La Taverna da Giovanni

Tel: +39 06 68 64 116
Address: Via Banco S Spirito, 58
Closed: Mondays

I had a charming email from a visitor to Rome (thanks, Damian) recounting a visit to La Taverna da Giovanni rather late, only to find it closed. ‘Disappointed, my girlfriend and I sat down on the pavement to decide what to do. The next thing we knew, they’d set a table, filled it with antipasto and a bottle of red wine. They wouldn’t take any money – just said “enjoy Rome, enjoy love and enjoy life”‘. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like my kind of restaurant.

Just across the bridge from the Castel Sant’Angelo, Taverna da Giovanni is unassuming but charming inside – a simple tiled room with a white vaulted ceiling, and some fascinating wall paintings. That on the main wall facing the door is of the Taverna itself, Ponte Sant’Angelo in the background, with a host of famous figures swarming across. Caravaggio plays a lute, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci rub shoulders with present-day politicians, Napoleon is knee-high to Pope Paul VI ( ‘Montini’ to Romans), Pavarotti and Dante brush up against Marcus Aurelius. You can waste hours trying to identify all the figures – great fun.

The menu is simple and basic. Antipasto della Taverna was a good mixture of grilled vegetables, prosciutto and salami with the additional of some highly spiced olives (€7.50). Pasta was tasty and fresh – bombolotti a modo mio came in a very rich bacon and cream sauce (€7). For secondi, steak was large and very tasty – it could have been slightly more tender, but that certainly wasn’t a problem with my scaloppine al limone, which was excellent.

I had also ordered a dish of chicory, but it never appeared: I’m sad to report that we didn’t encounter quite the same friendliness as my correspondent. In fact we got the only grumpy waiter in the place – all the others, serving the host of Italians at other tables, seemed delightful. Ours was the type that never looks you in the eye, and is affronted if politely reminded about an item ordered long before.

While we didn’t come away with quite the rosy glow we were hoping, this is a useful, inexpensive Trattoria to know of if you’re in the area – and the house wine is eminently drinkable.