Borgo Pio is one of the prettiest streets in Vatican City, lined with restaurants and bars and typified by a real buzz. However, many of the restaurants here have become tourist traps in recent years, and you should expect to be pounced on by half a dozen restaurant bookers as you walk down the street.
My advice is to keep walking to number 50, where Passpartout has set up its stall in a former 16th century building, with a charming secret garden in the back for low-season lunches and dinner in spring and summer.
The first thing you see when you enter Passpartout is a handsome counter and bar with a narrow row of low tables and another wall of high stools, perfectly designed for an early evening drink, or a glass of wine accompanied with a slate of cold cuts and local cheeses.
There’s a smart slicing machine standing pride of place on the bar which underlines the serious charcuterie selection available here. In fact, what better way to start your evening than with a board of local cold cuts and a glass of Italian wine?
Passpartout opens at 11 in the morning and stays open right until 1 in the morning, so it also caters for small appetites or in-between meals, hot and cold drinks and cocktails, as well as the regular lunch and dinner services.
If you’re staying for dinner, I can highly recommend arriving a little earlier and grabbing a cocktail at the bar. The Passpartout cocktail menu features all the classics plus a couple of rotating specials.
I ordered a classic bramble cocktail with gin and crème de mûre. Fresh, tangy and delicious.
The Passpartout dinner menu is a mix of Roman and Italian classics, served with gourmet presentation, and distinguished by a rich selection of grilled fish and meats which give the menu an international vibe.
We began with a starter of fresh grilled octopus, which retained a lovely, smokey tenderness and really hit the spot. Prices on the antipasti menu range from €8 to €16, with this octopus dish coming it at the maximum price.
Next up, this ravioli filled with ricotta and lemon, dressed with grilled tomatoes and thyme, was a triumph of flavours with the deep tomato notes complimenting the fragrant ricotta. Please note, mine was just a tasting portion. A full sized portion of this dish usually costs €12.
I also sampled the Passpartout carbonara, from the ‘traditional’ page in the menu. You can order carbonara, amatriciana and cacio e pepe here so you don’t have to miss out on traditional Roman dishes. These are priced at €10.
I also noticed a handsome pasta with butter and anchovies on the menu which I would love to come back and try.
On to the main course, and my vegetarian dining companion scored this wonderful grilled artichoke which really hit the spot (€6). Side dishes including seasonal and Roman-style vegetable servings and are prepared very well at Passpartout.
Taking advantage of the fact that Passpartout has a great reputation for grilled meats and fish, I opted for this tasty grilled skewer of grilled pork stuffed with sausage, contrasted by tangy cubes of fresh, grilled pineapple. This is priced at €12 and comes highly recommended, both for flavour and price.
On to dessert, which is another area of expertise for Passpartout. This gorgeous take on the French dessert, apple tarte tatin, was dressed with a dollop of confectioners’ cream. Just delicious and the right price at €7.
The overall Passpartout experience was a very good one, and I was also delighted to hear of their ambitious plans.
As well as selling a delicious selection of sauces and conserves in-house, they are also working on opening a hotel on the upper floors of the building, with a rather boutique offering of 14 rooms and a roof terrace with views across St. Peter’s. I can’t wait until it’s ready – bookmark this page for further news.
What can I say? In the middle of touristy Borgo Pio, Passpartout is a haven of authentic cuisine and sensible prices.
Passpartout | Borgo Pio 50 | Rome, Italy | Tel 0039 0640412368 | Open Monday-Sunday, 11.00-01.00
Testaccina was a guest of Passpartout