Tel: +39 06 589 8985
Address: Via dei Vascellari, 48, 00153 Roma
Notes: Mondays; dinner only (Sunday lunch in winter)
Despite the warnings of my taxi driver that Trastevere is far too touristy these days (and the fact that he was unable – or at least unwilling – to risk his car in the amazingly narrow streets, even by Roman standards), I was looking forward to a meal at Asinocotto. Opened nearly three years ago by young chef Giuliano Brenna, Asinocotto (yes, it really does translate as the Cooked Donkey) has been getting some very good reviews from around the globe for its ‘refined, creative Mediterranean cuisine’.
So on a steamy evening I found myself in a cool, white room with interesting artwork and artefacts on the walls. The menu is definitely interesting, with a choice of around five dishes for each course. Antipasti included quail marinated in brown cane sugar, a mussel salad with fennel and juniper berries, and shrimps and artichokes sprinkled with orange. The latter was fabulous – the artichokes tiny and tender and the flavour of the orange just right to give them bite.
Lasagnetta gratinata agli ortaggi, fave e peccorino as a first course sums up the ethos of Asinocotto – everything is bought fresh each day (the hired help sets off for the markets in the early hours while the chef takes a well-earned rest). The fresh greens and baby broad beans – and indeed the fresh pasta – in this dish testified to the success of the system. Also on offer was a fresh leek soup with black truffles and handmade ravioli with bittercress and rabbit, cooked in Barbera wine. Which reminds me, the wine list – very extensive, fill of goodies from all the regions of Italy that you simply don’t see elsewhere. What would be helpful is a little guidance on this, in view of the vast choice and the unfamiliarity of many of the labels to the non-Italian.
The interest continues in the main course with grouper, pigeon and rabbit on offer in addition to more standard fare of salmon and steak. The latter was a perfectly tender fillet mignon served with a gorgonzola and lemon balm sauce, and was delicious. Sauté potatoes with fines herbes were good though not quite up to my gold standard of Ristorante Edy, where they’re cooked with the meat juices… a minor quibble. Puddings were wickedly tempting, including a semifreddo al Grand Marnier and my choice, a chocolate mousse with a celery syrup. The mouse was possibly the best I have ever tasted and the syrup was a fascinating complement. On the pudding menu there are suggestions for wines, though I perversely chose to ignore them and taste a Dindarello. It was good, but I should probably have taken the advice.
Asinocotto is not, by Roman standards, cheap – a three-course meal for two with wine will set you back around Lire 180,000 or roughly £60. (By London standards it is of course astonishing value). However even in a city where it’s very difficult to get a bad meal it’s worth it – the food is wonderful, the service friendly and efficient and the ambience calm and pleasant (and gay-friendly). What it isn’t is a tourist place. I must tell the taxi driver that all is not yet lost in Trastevere.