Hungry Romans stumbled upon the hardscrabble suburb of Centocelle about six years ago. That¡¯s when two young chefs, Francesca Barreca and Marco Baccanelli, started serving phenomenal rabbit pappardelle and tripe at Mazzo, a 10-seat restaurant that lured locals away from their regular tables in Testaccio six miles away. It closed in January for a year-long pop-up world tour and will reopen in 2020, though it has spurred an influx of chefs ¨C as did a new metro stop linking the neighbourhood to the city centre last year.
At Menab¨®, a bright, year-old natural-wine bar from veteran restaurateurs Paolo and Daniele Camponeschi, tables are booked solid on Saturdays by those craving eggy carbonaras and roasted octopus paired with grassy Grechetto. They keep the bar free for walk-ins ordering a flight of sparkling wines and a flurry of snacks, such as tomato puree with ricotta and prosciutto with Parmesan.
Just down the road, tiny Sh¨¡h M¨¡t has tattooed old timers and communist paraphernalia on the walls nodding to the area¡¯s working-class roots, while Negronis and grilled polenta satisfy the younger crowd. Two blocks north at L¡¯OmbraLonga, a cicchetti bar pours tipples that rival those served in Venice. It gets packed early on ¨C by 7pm, guests spill onto the footpath just like at the student bars. Next door, Kiam¨¬ plates up piping-hot orechiette with anchovies and broccoli rabe more divine than any in Bari (it¡¯s a hefty portion, but don¡¯t skip the lightly fried bread balls to start).
This being Rome, there¡¯s always a decent pizza place nearby, and here, that¡¯s two-year-old 180g Pizzeria Romana, which has nearly ¨C nearly! ¨C dethroned reigning artisanal guru Gabriele Bonci with its wafer-thin, hand-stretched creations. Five miles from the centre, this district may seem far to travel for just a pizza, but after the first slice of roasted pork and fresh mozzarella, you¡¯ll realise this is why you flew here in the first place.
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