Tel: +39 06 68 32 100
Address: Via del Leone, 4
Cuisine Type: Classic Roman
Closed: Sunday
Tables outside? Yes
Website: Matricianella

Matricianella has been serving up classic Roman cooking for more than 50 years. Three basic, cream-walled rooms with standard blue and white checked tablecloths – it couldn’t look more traditional if it tried, and its position just over from the start of Via Condotti – where the serious tourists do their shopping – might suggest caution. But no, this is serious – and seriously good – food, as the mostly Italian clientele attests. OK, it was March: this must be pretty popular with tourists as well when the weather warms up, especially as there’s a very attractive outside dining area.

The menu is absolutely Roman and very meat-based. The one fish course on offer is baccalà, which is really a Venetian specialty, but here it’s served alla Romana. To kick off we were tempted by the selection of Roman fritti and went for the fritto misto. Fiore di zucca (stuffed zucchini flowers), carciofi (artichoke), broccoletti (the wonderful Italian vegetable that looks like a green cauliflower designed by an architect, and tastes like sprouting broccoli), potato crocchette, baby mozzarelle… all was light, crispy, delicate and delicious and a plate for €9.50 was quite enough for two people, though not intended that way. I’d like to go back to try the ricotta fritta (€5.50); carciofi alla giudia are the same price and I bet they’re good, too.

Primi (€9 – €12) take us deeper into classic territory and if you want to know what a dish of pasta should be, this is a good place to start. I substituted rigatoni for bucatini all’Amatriciana, having decided years ago that I will never again eat bucatini in public – fat, hollow spaghetti seems to have been designed specifically for distributing pasta sauce over as many diners as possible, as it’s so springy that trying to wind it results in disaster. Now we’ve all eaten many plates of pasta with this famous, red-blooded sauce of pancetta, tomatoes and chili but when my rigatoni arrived it was as if I’d never tasted it before. Wonderfully rich, a lovely smoky flavour and just the right amount of heat – heavenly. And of course the pasta was perfect, as remarked by a fellow diner who had chosen the simplest of tomato sauces. Pasta & ceci were also excellent. Other classics available are spaghetti cacio e pepe and bombolotti alla gricia (with bacon, white wine & cheese).

Secondi (€10 – €18), other than the aforementioned baccalà, constitute a trip round an animal’s body, including brains (cervelli) and sweetbreads (animelle). However we’d gone overboard on pasta so will have to report back on those dishes another time.

I maintain that puddings go in a different part of the stomach however so did manage to check out a very interesting list of dolci, all a snip at €5. I tested dolce ebraico di ricotta e cioccolata and it was wonderful – soft, smooth and delicately flavoured. Pere cotto alla Barolo involved the biggest poached pear I’ve ever seen and was also approved – “This is a dessert for adults”, was the verdict.

The wine list is enormous. Literally. A huge, fat tome. That usually bodes ill but not at Matricianella. There’s no house wine so we asked our waiter for a recommendation, and he chose a superb, fresh, crisp Frascati Superiore that cost only €12 – a real bargain. There are many other standard and more unusual wines available, all at more than reasonable prices.

A word about the service. Our waiter for most of the meal (Tito?) was absolutely charming, helpful and attentive. For some reason when we reached puddings a waitress tried to muscle in – I’ve no idea why – and the whole atmosphere changed. She was pushy, rude and obviously just wanted to get rid of us as soon as possible. Which is odd, as it was a cold day in March and there certainly weren’t queues waiting for a table.