First Meal in Rome
This past April, Don and I lucked into a wonderful meal at Caffe Rosati, in Rome. I knew nothing of its history.
It was about 8 pm on Good Friday, when Don and I approached this old school Italian restaurant. We had no reservations and we were wearing the same clothes we'd put on in Texas, about 30 hours before. We were famished and delighted when we got a table. It was our first (actually our only) meal in Rome.
Where is Caffe Rosati?
For 100 years, Caffe Rosati has been housed in the building to the right of the Twin Churches, overlooking Rome's Piazza del Popolo.
To the left of the churches, there is another iconic cafe in a similar-looking building. There's such a connection between the rival cafes and the twin churches and the historic piazza, I'm inspired to indulge in some rambling about more than dinner, on this post!
Earlier... in Piazza del Popolo
I spotted both cafes earlier, when on a brisk walk to avoid a jet-lag nap. Both of the cafe patios had spectacular views of the urban square, with the Egyptian obelisk, lion statues, fountains and entertaining crowds.
Piazza del Popolo is located within the north gate of the city. It was the city's main entrance during the Roman Empire. On Good Friday, the area was happily buzzing with pedestrian-only traffic. Just 25 years earlier, noisy cars filled the space. Further back in time, there were worse things than cars in the square. Public executions were held here for centuries. I'm glad I didn't know that, during our visit.
Twin Churches in The Trident
At the south end of the plaza, I couldn't miss the Twin Churches, since our hotel was tucked right between them, on Via del Corso.
When I booked our hotel, I didn't know it was connected to Santa Maria in Montesanto, on the left. I didn't know that the church had also been known as Church of the Artists, once artists became a part of the Sunday masses. By the 1950's Piazza Del Popolo and the cafes, had became magnets for artists and writers and intellectuals.
I was hungry on my walk, so I quickly noticed the 2 cafes, on opposite sides of the piazza. On the east, near the Artist's Church, I found Caffe Canova, with classic white tablecloths.
Canova opened in the fifties and was named for a sculptor whose studio was just down the road. Federico Fellini lived nearby and was a frequent guest. Now the cafe has a gallery of photos and sketches, featuring the famous film director.
Caffe Rosati on the West
I find symmetry satisfying. So I was intrigued that we had twin churches and twin cafes! Although both the churches and cafes aren't really identical.
At around 5 pm, Caffe Rosati looked just as inviting as Canova. It had a lovely view of the piazza and the evening light glowed on Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
Wandering on Empty Stomachs
After walking the Piazza Del Popolo, Don joined me, wandering further. We forgot our hunger as we absorbed the festive flavor of every street and market. There were many food options. I even recognized a cafe in Borghese Gardens, where my family dined in 1969, when I was 11. Tempting!
We found the Piazza della Rotonda near the Pantheon, jammed with cafe tables. Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn sipped drinks in this piazza, in Roman Holiday. I think the cafe's a store now.
We peered in windows and saw yummy gelato options and less yummy meats. Finally we ended our wandering at the Vatican at dusk. Bellissimo! After we absorbed the surprisingly peaceful St. Peter's Square, we let our aching feet take us back.
Appealing at Night
It was around 8 when we reached Piazza del Popolo. We thought about just grabbing pizza to go, but our eyes were drawn to Caffe Rosati.
The patio looked extra inviting at night, but I was pretty sure the empty tables were reserved. It was Good Friday. A holiday weekend.
Artistic and Literary Cafe
Back in the early fifties, tables at Rosati were often occupied by intellectual regulars, who met up to discuss and debate and ponder. Artists, writers, filmmakers, philosophers...
Many movies like Roman Holiday filmed scenes, not far from Rosati. I read that many of the stars and crew also enjoyed Rosati's and Canova's, after location shoots.
Rosati and Canova continued to lure intellectuals throughout the sixties. It sounds like most stayed loyal to one or the other. I'm guessing that these days, both cafes probably serve more tourists than artists.
The patio tables were reserved, but we were lucky enough to be seated in the beautiful dining room, just past the palm.
I had expected to be eating pizza in our hotel... and suddenly we were walking into a classic Art Nouveau ristorante, with red velvet chairs!
I acted more like a tourist than an artist, when I quickly snapped photos of the beautiful wood cases, that held sweets.
The carved wood was as impressive as the designs on the floor.
I imagined the morning, when the cases were full of breakfast pastries and the smell of coffee filled the cafe.
We were seated in the back of the room near a dramatic wood staircase, that didn't appear to be in use. There was a helpful mirror behind Don, that gave me a view of the room.
Our server, Dino greeted us in his white jacket and took our drink orders.
First we guzzled water and sighed at the comfort of our cushy chairs, after the hours we'd spent in Lufthanza's economy seats.
I told Don he could relax, I was not going to ask Dino to take our photo. We toasted to Rome, with my red wine and Don's Aperol Spritz.
I held onto my bread like I was afraid someone might take it away. My first bread in Italy! Cheers to that. I would have cheered twice if I'd had butter. I forget that butter isn't always served with bread in Italy!
The menu was a bit pricey, but we were paying for the location and ambiance! I'm glad I only looked at reviews, later. There was a lot of whining going on, which makes it clear that the only people writing reviews were Americans who had hoped for an Olive Garden meal.
My "Ravioli con ricotta e spinaci al pomodoro" was just right. It was a small amount, but perfect for me. The spinach filling and sauce was just what I needed.
Don loves olives, capers and tuna, so he found the perfect dish on the menu. While we enjoyed our first Italian feast, we amused ourselves with a little people watching. I'm guessing many were locals having a holiday meal. No English spoken!
A tiny dog at one nearby table was much quieter than a babbling baby at another. Both seemed very sweet. We never figured out the mystery table beside us. The table of 3 guests didn't look like VIPS, but their courses kept coming and the waiter and manager hovered nervously, attending to every need! Hmmm?
Chatting with Dino
If Don and I had practiced our Italian better, we could have asked Dino about the mystery guests. He seemed to be less rushed by the time we finished up.
He spoke minimal English but seemed delighted to know we were from Texas. We weren't sure why, but we were glad to have a little cheerful banter before we headed off.
As we walked out towards the Piazza, I yearned to know about the history of the century-old restaurant.
I wish we could have caught the eye of some elderly local, dining alone. Maybe the lonely diner would have had a cute dog that appreciated some patting. We could have started a nice converstaion...
... because the diner would speak English well and would also have a great memory. We'd ask questions about Rome in the 1950's and we'd hear wonderful stories about what Rosati was like when the tables were filled with interesting or famous people..
Canova at Night
That didn't happen, so we crossed the piazza and peeked at the other cafe. I didn't spot any artists sketching, or any writers jotting notes.
But I did see empty tables. If only we hadn't been about ready to drop dead from exhaustion, we could have ended the evening with with a cappuccino and dessert at Canova.
Via del Corso & Trident Suites
We didn't. We just headed down the street that divides the Twin Churches. After a few steps we found the giant door in the building, where our hotel was housed.
We had planned our one night in Rome, as a quick rest stop, before starting our 2-week Italy travels. But our short Rome visit, meant that my memories will never be jumbled. I will always distinctly remember arriving with aching feet and huge appetites. Our Rosati dinner was a perfect oasis, on a lively holiday in Rome.
Now I'm left with cravings to return and do it even better!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.