Piazza Vittorio: Rome’s most misunderstood neighbourhood

Piazza Vittorio: probably Rome’s most misunderstood district. Frustrating, vital, dirty, inspiring, intimidating, unique. At first glance, this turn-of-the-century square appears to provide a pretty green park just a few minutes from Termini,  with a perimeter of elegant porticoes that recall stately Turin at the foot of its tall apartment buildings. But under those arches, the vintage stone floor is covered in rubbish; traditional businesses, faded and fading, compete with neon pop-up shops selling cheap Chinese jewellery and mass-produced ethnic food. In the middle of all of this, a brand new three storey bar, Gatsby Café, has recently opened, uniting present and past with a gentle homage to Piazza Vittorio’s history.

Gatsby detail skylight

A review of Gatsby Café in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio

Gatsby Café, which has taken over the space previously occupied by an historic local milliner’s, Venturini, has done anything but obliterate the former hatmaking enterprise. While a bold, brass coloured bar welcomes customers as soon as they enter, there are still plenty of links to the past which have been lovingly restored. Art deco fixtures and fittings have been polished to within an inch of their lives, revived by fresh paintwork – deep emerald green on the ground floor – while the upper floors mix 1950s-1970s furniture in clean, artisan-friendly spaces. The middle, mezzanine space even houses a permanent exhibition of hat-making, while an entire wall along the top deck proudly bears the neon signage which has been plucked from outside, painstakingly restored, now serving to illuminate the bar’s third and perhaps cosiest level.

Ready for a year of new #ventures and new #adventures? Taking stock in Piazza Vittorio’s fabulous new Gatsby Café, created over three floors in an old milliner’s store.

A photo posted by Travel blogger Isobel Lee (@testaccina1) on

While this bar and bistro serves Italian-café standards, including coffee, tea, ginseng and juices, it perhaps comes into its own at nightfall, when customers gather for the aperitivo hour. While its tempting to order a classic cocktail in these vintage surroundings, you might want to take a tip from one of the waiters – all smartly dressed with soft felt fedoras – and try one of Gatsby’s specials, a Spritz made from Rabarbaro Zucca, a rhubarb-based liquor, or another pre-dinner drink flavoured with sweet lychees. I haven’t eaten there yet, but understand that brunch is planned for weekend mornings, as well as tapas-style nibbles including vegetarian and vegan options.

A new bar in Rome's Piazza Vittorio, called Gatsby Café, is leading the way for the renaissance of this misunderstood and overlooked Roman neighbourhood.

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Gatsby Café’s place in the renaissance of Piazza Vittorio

Gatsby Café is the brainchild of Luca Della Valle, a professional photographer, and engineers Gianluca Giordano and Fabio Lippa. Together with Gabriele Guerra and Mauro Patatini, they opened the bar and bistro at the end of 2016 to a fanfare from local media, and don’t plan to be just a passive resident in Piazza Vittorio. Recent evenings have been enriched by informal talks about the area’s architecture and music sessions broadcast live on Facebook. Gatsby Café’s ambitions to become a cultural centre reflect its pride at literally fusing with the past while creating something completely new. Piazza Vittorio has so much potential and it’s deeply satisfying to see its wonderful heritage proudly preserved and yet in a state of vibrant evolution. We can only hope that neighbouring entrepreneurs and businesses take note.

Gatsby Café,
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele 106
Tel 06 69339626

© Rome blogger Isobel Lee

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