Looking for a laid-back, gourmet lunch surrounded by wine bottles in the shadow of the Vatican?
Magazzino Scipioni is located a few steps from the Vatican Museums and metro Ottaviano, in the Prati district, a melting pot of local stores and cute clothing brands, which has turned into one of Rome’s popular foodie neighbourhoods in recent years.
Despite a raft of new openings which have raised the area’s game, it can still be tough to find a non-touristy spot in the streets leading up to St. Peter’s. Magazzino Sciponi changes all that with an industrial-chic-yet-chilled interior, walls reassuringly covered with wine bottles, staffed by a charming and knowledgeable team with passion (and maybe wine) in their blood.
Housed in an old, refurbished warehouse – which gives rise to the ‘magazzino’ part of the name – Magazzino Scipioni’s owners are architects and wine lovers, which translates into a carefully converted space which honours the stone and steel of the original structure, while updating its purpose into a modern wine warehouse run by passionate food and wine experts.
Chef Valerio Mattaccini’s international and former-Michelin-starred kitchen experience is filtered through into a menu where the food proves the perfect dance partner with the wine: no ingredients are included which would overwhelm or diminish the wines available.
Come to Magazzino Scipioni, of course, for lunch or dinner – but also for formal or informal wine tastings. One particular formula which I love allows you to order a selection of half-measure glasses at a nice price (from €7.50 for 3 tasting glasses), so you can try a few different wines with a friend.
The hallmark of the wonderful wine selection is a focus on little-known labels from Italy and France in particular, which have been obtained through a true rite of passage. The owners travel to France four times a year to seek out niche vineyards and small producers who jealously guard their tiny production schedules.
By developing relationships with French and Italian wine producers, Magazzino Scipioni sources wines that you won’t find elsewhere in Rome. That makes it an essential address not only for dining in, but also for picking up a bottle to take to a dinner party, or simply home to drink – the prices are also reasonable for the quality.
On to the dining experience. I recently visited Magazzino Scipioni for lunch to try the new spring menu and taste some unique wines which are perfect for this season.
Magazzino Scipioni is located in an area where there are also plenty of local workers looking for a rapid bite to eat, so the first couple of dishes we tried were aimed at the ‘fast quality lunch’ crowd.
Everything is made from scratch here, including the bread: this Genoa-style focaccia is filled with soft stracchino cheese and artisan ciauscolo salami, dressed with wild salad leaves. It’s a perfect sandwich paired with a glass of rose.
We drank it with this sublime rosé from Crémant, hailing from Anjou in the Loire valley.
Next we tried another fast bite, a focaccia nailed with a huge sun-dried tomato and served with creamy burrata – mozzarella injected with cream – and this wonderful artisan cured ham from Foggia. Here, expect the expert staff to know the origins of everything you are about to eat.
It was time to move on to our real gourmet lunch experience and this started with a bang: one of the most exceptional plates of beef carpaccio I have ever had. This finely chopped raw Fassona beef was served with seasonal white asparagus tips, Parmesan cream, burnt onion powder and red onion jam, and dressed with nasturtium leaves. An absolute triumph of flavours and textures that I will not forget for a while.
We ate this paired with another extraordinary rosé from Anjou which continued to rewrite all my prejudices about rosé wine.
Table details are always the hallmark of a great restaurant, and these wonderful hand-made vegetable crisps were as tasty as they looked.
From the first course menu, we moved onto this exceptional risotto, made from broccoli rabe, combined with burrata and powdered black garlic, aged in house for 45 days (€14). This was a wonderful riff on a typical Puglia recipe, combined broccoli rabe puree with crisper pieces which had been lightly blanched.
This dish was accompanied with an excellent wine from Puglia.
It was time to move onto the second course menu, and the table shared four dishes, starting with this wonderful dish of pork ribs coated in sweet barbecue sauce, on a dollop of artisan potato mash (€15). This was a really tasty choice with plenty of meat on the ribs.
Another member of our party ordered this beef cheek – from Romagnola cattle – served with lime infused potatoes (€16). The meat literally fell apart under the pressure of a fork.
This delicate salmon tataki was marinated in soy sauce and citron and served with beetroot ketchup and agretti (€15).
There was also a wonderful grilled octopus dish served with potato in different consistencies.
There was still just about room for dessert, and I particularly enjoyed this bitter cocoa tiramisu which was light on the sugar and strong in flavour. We also tried an exceptional zabaglione dish.
My favourite dessert was probably this, however – a wonderfully fresh strawberry and passion fruit cheesecake, topped with some grated ricotta.
All in all, the Magazzino Scipioni experience was extremely edifying and exceeded my expectations right across the board. Sometimes enoteca dining in Italy is a rustic affair; this was gourmet and precise, without pretentiousness.
Magazzino Scipioni | Via degli Scipioni 30 | Rome | Tel 0039 06 3974 5233
Testaccina was a guest of Magazzino Scipioni