Vecchia Locanda

Tel: +39 06 688 028 31
Address: Vicolo Sinobaldi, 2
Cuisine Type: Classic Italian
Closed: Sunday
Tables outside? Yes

Vecchia Locanda was the restaurant high spot on my most recent visit to Rome – a small, charming, cosy, friendly restaurant with first class food and wonderful service, at a very reasonable price (despite the ravages the current exchange rate make for British visitors).

The main room is downstairs and very cellar-like, with brick arches, dark wood tables and walls lined with bottles – but it’s anything but damp. Soft red walls (where visible behind the wine) match the linen and soft lighting helps to create a real warmth, boosted immensely by the helpfulness and friendliness of our waiter Manuel, who welcomed each of our party and rapidly made us feel as if we were regulars.

Antipasti offer a mixture of fish (lots of octopus for those that like it) at €8 – €10. We skipped on to the primi (€8 – €9.50) as Vecchia Locanda is well known for its home-made pasta. Trofie della Locanda – with aubergine, zucchini and buffalo mozzarella – was judged the best ever by someone who knows a bit about pasta; there were other tempting options too, including fusilli al lemone e parmigiano. Lots of interesting soups were also available including farro, ceci e funghi porcini.

The secondi (€10 – €20) were also excellent. At Vecchia Locanda they take a basic ingredient and then offer you a multitude of ways to eat it. So for example, le tagliate di manzo – slices of beef – can be presented with asparagus and truffles, with potatoes and truffles, with rosemary and potatoes… You prefer fillet of beef? Lots more options including with Calvados… or my favourite, straccetti – very thin strips of beef just cooked so they melt in the mouth – lots of options there too. I went for the classic, with rughetta (rocket) and cherry tomatoes, and it almost beat the straccetti at Da Tonino. The only reason it didn’t is because half way through I started to taste a slight overdose of salt. The scallopine of veal (with lemon, white wine or Marsala) was possibly the best I’ve come across in Rome, and the saltimbocca was pretty impressive too, though also a tad too salty. Did the chef have a twitchy elbow that night?

It’s not all meat, by the way – you could also choose your style for spigola (sea bass), orata (bream) or rombo (turbot).

Dolci (€6 – €7) are interesting. If you’ve already OD’d on tiramisu try their semifreddo with nougat and chocolate, or the Crema Catalana – both excellent. And the chocolate pyramid with mint or the coconut yoghurt with chocolate sounded pretty good, too.

As you would expect looking at the walls there’s a good and reasonable wine list. We exhausted their current stock of a particular Greco di Tufo and Manuel shone again by apologising that there were no more bottles, but recommending a wine that was close in type and would follow well. He was right and we’ll be back, ideally when the weather is warm enough to sit outside in the charming, quiet Vicolo. Booking advisable.