A while back we stayed in an apartment inside an artist’s colony in Rome’s Monteverde neighborhood. The expat owner told us that the only place she would eat in Trastevere was Le Mani in Pasta. So that’s how we ended up eating at the place with the imposing doorway and otherwise unnotable entrance.
We are certainly glad we arrived at this doorway and went in. We were also glad we went early. The food was mighty tasty. But that’s not the end of it. Not by a long shot.
Lots of places have good food. But lots of places have loud and distracting music, such that folks around a table must message each other via cell phone to get thoughts transferred from one mind to the next; conversation is out of the question. Lots of places are also pretentious. Le mani in pasta is not that.
“I don’t give a damn about the wine list” the waiter shot at us as Wendy pointed out that the wine would be better ranked by region rather than price. “You want wine, good wine, you ask me. I know what we have and what fits your meal!”
Then he placed on the table a very fine local white, an Antinoo Lazio Bianco 2013. Good on him. Fantastic with the seafood and even good with the Gricia.
If you are unfamiliar with the Italian way, you might be surprised that you’d just let a waiter plunk down a bottle and walk off. There is an element of trust you need to have in Italy, once you’ve figured out that you don’t want to eat in the tourist strongholds and have learned to recognize them. If the wine you have before you is going to cost you 100 euros, a real Italian waiter would have warned you.
The wine was, as it turned out, a 13 euro investment in pleasure. A bargain.
I started with the sauteed shellfish. It was so good I couldn’t stop “making the little shoe” with Rome’s amazingly fine bread. Finally, full of bread, I thought I should just tip the platter and wolf down the sauce. I mean, waste is morally wrong, isn’t it? Those critters gave their lives for my pleasure, why should I treat their juices as I would cigar ashes?
When my wish was conveyed to the waiter, he offered, “…or I could bring a straw” before walking off with all the silverware and plates—everything except that of the remnants of my clams and mussels.
An invitation if I’ve ever heard one. So I looked around at a group of Italian businessmen who’d removed their suit jackets, loosened their ties, and had begun to dig into their pasta with orgiastic vigor.
This was Rome. Food was pleasure. You don’t hide it, you celebrate it. Tip went the plate. Oh, man, what a trip down the gullet that was!
The Tagliolini alla Gricia was incredible, too.
The women, Martha and Wendy from Flavor of Italy, seemed to enjoy their plates as well. Heck, they can write their own reviews. I was in my own little world of hog jowls and mussel juice. This was the real deal. You should go.
The price for this memorable Roman eating extravaganza? Hardly worth mentioning. Not expensive at all. Just go. Go, I’m telling you.
And we were just three of maybe five tourists in the place when it filled up at about 1:15. How do they do it, when all the other restaurants along the street were teeming with tourists?