Tiberino, a restaurant and bar on Tiber island in Rome, makes the most of its location to create a magical escape for breakfast, lunch, aperitivo or dinner.
Boasting a unique location on the only island in the city of Rome, Tiberino takes its name from the Romans’ beloved Tiber Island, Isola Tiberina, and is something of a local institution.
There’s been a bar on this site since 1936, serving locals with coffees, drinks and gelato – in one of Rome’s loveliest spots.
Still run by the grandchildren of the original owners, who have made a few astute changes over the years, Tiberino Ristorante launched in 2015 with a tasteful refurbishment that carved out two intimate dining rooms for ‘proper’ dining, although this multi-functional space offers clearly delineated experiences all day long.
Opening at 6.30 am for breakfast, it’s a spot for locals in the earliest hours of the day, on their way to work or out for a run along the riverside. Expect good Italian coffee with freshly baked pastries, filled and classic cornetti, fried ring donuts, freshly squeezed juices and smoothies.
The quality coffee bar options continue throughout the day with mortadella sandwiches made from Rome-style focaccia, and rolls with fillings like sun-blushed tomatoes, rocket and hummus, mixing classics with the modern.
Of course, any time of day is a good time for an Italian aperitif – perhaps a sunny Aperol spritz or glass of wine at wooden tables on the island’s piazza.
While the bar counter and main room is perfect for grabbing a coffee in the morning or a drink after dark, the wooden staircase at the back leads to two mezzanine floors with wonderful river Tiber views.
Meanwhile, al fresco dining in the pretty island piazza in the warmer months means eating with a view of this historic church, the Basilica di San Bartolemeo all’Isola. Known as the martyrs’ church, it has a wonderful permanent exhibition of modern day martyrs to the Catholic cause – thought-provoking stuff.
During my night at Tiberino Ristorante, we had dinner in the upper room, a cosy, wood-lined affair, where padded benches by peerless river views make this, quite frankly, a pretty romantic spot!
It’s also a cosy space for family dining or an outing with friends. Watch the world go by while you sample a menu which is firmly in the Roman tradition, enriched with a modern touch or two, and driven by seasonal ingredients.
We started dinner at Tiberino Ristorante with a dish of deep-fried anchovies (€10). In the warmer months, this is served on a puree of red pepper – expect Jerusalem artichoke in the winter. The creamed vegetables are an important part of this dish, which could be a little on the dry side without it.
Next up, some classic Roman beef meatballs in tomato sauce (€8), with a dusting of pecorino. These were well executed, with a sweet and tasty salsa which I was delighted to mop up with bread afterwards.
It was cacio e pepe (€10) time next – the classic Roman dish combining pecorino romano cheese and lashings of black pepper. This was a little high in salt for my taste – but it’s never one of my favourite dishes.
Next, we tried this imaginative take on the Roman classic, coda all vaccinara (€14), which essentially always combines oxtail with tomato sauce. Each restaurant (and home chef for that matter) vary this recipe, attracting fierce favouritism at each end of the spectrum. There are those that go for a fresh tomato explosion, piqued by the tang of plenty of cooked-down celery, that releases its tart flavonoids into the sauce. (This is the kind of oxtail recipe I like). The other extreme coats the knuckles of meat in bitter cocoa or dark chocolate, masking the tomato in velvety choc notes – hard to do well and not always a success so I tend to avoid it on menus.
These homemade gnocchi, combining oxtail and celery with a rich tomato sauce were given extra depth with a grating of dark chocolate made from Trinidad cocoa beans. I was much than pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be an extremely well-balanced dish. The chocolate worked perfectly to add a luxurious note, without drowning out the fresh tomato flavours. it was my favourite plate of the night.
Oxtail in tomato sauce is one of Rome’s best-loved recipes, and worked equally well as a second course (€18) with vegetable sides. Balanced by chocolate and fresh celery, I was very happy with this dish.
The oxtail was accompanied with winter sides of deep-fried artichoke – in the Jewish style – and crisp chicory greens, known as puntarelle (€6). This latter dish is typically served in a lemon juice, olive oil and anchovy dressing. it’s an absolutely favourite of mine – but this was also a little on the salty side.
The dessert menu at Tiberino Ristorante changes frequently, so while you can definitely expect old favourites like tiramisu, there are also plenty of modern touches on the menu. This chocolate brownie, with cinnamon ice-cream and warm hazelnut and coffee sauce, was really well done. The brownie got the right mix of crunchy and soft and made a refreshing adjunct to the typical Roman choices.
Overall, I really enjoyed my evening at Tiberino Ristorante and would say that this is a very special place to spend some time. That Tiber Island location really is unmatched across the city, so it’s a place with the wow factor, whether you’re planning a relaxed breakfast, lazy lunch or special dinner.
One thing I would say is that the savoury dishes felt quite generous on the salt, which is something I notice, as I tend to go in the opposite direction when I cook. So if that’s something that bothers you, it’s worth taking into consideration.
But where else in Rome can you dine on a island at the foot of a medieval tower? Considering the outstanding position, the prices are very reasonable, allowing you to mix and match a selection of dishes to share. Overall, Tiberino boasts one of the most unique locations in the city, making it worth your time when in Rome.
Tiberino Ristorante Bar | Isola Tiberina | Tel 0039 066877662 |Mon-Fri: 6.30 – 23.30; Saturdays: 9.00-24.00; Sundays 9.00-20.00
Testaccina was a guest of Tiberino Ristorante