Punch in Rome’s Pigneto district headlines with pies and pints, but its menu is a surprisingly thoughtful take on English pub grub, featuring inventive cocktails and recipes from the past.
As pubs in Rome tend to mostly range from the sticky-floored Irish pub to the thoroughly Roman craft beer pub, without much in between, I’ve learned not to get too excited about the promise of new English or indeed Irish pubs in Rome.
But restaurant and bar Punch, situated off via Prenestina in Pigneto, is worth your time for its exploration of a (very) infrequently developed theme – the diets of 17th century British sailors. The Anglophile owners of Punch, Adriano Terenzi and Giacomo di Matteo, dreamed up the idea after a culinary course which got them thinking about the origins of the humble cracker.
Baked for long journeys such as sea voyages, cracker ruminations proved a short leap into the fascinating and multi-cultural world of English seafarers, raised on a diet of pies, ale and punch, and fuelled by cheese, legumes and occasional offal dishes on their heady trips round the world.
At Punch, all these ideas are filtered through a Roman sensibility about zero km ingredients and local heritage, to produce a well-balanced, tasty menu which (fortunately) only doffs its cap to a romanticised but clearly unlovely past.
The spacious locale is divided into a bar area, low slung sofas and tables for dining, creating a fun aperitivo-to rock vibe (the music gets louder later on as the lights get lower).
Although you may well come for the pints, the cocktail menu is a lot of fun – taking its fusion-lead from the great ports of the world, to contaminate classic cocktails with exotic ingredients. My Americano was blended with mint-tea in an homage to the city of Rabat.
Dinner started with these moreish fried goodies – deep fried spicy cheddar balls (€5) and boiled black pork meatballs (€5). Other options included sweet potato chips, deep fried anchovies and pea falafel, all at the same nice price. Get in!
I may get a bit emotional when I describe the moment me and a Punch pie met. Pie fillings include oxtail (€14), fish (a classy combination of white fish, clams and lemon, €14) and this beauty – combining chicken, chicken livers, portobello mushrooms and pancetta. It was a savoury triumph and for just €12 including fat chips, I am a total convert!
Next we perused the main course menu, settling for this creamy mash with seasonal veg and melt-in-the-mouth beef jowl (€14). This is quite a trendy dish in Rome at the moment and I wasn’t disappointed by this comfort food champion. Other mains include soup and salad (€8) and grilled cheese sandwich (€8) – which I will definitely come back to try!
The dessert menu includes some British classics such as cheesecake, apple pie and chocolate souffle, but this dish, called sea bisquit, caught my eye. A cross between a British summer pudding and a Neapolitan baba, this was a boozy-fruit combo, laced with the house punch (€6).
All in all, I really enjoyed the experience at Punch, a completely original restaurant run by Anglophiles who appreciate British heritage and cuisine. The prices are good, the place is fun and easy. Give it a go! (And don’t forget to tell them that Testaccina sent you).
Testaccina was a guest of Punch
Punch | Via Alberto da Giussano, 69/71 | Rome | Open 18.00 – 02.00, every day except Tuesday