Since we were staying in the Campo Dei Fiore neighborhood of Rome, we made a decision to try restaurants in the area that were new to us. This was a tough call, because it meant we would not be going back to La Carbonara, one of our favorite restaurants in the city. Luckily, we stumbled across Osteria Merlone on Via Dei Cappillari, just north of the Campo. Each time we walked past it we saw the menu that promised their grandmother's recipes for the main dishes. It's not easy to pass up a classic Nonna dish, so we finally walked in on our last evening in Rome. Had we known that Nonna Merlone was from Le Marche, we wouldn't have waited. We were expecting something less than outstanding, so were pleasantly surprised when our dinner arrived.
Although the restaurant was new as of October 2013, the family has been in the restaurant business long enough to know how to create a pleasant atmosphere with good service. They own Taverna Lucifero next door, their restaurant that specializes in fondue. I asked if they shared the kitchen, but they do not, although the bar at Lucifero seems much larger and the Scotch we ordered was walked through a small doorway in the shared wall of the two spaces. It was a pleasure to be served a bread basket that included grissini (breadsticks) that did not come in a plastic package.
Our first indication of a non average menu was the appearance of a croquette made with eggplant. The flavor was very nice but the contrast in textures made this antipasto stand out.
Wish I could remember the name of this pasta dish, but it's their specialty, so it will surely be on the menu. Composed of sausage, porcini mushrooms and a cream sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano, it was an outstanding example of Northern Italian cuisine. It made me want to visit Le Marche to see if this was a classic dish or Nonna Merlone's exclusive creation.
When in Rome, if you want to eat like the Romans, Veal Saltimboca has to be on your radar. The combination of savory tasting sage, prosciutto and veal is a revelation. I can't see how anyone could be satisfied with a veal roast or Veal Milanese after trying this dish with it's rich pan gravy. Rosemary roasted potatoes proved to be a good side dish pairing for it; a comfort food if ever I tasted one.
Osteria Merlone's stewed rabbit may have been plated less elegantly than other's I've eaten. It may have seemed over loaded with carrots and under represented by tomatoes or any other ingredients with contrasting color, of which there were none, but it was delicious. Braised to complete tenderness, this interpretation of a classic was generously portioned and nicely done.
When asked about dessert, we confessed that we were too full, but that did not stop the restaurant from giving us candies, meringues and dessert wine. With generosity like this, Osteria Merlone, only a few weeks old on our first visit, should be around for a very long time.
|Via Dei Cappillari next door to #28|
|Rome Lazio Italy|
|no website found|