Da Francesco restaurant, Piazza del Fico in Rome, has become one of Rome’s best-loved downtown eateries for honest pizza and pasta. As much an institution in Piazza del Fico as the eponymous fig tree, the old men playing chess under its boughs, and the cheerful Bar del Fico, Da Francesco Rome is unmissable for a hearty pit-stop when visiting the city.
But if you’re looking for a more refined experience, delivered by trusted hands in this pretty part of old Rome, where do you go?
Funnily enough, the Boni family behind Da Francesco have come up with an answer, converting an upper-floor flat over their original trattoria into a bijoux gourmet restaurant challenging some of the city’s starriest eateries.
Named Da Francesco Su (which simply means, above Da Francesco), the entrance is round the corner, leading you straight up a flight of wooden stairs to a very well-appointed, glossy bronze and ash wood space, with teal velvet benches. There are around 30 covers and the vibe is very different to Da Francesco downstairs.
While both Da Francesco and Da Francesco Su share the same kitchen, with the food hoisted up to serve diners at Da Francesco Su, the latter is a much more refined (and more expensive option), giving a chance for resident Japanese chef Motokazu Nishimura (Gen to his friends) to shine.
Gen is well versed in the arts of Italian cuisine, and was actually one of Japan’s most highly rated Italian chefs before moving to the Old Continent some 15 years ago. Today, he displays an extremely broad knowledge of world food trends and forensic knife skills, which he wields to weld Italian traditions to an exciting, modern outlook.
I won’t conceal my surprise, but dinner at Da Francesco Su turned out to be one of my favourite dinners of the year. Read on to find out more about the Da Francesco Su menu and my experience!
Dinner at Da Francesco Su started with an octopus amuse bouche, courtesy of the chef, cooked sous vide and then finished on the grill. Beautifully tender, this was a promising start to the meal.
Next up, the meal began in earnest with another surprise from Gen – a simply sensational combination of flavours. Exhibit A is a fresh langoustine wrapped in lard, accompanied by foie gras with pomegranate seeds and jus. This sinfully decadent starter was surprisingly clean on the palate, arresting the attention of all diners at the table.
We followed this with a deftly executed but more homely blend of flavours from the regular menu, a baccala sphere with aromatic panko breadcrumbs and chickpea puree (€18). Although less dramatic than the preceding dish, this was comfort food at its best (I could have eaten three bowlfuls of that wonderful chickpea cream).
Bearing in mind that I was trying a tasting menu to get the measure of the restaurant, so don’t mind the portion size, the next dish comprised perfectly made red prawn tortelli with celeriac, in a seafood sauce (€28). The bisque was a little high on salt but this was another assured dish.
I am always on the look-out for great fish restaurants in Rome, and the next dish confirmed that Da Francesco Su is a real contender for this list. The bouillabaisse was a high end combination of delicacies including saffron, langoustine and scorpion fish, served with a broth made from its own crushed carapaces and seasonal vegetables (€32).
This was a sensational dish, full of flavour and rich in quality. We completed the meal with a seasonal, precision dessert of chestnuts, meringue, cape gooseberries and hazelnut, topped with a flash of edible gold leaf (€10). Another wow dish and assured performance from the chef.
I have to admit that I didn’t expect the apartment above Da Francesco restaurant to conceal such treasures. Da Francesco Su is a sensational restaurant and a chance to experience the work of a really exciting up-and-coming chef. The only thing to bear in mind is that the prices reflect the excellence of the experience and you should expect to spend upwards of €80 on a three course a la carte dinner, without wine.
I loved my meal here and would heartily recommend the restaurant, as an excellent gourmet experience in the heart of Rome.
Da Francesco Su | Via del Corallo, 3 | Rome | Italy | Tel +39 06 686 4009
Testaccina was a guest of Da Francesco Su
If you’re in the Piazza del Fico area, you might also want to check out the romantic and refined Coromandel, ideal for a lazy brunch or an intimate dinner date.