When a recipe like Fettuccine Alfredo or Alfredo sauce enters popular culture, it’s easy to assume that there was no starting point, that such a dish has somehow always existed. But there was actually an individual named Alfredo who invented the original Alfredo sauce, and the real Fettuccine Alfredo story begins in a restaurant in the heart of Rome.
In this blog post I’m going to share how I tracked down the real Fettuccine Alfredo in Rome, finding the restaurant that invented this legendary dish and even eating it with the original gold cutlery used by Alfredo himself!
So put Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa on your bucket list for your Roman holiday, because this extraordinary place in via della Scrofa serves the real Fettuccine Alfredo, prepared in the original way, and it’s still the best Fettuccine Alfredo that you will ever try.
I first came across Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa in via della Scrofa in the heart of Rome almost by accident. I had been sent in search of the original Alfredo sauce, to find the real Fettuccine Alfredo for an article I was writing. ‘I don’t think it actually exists,’ I told my editor. ‘I think it’s something that was invented in the US.’ As usual, I was happy to be proved wrong!
Alfredo alla Scrofa is located in an elegant street in Rome’s historical centre, where via della Scrofa widens into an asymmetric piazza, far enough away from the usual streets populated by tourists to retain an air of the real Rome. Here I was greeted by Mario Mozzetti, the restaurant’s heir and custodian of its remarkable recipe.
According to Mario’s story, the recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo dates back to 1914 when Alfredo di Lelio opened his restaurant in this historic street in the centre of Rome. Trying to tempt his pregnant wife to eat something, he mixed parmesan cheese with triple the usual amount of butter to create nutritious and tasty dish, Fettuccine Alfredo, essentially egg pasta freshly stirred with melting butter and grated parmesan.
I feel it’s important to underline how simple – and good – the original ingredients actually are. This dish has been bastardised over the years – not to mince words – with the addition of heavy cream, vegetables and even meat. But the original Alfredo sauce or real Fettuccine Alfredo actually contain just three, high quality elements.
In a short space of time, the restaurant achieved considerable fame in Rome not just because this simple and tasty pasta dish was nothing short of a work of genius, but also because of the theatrical way in which the dish was served.
Still today, it requires a final flourish at the table, as the pasta is tossed and stirred in front of all the guests in the restaurant, to ensure that it is silky smooth when served – contributing to the recognition of the dish as a symbol of the restaurant itself.
Find the real Fettuccine Alfredo in Rome - how it is mixed at the table at Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa
Other elements which helped the dish pass into immortality – beyond Alfredo’s creativity and the quality of the ingredients – were the tales of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, two stars of Hollywood cinema at the start of the 20th century, who visited Alfredo alla Scrofa and became firm fans of Fettuccine Alfredo.
During their honeymoon in Rome in 1920 they dined at Alfredo in Via della Scrofa and remained enchanted. To say thank you for the hospitality they had enjoyed and out of appreciation for the food, the two actors sent Alfredo a gold fork and spoon engraved with their names, which is today one of the restaurant’s most prized treasures.
You can imagine how honoured I felt, then, when Mario Mozzetti insisted that I try the famous Fettuccine Alfredo, eating with the exact gold cutlery set which had been given to the restaurant in the 1920s by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. I felt at once a part of this incredible tale, which has helped it become an integral part of Italian culinary history.
In 1943 the family – which still runs the restaurant to this day – acquired the restaurant Alfredo alla Scrofa to take its traditions forward. Mario Mozzetti is a part of that original family and is a warm and charismatic host. What can I say? After that interview, in summer 2017, we became good friends, and he still invites me to drop into the restaurant today whenever I am passing.
Onto the pasta – I admit that butter and parmesan might sound like a strange mix – but the final flourish of mixing the melted butter with the finest quality cheese and the steaming pasta at the table ensures that this is served silky smooth with the right balance of fat to give the dish movement, set off by the exquisite tang of the cheese. It’s a great quick dish when you need a burst of energy to explore Rome.
The delicate hand-made pasta Fettuccine, which cook in just a few minutes, are also a crucial part of the dish’s quality. Fettuccine are a kind of egg pasta typical of central Italy. The name derives from the Italian word ‘affettare’ (slice), as it is made by slicing thin layers of pasta, which have been rolled up, into fine, even ribbons.
National Fettuccine Alfredo Day
Just in case you didn’t know, February 7th is National Fettuccine Alfredo Day. Alfredo Alla Scrofa proudly upholds this tradition with a party every year, which this year will be distinguished by the launch of a brand new book telling the story of the restaurant and the dish, Fettuccine Alfredo: una vera storia d’amore (Fettuccine Alfredo, a real love story).
Dining at Alfredo alla Scrofa
If you’re not in the mood for Fettuccine Alfredo when you visit the restaurant, Alfredo alla Scrofa has a handsome menu offering a broad range of Roman cuisine – and much more. From steamed and deep fried artichokes in the winter, to the freshest seasonal fish, as well as other pasta dishes, grilled and seared meat dishes and salads, risotto and charcuterie plates – there’s a lot to choose from to suit a varied dining party.
The desserts are also something else – can I recommend the white chocolate souffle? It’s a work of art and deserves to be followed by Alfredo’s very own artichoke and blood orange amaro – simply excellent. As you might have guessed by now, I’m a real fan, and would recommend this restaurant and trying the real Fettuccine Alfredo to anyone hoping to taste a slice of history and tradition when in Rome.
Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa, via della Scrofa 104 | Tel: +39 0668806163 | Open Monday to Sunday for lunch and dinner
Testaccina was a guest of Alfredo alla Scrofa