Where Romans Lunch

Ever been in a big city and had the menu waving waiters calling you over? “Hungry, eh! Pasta, pizza, burgers. Good Food!” Yeah right, tourist trap every time.

The best plan, have a plan, for your first 12 hours. That way, as zombie jet lag hits and anything that moves gets your attention, you don’t acquiesce to those pushy menu wavers.

I had the great fortune of arriving in Rome with the love of my life, Bello. A man who once called Rome home, a man with a plan. Just when my stomach growled and my jet lagged brain screamed “food now” he turned to me and said “hungry?” Bello met my weary nod with a gentle nudge past tourist trapping, laminated, picture laden menus.

Hailed by locals for traditional Roman cuisine, Matricianella is tucked away down a skinny street off Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina. At 12:30, we snagged a shaded table outside, a relief from the full strength sun in the piazza.

After pleasantries were exchanged in Italian, my Husband was handed a huge wine list he quickly parsed as I peered at the passing crowd. Romans have style, know their food and they are walking this way!

As the wine arrived, I relaxed and gladly succumbed to all Bello’s food suggestion. With Italian food, he’s the family expert.

We started with two appetizers:

Fritto Romano animelle e cervello d’abbacchio con zucchine (Roman fried sweetbreads, brains of lamb with zucchini).

Fritto Romano
Fritto Romano

Carciofo alla giudia or Jewish style artichoke.

Jewish Style Artichoke
Jewish Style Artichoke

Both roman classics and both delicious. Done right, Fritto Romano is as rich and buttery as it is light and crisp and ours was. With a perfect dash of salt, we tucked in like animals, devouring every last bite, fast!

Next: We split a pasta, another Roman classic, Rigatoni con pajata d’abbacchio (Macaroni with Calf’s bowels). 

Rigatoni con pajata d’abbacchio
Rigatoni con pajata d’abbacchio

Yeah, that’s right, Bello does not take it easy on this American when it comes to Italian food. We dug deep into cucina povero (cuisine of the poor) which is where the traditional and the tastiest dishes are born in Italy.

Even jet lagged so bad my photo came out cross-eyed with dead puppets hands, I still managed to fork in all the hearty, satisfying food served by the kind folks at La Matricianella.

Jet Lagged so bad my hands barely worked... but I ate it all!
Jet Lagged so bad my hands barely worked… but I ate it all!

Near the end of the meal, the outside tables were all full except  the one next to us. As Bello ordered coffees and the check, two men in suits discretely slipped into the reserved seats.

As we sipped our coffee, I noticed Bello trying hard to ignore our neighbors conversation. Turns out, it was local politicians and deals were going down in hushed tones.

While I won’t say, what their conversation entailed, I will say, when you dine where the politicians dine, you eat very, very well.

All said and done, our total bill came to 48€. Cheap for lunch? Not exactly. Yet cheaper than two plates at a tourist trap and we enjoyed a full bottle of wine. Following our tried and true travelers rules for meals means we get to splurge once a day without going off budget and this meal was definitely worth it.

More of our Roman Adventures: Cacio e Pepe Romes Must-Have Pasta, Free Art in Rome, Save a Bundle See Rome on Foot,  10 Tips for American’s Visiting Italy (Part 1) , Part II

One thought on “Where Romans Lunch

  1. My stomach is growling as I read this! YUM. And yes, guide books’ first sentences should say, “Avoid anywhere that has people outside begging you to come in.” Never good. Never never good.

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