Tel: +39 06 495 9270
Address: Piazzale Tiburtino 1-3-5-6
Our Roman friends tell us that the San Lorenzo district is the up-and-coming area of the city, but it seemed to us definitely the wrong side of the tracks, which it is – literally – Piazzale Tiburtina is approached through a long, dismal tunnel under the non-public end of Stazione Termini.
The guidebooks tell you that this is a student district, but we were there during an inter-term break, and so the bohemian vivacity that enlivens neighbourhoods trashed by university students – or lived in by them because already cheapened – was absent. Armando has a grim exterior. To be honest, were it not for an impending thunderstorm, we would never have taken shelter inside.
How fortunate we were! The friendly waiter indulged us with house wine – a Lazio bianco which was both unpretentious and hugely satisfying – while we poured over the menu (pausing occasionally to remark upon solecisms of translation – as you do) – and while the Roman gods emptied devastating torrents from the heavens on anyone caught without cover. It was over in less than fifteen minutes – but by then we had seriously warmed to Armando.
We were momentarily disappointed that some Roman delicacies, such as fiori di Zucca, are only available in the evening (and we were lunching), but our alternative selections were seriously scrummy. Most importantly, there was a strong sense that whoever was in the kitchen was cooking the food just for you. Ravioli con rucola in salsa rosa is a simple dish; the way it is prepared at Armando illustrates perfectly the beauty of full-bodied flavours simply blended. The antipasto misto della casa is all meat, very thinly sliced, and in optimum condition – nothing too cold, nothing too… old. There’s also a terrific range of bruschette for example with crema di carciofi or asparagi, and some similarly interesting pasta choices.
The abbacchio scottadito (scottadito means burned fingers – these are fingers of lamb, with bones, grilled very quickly so that they are just browned but very succulent) is a Roman speciality that is available all day, served with rosemary potatoes, and it is exquisite. Thescaloppine al limone is as good as it comes – and it is one of our favourites; so we have plenty of experience. Fish options include spigola (sea bass) and rombo (turbot) priced by theetto – but they will have to wait until our next visit.
Wait for it! The dolci are fab – again basic… but seriously good. There are seven or eight puddings on the menu. This means that if you visit Armando with a partner you have to go back at least two or three times to get the full measure of the place.
We looked around, having found a restaurant to which – despite its location – we will return, and we saw no tourists, only locals. We are told that it is also a student haunt. This is not surprising: our three course meal with more wine than most people drink (we were sheltering from the storm) came to €44, without service. If you’re not buying a flat in this ‘area of the next decade’, take a taxi to Armando. In term time, in the evening, it may be wise to book. Inexpensive.