In many reviews this place has been called a hidden gem, which it truly is. We were aiming to visit it in 2009 but for some strange reason never made it there, and this time (2012) we were determined to correct our mistake. I'm so glad we did.
Vecchia Locanda has a street terrace on the charming Vicolo Sinibaldi, an alley with a nice archway and hanging vines. So if the weather allows, we suggest you book a table outside. We managed to get a table without a reservation, but just in time before the place filled up. In the end the waiters began to extend the terrace with new tables.
The food is fabulous and has a rustic feel to it. For antipasti we had small squids in tomato sauce and miniscule calamari with Roman zucchini. Especially the latter dish had a unique flavour, and the marriage of earth and sea and the earthy taste gave us the romantig feeling of sitting in an ancient tavern. The house bread is baked in a woodfire oven, and it tasted almost as good as my grandmothers famous bread. You don't get higher praise than that.
For the pasta courses we had cacio e pepe, the Roman classic with tonnarelli pasta, cheese and black pepper, and my wife told me it was as good as it gets. I has tonnarelli with vongole clams and bottarga – sacks of fish-roe dried with salt in the sun. I have rarely seen it on menus, and I was very happy that they prepared it well (although in an ortodox style, as stripes instead of grated). We didn't have a main course, but by looking at the neighbouring tables we surmised that this may be a very good place for a meat-eater (we eat only vegetarian and seafood dishes). There was a host of classics from the traditional Roman cuisine in the menu.
As a dessert my wife had a tiramisu which was sweet, airy and fluffy, but a bit too large for her taste. I made the mistake of asking the waiter to bring a grappa of his recommendation: it was very good but also the most expensive ever in Rome. The grappas on the drinks list were not outrageously priced, so this was a bit inconsiderate of him (and stupid of me of course), but in no way did it ruin out evening.
Do yourself a favour and visit this tavern.
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