When in Rome, do as Mitch Weinstein and visit the lovely Trattoria Monti.
By Mitch Weinstein
Arriving in Rome after a mid-morning flight from Palermo, Significant Eater and I found ourselves significantly hungry. It was the heart of the lunch hour, popular restaurants are pretty full at lunch and if you show up without a reservation, you take your chances. But after we checked into our apartment and got a quick tour of the pad and how to turn on the heat, we took off to a popular restaurant without a reservation, because after all, we like taking chances.
The place we were heading to came recommended via a variety of sources; you know – bloggers, boards, books, you name it – they all say go. Of course, it also has its detractors, or at least those who say it isn’t as good as it used to be, or that they recently went and the service was awful…and so on. What should a couple of hungry tourists do?
In this case, we headed up the hill to the Esquiline, and Trattoria Monti. Guess what awaited us? A full house, but after a little begging and pleading (and perhaps some name dropping) we were told to come back in an hour and they’d be happy to serve us. So we headed down the street, took a walk around the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, and when we returned we were greeted like old friends and seated at a table with a view of the kitchen and the duo of female chefs (always a good sign, imo).
I don’t know about the detractors, but the food we had on this Thursday afternoon was good…really good. Incidentally, Trattoria Monti doesn’t serve “Roman” food. The family is from Le Marche and much of the food is informed by that region, which lies to the northeast of Rome’s region, Lazio. We started with a shared antipasto, and it included all manner of fried goodies, including meat stuffed olives (wow!), zucchini flowers, slices or artichoke, a little sweet nibble and Significant Eater and I were already settling in nicely. Oh, did I mention? The place is run by some of the nicest and best looking Italian guys in the biz – according to Sig Eater – and I’d have to agree, even though I liked the olives more…
Following up on our antipasto, we shared the special risotto of the day, with fresh porcini. The kitchen split our order (it actually looked as if they’d made two orders) and we were soon enjoying one of the finer risotti we’d had in recent memory…the rice perfectly cooked and the mushrooms adding their earthy flavor. No need for any truffle oil here, thank you.
For our entrees, I had a roasted squab, stuffed with more squab meat and it got me thinking – I need to make squab at home…it’s delicious. Sig Eater went with the roasted pork shoulder, a hunk of meat more suited to Fred Flintstone, which worked out well, since I ate half of that too. Delicate, crispy skin, moist meat and just-right salty. We eat our fair share of roast pork – it’s one of my go-to dishes when feeding a crowd at home, pernil is a neighborhood specialty, but to approach Trattoria Monti’s, I have some practicing to do.
Since we liked lunch so much, we decided to come back again – this time with a reservation, for Sunday lunch. I ordered the same fried app for a starter but Sig Eater ordered a house specialty for a starter – sformato of eggplant napped with a sweet tomato sauce. Light as air, we fought over the last bite…
We both had pasta for our primi; her’s was rigatoni with crumbled sausage and oil, while I went with another specialty of the house, the tortellone…a giant ravioli-like creature filled with ricotta, spinach and yes, an egg yolk, making for an utterly delicious combo…
And lucky for us, there was another roast on the menu… this time, it was lamb and it gave the roast pork we had on Thursday a run for its money. A really good run, all crispy skin, gamy lamb and little bones to nibble on, atop a ration of potatoes…
After all that food, do you think there was room for dessert? Well, it being Sunday, dessert was necessary and we decided to share another sformato, this one of apple and napped with an awesome zabaglione, a delicate custard made with sweet Marsala wine.
Go? Well, only if you want some of the most delicious food we ate over the course of a week in Rome. Served by some of the nicest staff you’ll ever meet and try to communicate with. After all, how happy does this Significant Eater look?
Via di San Vito, 13 Roma
+39 06 446 6573