You never know quite what to expect in the district of Pigneto, Rome’s hippest quarter, an an improbable cluster of low-density villas and social housing beyond the concrete flyover and traffic-ravaged boulevard of the Prenestina carriageway.
Did you know that the the area was established in 1870? I only found this out thanks to Pigneto 1870, an innovative restaurant that honours the district’s past in its name, which also refers to the year that the building that houses the restaurant was constructed.
Don’t let the name fool you – this restaurant offers an original dining experience which is fresh and futuristic. With fewer than 30 covers in the winter, and twice that in the summer when it sprawls over the pavement of Pigneto’s pedestrian area, Pigneto 1870 is definitely worth your time if you like your dinner with a difference.
Cagliari-born chef Andrea Dolciotti and his team are focused on seasonal ingredients, but the rules end there. He defines his goal as producing quality food while having fun, without taking himself too seriously. So when a perfume dispenser containing a hibiscus infusion is produced by the waiter to spray one of the first courses, I advise you to just go with the flow.
To understand the price point, here’s a copy of the March 2018 menu – but be aware that it changes frequently, so this is more a general guide than a current list.
The chef prepared a tasting selection, in part off-menu, so I could get a sense of the restaurant’s range. And what a range it was!
The amuse bouche pre-meal looked something like this – cuttlefish tartare, with a sponge of spinach, sprayed with an infusion of Hibiscus. Quite a start.
Next up, this delicious morsel of monk fish served with raw and cooked mushrooms was beautifully balanced with the addition of a mushroom tea.
After that, one of the house specials, dubbed ‘cuore di Roma’ – the heart of Rome. This fine sheet of beef envelops refried chicory greens, served with grilled artichoke and anchovy mayonnaise.
You might have noticed that the chef served a second-course-like dish before the pasta. I was frankly open to anything by this stage!
Still, it was great to move onto the pasta course next and try these beautiful, handmade tortelli, with fried jerusalem artichoke and bottarga.
Remember I told you that chef Dolciotto is from Sardinia? Apart from the focus on fish up until that point, this really came to light in the next course.The tiny, amber pearls below are fregola, a kind of Sardinian pasta. They’re served on red mullet, with chicken livers (sooo good).
Just when I thought the surprises couldn’t get any bigger, we passed to one of the most traditional dishes in Rome, the Carbonara. But what a Carbonara! Happily, the photo does it justice. Can I conjure up for you the wonderful sweet and salty egg emulsion, and those smoky morsels of pig cheek… delicious!
Next, just to keep us on our toes, we were invited to sample a pre-dessert. This was designed to bridge from savoury to sweet with a beautiful combination of white chocolate and gorgonzola mousse, pecorino cheese crumble, and pear cooked in red wine. It’s topped by a caramel pop-corn. What fun!
I couldn’t have been more delighted with the choice of dessert. Who doesn’t love lemon meringue pie? The tart, lemon notes, as ever, balance the soft meringue, and are evened out by the biscuit crumble. Truly exquisite.
This was one of the most exciting meals I tried this year. It’s great to see a chef at the top of his game and entertaining, teasing and delighting his guests in this way. Here, starters are in the €13-€15 range, first courses €10-€14, and mains €16-€19. Remember folks, if this restaurant was in the touristy part of Rome, you’d be paying double. Highly recommended for any occasion.
Pigneto 1870 | Via del Pigneto, 25 | Rome, Italy | Tel +39 06 702 1401
Testaccina was a guest of Pigneto 1870
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