Osteria dell’ingegno, a heritage restaurant in the centre of Rome, located in the historic Piazza di Pietra, was already a favoured address for local diners in the know. However, recent arrangements, which have allowed Osteria dell’ingegno to place tables in the piazza, have just raised its wow factor to a new level.
Osteria dell’ingegno celebrated its twenty-fifth birthday in 2019, a remarkable landmark for any restaurateur. However, Gianmarco Nitti, one of the restaurant’s founders and today its sole owner, was forced to follow up that celebration with one of the hardest years in the restaurant’s history.
Yet after being closed for months due to the pandemic, Osteria dell’ingegno reopened at the start of the summer with a game-changing upgrade: the restaurant would finally be able to place tables in the world-famous Piazza di Pietra.
When looking for upsides of the gobal pandemic, the transformation of Rome’s piazzas this summer is definitely up there with the best. Complicated laws about outdoor seating have been set aside to let the restaurant industry – and its customers – breathe.
I think the transformation of Piazza di Pietra is one of the finest examples of this. Dining at Osteria dell’ingegno has never charmed more, day or night, with tables placed before the centuries’ old Temple of Hadrian, an imposing, gigantic structure with darkly-scored columns, built back in 145 AD.
I’ve never understood why this monument isn’t up there with the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Spanish Steps as one of Rome’s most famous icons: I find it incredible, and finally being able to sit in the square and contemplate its rough beauty up close might help cement its status.
I recently dropped by Osteria dell’ingegno on a summer’s evening to try out this unmissable dining experience in one of Rome’s finest piazzas. On select nights, a light show is also beamed onto the Temple of Hadrian at around 9pm in the evening for an extra special treat for diners. Osteria dell’ingegno is usually open for both lunch and dinner, but at select times, including the month of August, it is only open for dinner.
As usual, I was trying tasting portions from the menu to be able to sample a larger range of dishes, so expect the real deal to be bigger than my photos!
We started our meal with raw red prawns from Gaeta, dressed with lime, mango and pink peppercorns, which set the stage for the menu ahead. Our host led with fish, due to the summer season; this quick dash down the coast was also a hint that a meal at Osteria dell’Ingegno represents a captivating dash around the Italian peninsula.
Next up was this dish representing a re-visitation of classic Tuscan poor dish panzanella – combining stale bread and tomatoes – with cuttlefish. It was very well executed, the fish not overwhelmed by the panzanella.
Next up, we tried this light, summer take on the traditional, southern eggplant-loaded parmigiana di melanzane, made with layers of sweet, fresh tomatoes. Delicious!
We moved on to this take on a tiella with endive, black olives, and buffala juices, which was a very successful combination of textures.
This first course dish, combining a risotto with saffron, topped with red mullet, was a real class act, again representing a great combination of textures and flavours.
Finally, the menu headed back down the coast to the Eternal City, with this take on the classic Roman dish, saltimbocca. Here, the tender veal meatball is topped with a strip of crispy bacon, set on a tasty mash.
Another great flavour combination from the second-course menu was this dish of yellowtail on a tepid gazpacho soup. This proved the perfect summer dish for a warm evening.
We finished up with mixed desserts including tiramisu, chocolate cake and trifle – a wonderful dash through the sweets menu!
While an evening in the piazza is absolutely breathtaking, here’s your polite reminder that the interior of the restaurant, set over two floors, is stunning as well. There are about 32 covers inside (with social distancing) and another 30 in the piazza at the moment. All that means that when the winter rolls around, the views will be no less attractive!
On top of this, even if you don’t make it for dinner at Osteria dell’ingegno when in Rome, the restaurant is serving early evening drinks in the piazza which is a great aperitivo option. For more aperitivo ideas, check out my huge post on where to have an al fresco drink in Rome!
Testaccina was a guest of Osteria dell’ingegno
Osteria dell’ingegno | Piazza di Pietra 45 | Roma | Tel 0039 066780662 | Open every day except Monday, 12.00-24.00 (closed for lunch during August)