Va.Do al Pigneto is a great value restaurant in Rome’s Pigneto district serving creative Italian cuisine.
Pigneto is one of my favourite going out districts in Rome for good reason. This slightly down-at-heel neighbourhood, east of Termini and tucked behind the great concrete boulevard La Prenestina, is a compelling mix of turn-of-the-century single story villas and an edgy, contemporary scene. Low rents make it the perfect crucible for creative workshops and experimental bars and restaurants, many of which pass the savings onto their customers.
So I always love trying new places to eat in Pigneto, and Va.Do al Pigneto was no exception. Although the restaurant has been open for more than a year, somehow I missed its inauguration and visited for the first time in November. On a dim and rainy night, its warmly lit post-industrial interiors were the perfect mix of cosy and hip. We grabbed the window seat with atmospheric views of a typical Pigneto street scene, feeling like we were definitely in the right place as the storm settled in.
The Va.Do al Pigneto menu takes its inspiration from Roman and Italian classics and then surpasses expectations with exceptional attention to detail and innovative touches. The executive chef is Giorgio Baldari, who has worked with Antonello Colonna in the past as well as cooking in restaurants from Montecarlo to Madrid. Day-to-day you’ll find chef Martina Prospero in the kitchens, plus friendly and competent serving staff in the restaurant.
The starter or antipasti menu is particularly appetising and my dining companion chose a vegan-friendly crispy wholemeal flatbread made from quinoa and turmeric with pumpkin and porcini mushrooms to start with (below) which was just the right mix of crunchy and succulent, with an excellent nod to seasonal, autumnal ingredients. Dubbed Vegan into The Wild, the price is €10.
I opted for a filo pastry-wrapped whole tomino cheese, warm, oozing perfection, served with homemade pear and grappa sauce and crispy speck, called Val Chisone (€9). I loved the textures and flavours of this dish, combining sweet and savory to great effect. Definitely a unique choice at Va.Do al Pigneto.
The appetisers were ideal for opening the stomach and inspiring further eating. In terms of first courses, I couldn’t resist trying the Cacio e Ovo pasta dish (€11), which is a kind of carbonara ravioli. Expect a lovely emulsion of eggs and tangy pecorino cheese, served with matchsticks of guanciale. We divided this exceptional dish (hence the small portion size in the picture) but I would definitely order it alone in future. A really, tasty and well-executed first course.
The second course menu at Va.Do al Pigneto is an inspiring mix of meat and fish, including dishes such as seared tuna fillet (€18), wok fried prawns with Chinese mushrooms and bamboo, or hunter’s chicken.
I considered myself an unabashed carnivore, so plumped for the pan-fried fillet steak, described on the menu as Filetto al Caminetto, seared with butter and served with rosemary roast potatoes.
Plump was the right word – just look at this gorgeous piece of fillet, cooked to perfection! The potatoes were crispy and full of flavour. Paired with an excellent chianti classico from the menu it was a great choice and exceptional value at €20.
My dining companion tried the creamy North Atlantic baccalà with fried polenta, another triumph of textures and flavour (€18).
We couldn’t leave without sampling something from the tempting dessert list at Va.Do al Pigneto. Options include fried cocoa ‘fettuccine’, almond lattice tart and tiramisu.
We decided to share a Tatin di Mele, a lovely baked apple dish with crumble biscuits and caramel glaze (€5).
Again, I loved the chef’s use of contrasting textures, with the biscuit combining beautifully with the soft, stewed fruit.
The bill came to around €50 per head for an absolutely sensational journey through the entire menu. Highly recommended for Pigneto locals and anyone passing through Rome looking for the right combination of creativity and great value.
Va.Do al Pigneto
Via Braccio da Montone, 56
00176 Rome, Italy
Tel 06 4555 3582
Testaccina was a guest of Va.Do al Pigneto