Settembrini

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This sprawling café, cocktail bar and restaurant takes up nearly a full city block on the heavily trafficked Via Settembrini, but divided into distinctly different spaces, each maintains a unique character. The restaurant is a quite oasis, an elegant shift from the busy street. The décor is classy but personal, with a blackboard on one wall listing wines by the glass, and quirky books, beakers and wine bottles lining the walls. Downstairs is a well-stocked wine cellar which provides for additional dining.

This is not your typical Roman food. You won’t find Spaghetti Carbonara or a Cacio e Pepe. Instead you will find a chef who knows his Italian food inside and out, but who likes to improvise on the classics with a very modern touch. Spaghetti alla Vongole, isn’t spaghetti at all but fusilli, and those clams are pureed until smooth and frozen into a gelato. That gelato is scooped on top of a plate of hot pasta, melting the gelato and infusing every bite with intense clam flavor. The idea is genuine, and the gimmick downplayed; this is food to taste and enjoy, not food to boast or brag about. You wouldn’t know your clams could have been in a savory sundae; it isn’t written on the menu and it arrives in front of you as the silky sauce it is.  Seared Octopus is just that, served on top of a crisp crouton and with a thin potato puree underneath. The octopus is the starring flavor. A pre-dessert palate cleanser takes more of a modernist approach with an exotic tasting lime and yogurt mousse that really does clean the palate and prime you for dessert.

Let the sommelier provide his skilled suggestions and you may discover some excellent Italian wines that you won’t find elsewhere; a number of which are offered by the glass. Take the opportunity to try something new, there just might be a carafe on the bar with an exquisite rare selection that you usually can’t find by the glass. The cellar is very large, and the collection is not limited to just Italy.

Service is warm and friendly, they really care and take the time to show it, whether it is the bartender, the sommelier, the wait staff or the chef himself. They will go out of their way to make sure every guest leaves happy, this might mean offering a complementary glass of ice wine for an enthusiast or inventing something unique to meet a special request. They aim to please, and they do.

Via Settembrini, 27, Rome. www.viasettembrini.it; tel: +39 06 323 2617

TIP: Arrive early and grab an aperitif at the Settembrini cocktail bar next door. These are modern cocktails done by a barman who truly loves his craft.

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