El Porteno, Rome’s hippest restaurant near the Pantheon, is a feast for the eyes and the stomach. From the queues of beautiful people outside, to the sultry, latin vibe of Argentinian steakhouse El Porteno, it has been called the coolest restaurant in Rome.
But is Argentinian restaurant El Porteno all smoke and no fire? Is the food as amazing as the ambience and the cool credentials of the diners? I went along to find out!
El Porteno, restaurant near the Pantheon, Rome
This beautifully appointed steakhouse near the Pantheon has a couple of distinguishing characteristics. Firstly, it’s a rare restaurant option for late-night diners in Rome: you can sit down and order any time up until midnight, and stay here until after 1 am. That is one reason why Argentinian steakhouse El Porteno is so popular with a young and beautiful crowd: it’s a restaurant open in clubbing hours.
Another, perhaps surprising fact: Argentinian restaurant El Porteno is part of a chain. The first four El Porteno restaurants opened in Milan over the past few years, each one more stunning than the rest. Their popularity in Italy’s fashion capital inspired the owners to bring the brand to Rome – and so far, it’s a huge hit.
The capacious restaurant, distinguished by dark walls and vintage prints, has a bijoux bar at the entrance, which is staffed by competent mixologists. I kicked off with a classic French 75 while we waited for our table.
The restaurant opens out into two ground floor rooms, plus a lamplit basement space dressed with drapes which is an equally enticing dining hall. Chandeliers and Argentinian memorabilia transport you into a corner of Buenos Aires, while the musical soundtrack is also in theme.
Argentinian steakhouse El Porteno: menu + food review
Although the menu is large and varied, the focus of the restaurant is steak, so it’s mostly tailored for meat eaters. Expect a surprisingly diverse starter menu which explores South American and European flavours. From marinated tongue to melted provala served with rocket and sun-dried tomatoes, or scrambled eggs with pata negra, the starters also include roast beef and beef ‘sashimi’ for the real carnivores. Starters are priced between €12 and €18.
We started with a selection of empanadas, followed by the pan-melted provala with rocket and tomatoes which was a tasty way to kick off proceedings. Expect to also have a selection of spreads and dips brought to your table along with the bread.
When it comes to the main dish, again, meat is not your only option. There is a rich salad menu, plus a grilled salmon platter. Asparagus pancakes, wok fried vegetables with basmati rice, or pasta with tomato sauce mean that everyone in your party will find something they like.
However, I was here to try the steak. Argentinian steakhouse El Porteno offers over 20 cuts of beef, ranging from Argentinian Black Angus as a cube roll, fillet, rib eye and more, to veal rib eye and rack of lamb, chicken breast, capon, and regional specialities such as a chorizo sausage for the table, or fried offal. The most prestigious cuts are offered by the kilo, with prices ranging from around €30 for the regular steaks to €160 per kilo for the finest fillet.
The steaks and other meat dishes are accompanied by retro sides, including coleslaw, potato salad, pumpkin puree, fries and chunky tomato salsa. Expect your server to slice the meat over a hot grill which is brought to the table. This service is pretty useful if you are a mixed party and want to try a range of different cuts.
We tried two quite different steaks: the cube roll of Black Angus, and a dark and flavourful Black Angus ribeye which was striking in taste. The meat was perfectly cooked, pink right through.
A word or two about the wine list, which is stocked with South American and European options, so this a great chance to try a smooth Malbec or something you don’t usually drink in Rome.
To finish off dinner, we had rolled pancakes filled with dulche de leche – a sweet but perfect treat!
Review: El Porteno, trendy restaurant near the Pantheon
El Porteno is definitely a trendy restaurant which excels for people-watching. The clientele is well groomed and young. At the end of the meal, Argentinian boiled sweets are brought to the table.
However, this isn’t just a superficial scene. A lot of care has gone into the menu and the dishes were all well executed, while the steaks were amongst the best I have eaten in Rome. At the end of the day, you are probably paying a little extra to dine in the coolest restaurant in Rome, but sometimes, a great ambience is what makes the night. Booking essential!
If you’re interested in exploring a South American vibe when in Rome, I would also recommend South American restaurant Casa Marcelo. For more great steaks, Meaters Brace Bar near Ponte Milvio is a must.
Testaccina was a guest of El Porteno
El Porteno | Via dei Redentoristi, 6 | Roma | 06 6935 6780