Cambio Trastevere, a restaurant in one of Rome’s most charming neighbourhoods, combines a genteel take on Roman and Italian food with occasional nights of music and song to create an entertaining evening out.
Located along the busy artery leading into the district’s heart, via S. Francesco a Ripa, Cambio Trastevere is in the right place to catch both locals and tourists alike.
Trastevere remains one of Rome’s most frustrating districts, evinced no more clearly than in Rome’s ‘high-season’ (which admittedly lasts around 7-8 months), when the neighbourhood is flooded with visitors in search of that perfect Roman evening. Here come the hoards, catching Instagram-ready cobbled streets and piazzas; a line of washing and a (badly parked) Fiat 500. But what is happening behind the windows and doors of Trastevere’s restaurants?
Apart from a few honourable exceptions (including Jacopa for fine dining, Santo for cocktails, Peppo al Cosimato for pizza and Enzo al 29 for trattoria fare) there’s a dearth of honest yet inventive eateries, ready to serve an impeccable range of traditional Roman pasta dishes but also offer much more. This is where Cambio Trastevere comes in.
Cambio Trastevere: review
Cambio Trastevere has an unassuming exterior on the corner of via Natale del Grande and via di S. Francesco a Ripa, one of the main drags for reaching Trastevere, which picks up a lot of stray tourists and travellers. You’d be forgiven for walking past the green acetate menu (which, while comprehensively listing its day-to-night credentials, doesn’t really do the quality of the place justice).
Cambio Trastevere opens at 11.30 am to catch a full range of customers. As soon as you enter, you encounter a pleasant spread of tables to your left and a curved bar area to the right, which really comes into its own for morning coffees and breezy lunches while you watch the world go by.
I came to Cambio Trastevere after dark, and was led round the corner to a cosy nook with padded benches capturing a more ‘restauranty’ vibe. It’s intimate without being claustrophobic, and the tables are well-spaced.
The restaurant space of Cambio Trastevere used to be inhabited by Buff, a Mozzarella-focused restaurant, and indeed is the brainchild of former Buff chef Fabio Trovato (ex Moma and Aleph), who has teamed up with talented young wine and oil sommelier Franco Magliocchetti for a surprisingly ambitious project.
I know you’ve heard this before, but here, ingredients (and wines) really are sourced with a passion verging on obsession. We begin by tasting an extra virgin olive oil (which can also be purchased in-house) on Franco’s earnest recommendation. It’s also one of his favourites, and he should know – Franco was named best olive oil sommelier in Italy in March 2019, one of the highest credentials available in the world of this liquid gold.
The Olivastro oil from Quattrociocchi is one of the spiciest oils I have ever tasted – a sign of outstanding quality. So it is, over bread and oil – before I have even tried anything else – that I understand what kind of excitingly authentic experience I have ahead of me at Cambio Trastevere.
Cambio Trastevere: the menu
Dinner at Cambio Trastevere commences with a selection of fried goodies – to illustrate the case in point. Seasonal vegetables and mozzarella cheese are deftly deep fried in breadcrumbs and the result is light, crisp and clean to the touch (€12). Franco explains that only by deep-frying in the highest quality olive oil can you achieve this effect (that’s right – in extra virgin olive oil. Forget all that nonsense you’ve heard about extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point making it unsuitable for frying food). When you’re deep frying, the point is moot, as you don’t need to reach extreme temperatures; also, the absence of impurities at this level of quality make all the difference.
We follow this with another antipasto – tender octopus cooked sous vide, with a gentle red pepper sauce (€13). Again, this is an example of making food mastery look easy. The seafood is perfectly cooked and the sauce compliments the flavours of the sea without overwhelming. (Please note, I was eating tasting dishes so the portion size is smaller than a regular dish).
Our first ‘first course’ is a triumph. This risotto, combining smoky, creamed aubergine, bufala cream, toasted almonds, burnt tomato and chives is a topography of textures; velvet, crunch, gently yielding al dente rice (€14). The smoky and burnt flavours add a exotic huskiness although it’s an easy crowd-pleaser.
Next, we try a bourgeois take on Rome’s humble carbonara. Golden-yolked Livorno eggs, pig cheek from Norcia and a mix of eight kinds of black pepper maintain the sense of luxuriant high quality (€14).
To follow, this excellent and tender black pork shoulder is intensified with a burnt-sugar teriyaki sauce and red cabbage (€18).
We close with a classic tiramisu (€6), which is creamy and dense, although a little sweet for my taste (but I’m a fan of the darkest and bitterest versions of this popular dessert).
Cambio Trastevere has honesty running through it like a stick of rock. From exceptional food quality, to impeccable presentation and charm, I am delighted to announce that I have a new go-to restaurant in the district of Trastevere.
Overall, the dinner was a fantastic experience and the enthusiasm of Fabio and Franco clinched the deal. Franco also hand selected a couple of wines for our dinner which really hit the spot. This is an exciting and high quality prospect for one of Rome’s showcase neighbourhoods. A warm welcome to Cambio Trastevere!
Cambio Trastevere |Via di San Francesco a Ripa, 141 |Rome | Tel 06 5513 6379