an unspoken universal language; even in Rome

What are the signs of a top restaurant and I am not just talking about the ones with hats and stars? I’m talking about the restaurants that you walk past that you have never eaten in before but you can sense the electric atmosphere and you can see people are really enjoying their food. These are the restaurants that are packed with people and there’s usually a lot of noise and more often a queue just to get a seat, especially when it’s a cafe and there’s a queue at 9am on a Sunday. Flat White Cafe on Jersey Road Woollahra, Sydney is like this. Or when you walk past a Chinese restaurant and you see that everyone is actually Chinese, that’s usually a good sign too.

I was in Rome last year and my man and I were wandering around aimlessly taking in all of the great sights one sees in the eternal city. We were doing one of those night walks and discovering the city spontaneously without a map. We had eaten near the Spanish Steps, seen the Trevi Fountain at night and had just walked through Piazza Navona when we suddenly found ourselves smack bang in Campo dei Fiori and were immediately met with the hustle and bustle of people having a great night out. There were a couple of buskers creating atmosphere with their live jazz quartet and all of the square’s restaurants had tables right out on to the pavement and people were vying for these seats. Our walk took us down a narrow street where there were mainly clothing stores and up ahead we noticed some bright lights and locals casually standing there excitedly speaking Italian whilst drinking wine and having a smoke. Walking past, we glanced behind the Italians and I instantly had the understanding that this was a top restaurant. I didn’t need to read any good food guide or speak Italian to know that this was a local’s favourite and not a tourist trap that only served bolognese and lasagne. Through their glass window I could see walls of wine, numerous salami rolls hanging from the ceiling and stacks of cheese in a chilled display. It wasn’t packed, but was busy enough and I knew I needed to come back to this place before I left Rome despite feeling incredibly full after my recent dinner.

Two nights later we came back to Roscioli. I discovered that the wall of wine was not just at the front but all through the restaurant on both sides and even lining the stairs down to the private room below. Our table was right near the cheese fridge and I remember looking at all of the different varieties of mozzarella, gorgonzola and pecorino (just to name a few). I watched the chef prepare someone’s meal and hold every piece of buffalo mozzarella like it was a precious gem before carefully cutting it and arranging it delicately on the plate. Our waiter came to us and was instantly amused that we didn’t speak a word of Italian yet managed to brief us on all of the day’s specials and take us knowledgeably through the menu. My man and I decided to create a degustation for ourselves so we could experience and eat as much off the menu in one sitting. By 8pm, Roscioli was packed with other people eating their way through the extensive menu and I could feel a similar electric atmosphere as I would do in A Tavola in Darlinghurst, Sydney or at Cafe Sopra in Waterloo, Sydney. Every plate we ate off was delicious, delectable, mouth-watering and encompassed a million taste sensations. The produce was fresh and of optimum quality and the wines we drank matched the flavours completely.

We left Roscioli that night feeling a sense of complete satisfaction and for many nights after we raved about the restaurant, thinking back to how thin and delicious the carpaccio was and how decadent the chocolate fondant was… I know when I go back to Rome next time that this place is top of my list to return to, just so I can make my way through more of the menu!

Via dei Giubbonari, 21. 00186 Rome

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