CAFÉ DI RIPETTA AMERICAN BAR & RESTAURANT
A good meal for a modest price in charming surroundings within a former convent built in the 17th Century, and within a few steps of one of the grandest squares in Rome, the piazza del Popolo – it sounds a little too good to be true, does it not? And yet that was my experience when I found the Cafè di Ripetta American Bar & Restaurant. It nestles within the gracious Residenza di Ripetta, an hotel which is located, as you might suppose, on the via di Ripetta. From the outside, the aspect is rather stern – but, then, those who first lived here had their minds on higher things. But inside both the décor and the welcome are warm.
Paintings, statues and frescoes – all in abundance – made an immediate and favourable impression on me as I walked in from the street. I found the restaurant off to the right of the entrance hall. It is a small and plush dining room, with a colour scheme which makes much of grey and gold. I liked particularly the elaborate gilt wall lights. There is canned music. (The capacity of the restaurant is increased in the summer months, when the large outside terrace comes into use.)
I settled myself at a corner table, on a banquette with many cushions, and noted the good Spiegelau glassware. Service here is proper – silver domed are lifted – and is orchestrated by the friendly maitre d’ Aurelio de Luca, who looked after me well during the course of the evening.
Chef Rodolfo Chieroni, who was born in Rome in the mid-Sixties (and so should certainly be acquainted with La Dolce Vita) offers food which is straightforward and enjoyable. I began with beef millefeuille, with aubergines, tomatoes and smoked Provola cheese – a dish as robust in its tastes as it was generous in its size (and it was large). Next came a simple pasta dish which was well done: tonnavelli with cherry tomatoes and basil. My main course brought lamb chops, with – at my request – some really superb sautéed onions. (I will not cease in my praise of the humble onion. It has transformed so many of my dishes from the good to the brilliant.) I ended with a crème brûlée, made a little different by the addition of honey and lavender. (These four courses were 44€.)
The wine list is short – just 41 offerings, with champagne the only non-Italian among them. Prices run from 24€ for a chardonnay from Lazio to 350€ for Krug rosé champagne (the latter rather a snip, if you like grand pink bubbly). I quaffed two fine bottles. I lean more and more towards the better of the Italian sparkling wines, and here was a nutty, rounded example from Lombardy: Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige, Cà del Bosco (56€). And my red was even better: a primitivo from Puglia with a typical earthiness and an intensity of ripe damsons (Primitivo de Manduria, La Felline, 2011 – 32€).
If you, too, like the idea of a good meal for a modest price in charming surroundings within a few steps of one of the grandest squares in Rome, the Café di Ripetta American Bar & Restaurant awaits.