Il Bacaro

Tel: +39 06 686 4110
Address: Via degli Spagnioli, 27
Cuisine Type: Modern Italian
Closed: Sunday
Tables outside? Yes

You’d never know that you are three minutes walk from Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Via degli Spagnioli is tiny, leafy, and apart from the occasions when you witness the skill of the few Italian drivers who would dare to even attempt right angle bends in such a narrow street, quiet.

Il Bacaro seats about 24 inside and even fewer outside under the shade of an ancient vine. Maybe that’s why the cooking gives the impression it’s for you alone – certainly, it couldn’t be fresher. This is likely to become one of those restaurants which has to be patronised on every visit to Rome – we haven’t yet worked our way through the menu and it’s all just too tempting. It was good enough that we felt obliged to return within 24 hours, just to make sure our judgement was accurate…

Antipasti (€7 – €10) set the scene for the meal to follow. Carpaccio d’oca affumicata con pesche is stunning – a plate of thinly sliced smoked goose, completely covered with even more thinly sliced fresh peaches. The combination of tastes is ambrosial. Other options include peppers stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and herbs, salad of squid with mint and lemon and tortino di melanzane.

Pasta (€9 – €10.5) – all homemade – is also innovative and, recognising that you are likely to want to try whatever your companion is eating, you are given a side plate with a sample. What a civilised idea. Orrechiette all erbe aromatiche con patate, fagiolini e broccoli (potates, green beans and roman broccoli) was superb; likewise rigatoncini con pachino, dadolata di manzo e pecorino sardo (cherry tomatoes, tiny chunks of tender beef and cheese). Don’t be alarmed by the translation of moscardini in one pasta dish as dormouse, by the way – it’s actually baby octopus.

With the secondi the menu moves up a gear. There’s an impressive range of meat dishes, all beef or veal (€13 – €16). Straccetti di filetto – strips of beef – with balsamic vinegar, rocket and parmesan were superb: the beef perfectly tender and the flavours mingling perfectly. But the fish is also tempting, with some rare choices such as carpaccio of smoked marlin, or of grouper, to add to the more common swordfish.

There are also some spectacular salads (€8) which for most people, especially in view of the delights of the rest of the menu, would make a more than adequate main course.

You really do need to try to save a space for pudding. I thought there must be a better translation of Millefoglie caldo sbriciolata con crema pasticcera than “hot crumb cake with cream”. However I’d be at a loss to describe it better. All you really need to know is that it is fantastic, and has to be tried. Trouble is, so does the semifreddo di amaretti con cioccolato caldo. And the chocolate mousse is possibly the best in Rome, and the selection of sorbets includes walnut, apricot and fig, all served in tiny portions in their appropriate shells… this really is food to die for.

To go with this feast there is a wine list of over 400 labels representing all the regions of Italy. Service is by charming and efficient young ladies, and the loo is five star. Enough said? One final note – there’s a no smoking policy at tables inside, a rarity in Rome. Booking advisable.