Il Gattopardo

Tel: +39 06 6867 810
Address: Via dell’Arco del Monte, 94
Cuisine Type: Sicilian
Tables outside? No
Website: www.gattopardo.it

Il Gattopardo – The Leopard – is not only the most famous book about Sicily, it’s now a Sicilian restaurant in the heart of Rome’s historic centre. Small and chic, with dark brown wood against white walls, a rather gorgeous bronze hanging – dappled, presumably in honour of the name of the restaurant – dominating one wall, and imaginative lighting make it cool and calm. It has just 36 covers downstairs, with more upstairs in a lovely barrel-vaulted room that would be perfect for a private party.

It opened just two days before our visit and was therefore very quiet, but it shouldn’t be too long before Rome’s gastronomes discover there’s some excellent cooking to be had at very reasonable prices, especially for a restaurant a stone’s throw from Piazza Farnese, Campo de Fiori and the Ponte Sisto.

The menu is small and changes every day. Half a dozen antipasti, four or five primi, the same for secondi – and at the moment, there’s a special fixed price lunch. Choose any one course plus a salad or a vegetable, plus a drink and coffee, for a miserly €8. If you want more – but beware, portions are generous – prices are around €6 – €8 for antipasti, €8 – €9 for pasta, slightly more for secondi.

The antipasti Siciliani was an eclectic mixture beautifully presented on a divided plate. Squid, prawns and baby octopus, orange, spring onion and swordfish, and three unidentified little fish rolled and tied like butterflies – all delicious and very rich. Caponate di melanzane was also superb – a Sicilian take on ratatouille, with wonderful olives, capers and onions added to the aubergine and zucchini. Bread arrives warm, the house white wine – very fruity, probably Malvasia – deliciously cold.

We were there on a Friday so fish dominated the menu, and my partner chose spaghetti con pesce spada with fresh cherry tomatoes. Too fishy for me, but he pronounced it excellent. I was checking out the contorni instead, unable to resist a plate of their patate arosti. Only in Italy can you eat a plate of potatoes roasted with rosemary as your main course and feel no shame. They weren’t quite as good as those at Edy, but they were close.

Sicilian dolci include fresh fruit, cassata and some of the biggest cannoli I’ve ever seen – I was expecting delicate little rolled, cream filled tubes such as you see in pasticcerie, but these must have been six inches long. On declining the challenge I was provided with a plateful of delicious chocolate and cinnamon biscotti instead (at no charge), and even given a doggy bag to take away with me…

Service is friendly and attentive but unobtrusive, and I suggest you try this place out before it becomes the next fashionable destination.