what you pay – making it an excellent lunch option near the Vatican.
Although a cellar space, the indoor options of this well-illuminated spot include a spacious main dining room, plus a wine caveau with a splendid custom polygonal table for private dining, wine tastings and more.
I went to try the evening meal at Benco, savouring a range of plates from the full menu. Our dinner started with exceptional comfort food – this white bean puree, infused with rosemary, and served with whipped baccalà (€16). Smooth, savoury and delicious.
I was sampling a custom tasting menu so remember that actual portion sizes will be larger on the whole. Next up, beef tartare from Piedmont cattle, with gelled egg-yolk, and mustard crisp (€16). Again, this plate was exalted by the flavour combinations.
One of the Benco Rome hallmarks is the handmade pasta. These tortello shapes, filled with pumpkin and pear mustard, were served with a Castelmagno cheese sauce and shavings of black truffle (€14). Another elegant success story.
We continued our exploration of Benco’s pasta menu with these wonderfully satisfying fettuccine, served with an oxtail sauce and plated over a 24-month-aged Parmesan cream (€16).
Next, we moved onto the second course menu, for a taste of this roast octopus served with pungent Jerusalem artichoke and a cream of smoked Parmesan cheese (€22).
Rustic beef jowl is a key food trend this year, but this version, braised in Petraro wine and served with seasonal vegetables, shifted into a gourmet note with its satisfying red wine complexities (€24).
Dessert was another stunner – this raspberry gel filled with white chocolate was served on a cocoa sable with tiny meringues, for a sweet-tart finish.
All in all, Benco is a great option in Rome at lunch or dinner, ideally located for a visit to the Vatican Museums, Saint Peter’s Basilica, or for a spot of shopping along via Cola di Rienzo. Put it on your list, when dining in Prati!
Benco Ristorante | Via Fabio Massimo 101 | Rome | Tel 0039 06 3972 8933
Testaccina was a guest of Benco Rome