There are many reasons, as we all know, for dining out … and one doesn’t always go out to eat in order to discover the latest titbit or fad in gastronomic fashion, on the contrary it’s often very pleasant to enjoy some good ‘plain’ recognisable food and be embraced by the reassuring sight of what is placed on one’s dish. It’s nice to get to know the faces and names of the waiters and exchange pleasantries, even nicer when the service is imbued with a sincere desire to make one feel comfortable and enjoy the meal. It’s what I call home-from-home service, soooo civilised.
There used to be one such restaurant within walking distance of our home but it closed down, much to our chagrin and dismay, because the landlord was asking for a ridiculous amount of rent. My husband bumped into our favourite waiter there, Maurizio, about a year later and lamented our sad loss and asked Maurizio where was he working now? And that is how we got to hear of La Roncola.
La Roncola is a family owned and run restaurant in Via Verdi in Grottaferrata, just around the corner from the covered market (the ‘old’ covered market, that is, a new one is just about to be inaugurated). La Roncola is much smaller than the other restaurant and not exactly within walking distance (well, it IS at a pinch … about 3 km away) but it has become our favourite home-from-home place to eat.
There is no menu, one gets offered whatever the chef found at the market that day, and the mood is ‘easy’. The food was smashing from the word ‘go’, the wine list has improved, and all in all it’s a treat. The price is incredibly reasonable, both in terms of quantity and quality. It’s hardly ever full except for the weekend when it’s a good idea to book. I’ve seen older people eat there, families with young children, couples and young lovers. It’s nothing swish and the TV is always on in the background … maybe for the benefit of the single people who also eat there. And for those football fans who just can’t enough football!
Our host is the very pleasant and laid-back Alfredo Roncacci who is not a trained chef but knows a lot about food. His mother came from near Modena and so she must have shared her nothern-Italian food tradition in their home. His father and his grandfather before him and his great-grandfather before him were all butchers. So Alfredo knows his cuts and he knows where to get fabulous meat from Umbria and the Marche. He loves going for walks in the woods and sometimes has wild asparagus or wild lettuce leaves to offer his clients. He likes fishing too.
He works with his son Tiziano in the kitchen. Father and son couldn’t be more likeable – -and handsome! And I admire their approach to work … they work hard but they’re not going to kill themselves. They have no intention of expanding or anything like that. They’re busy doing what they are doing and they like what they’re doing … and they still have time left over for ‘other’ important things in life. No wonder we love eating there!
I took some photos one evening when we were there a couple of months ago and it was still very cold … they’re not great pictures but enough to give one an idea.
Oh — and — the other place, which used to house our former much-loved restaurant? It’s still un-let four years later, I am glad to say, and I hope that the landlord rues the day his greed got the better of him. BUT it did lead us to La Roncola, I have to say …! And Maurizio is still our most loved waiter!
Here is Maurizio opening a bottle of wine for us … he’s always swarthy because he works for a landscape garden company during the day … and he’s always out in the sun.
Here is the ‘camino’ — the grate where potatoes are being cooked in aluminium foil and where my husband’s thick tagliata was going to be grilled. He was going for meat that evening, I was going for fish.
AND ALL THESE WERE MY STARTERS! My antipasto di mare !
And yes, I over-indulged …and this is what I had for may main course of fish :
It was a freezing cold that night and so I chose to drink red wine even though I was eating fish. And we really enjoyed the Lazio wine that Tiziano had suggested. We liked it so much we ordered a case to take home with us next time.
And that’s it … I didn’t take any pictures of my husband’s meat-based meal because I was too busy eating my own. Blogs and taking photos for a blog may be important, but so is enjoying and savouring a meal!