Finding authentic Italian restaurants in Rome can be a challenge, but they do exist. Family owned Da Enzo 29 was one of the best restaurants I ate at while in Italy, and certainly the best meal I had in Rome, a town glutted with tourist attractions.
Your first hint at an authentic Italian restaurant is there is nothing tourist about it. Unless you look on Google Maps, you’ll hardly find Da Enzo even if you walk past it; there is no sign. No white-collar waiter stands outside to drag you in. Inside, the menu is in Italian and the family running it only speaks Italian. The clientele are strictly locals, except for the rare foreigner who has stumbled in. Even the sign is partially obscured by the umbrella outside.
But the food…! Instead of a fancy restaurant offering dozens of options, Da Enzo has half a dozen “first plates” and as many “second plates” to choose from, plus a daily special. Personally I got the pasta. Which one? Well, my Italian wasn’t that good at the time. But the simple answer is the best pasta I had in Italy. Their specialty dish is carciofi alla giudìa, aka Jewish artichokes. And their tiramisu deserves special mention. As in simply the best tiramisu I’ve ever eaten. Other dishes include carbonara, tripe, oxtail and lamb chops.
Oh, did I mention you’ll be spending about half of what you would pay at any of the “tourist” restaurants in the heart of Rome?
I should probably clarify what I mean by Italian food. Did you know that each region of Italy serves a different cuisine? Less than 150 years ago Italy was separate regions and each had their own culture, dialect…and food! After the unification of Italy, the regions retained their specialties. Naples has pizza, Venice has squid ink pasta, Piedmont has gnocchi, etc. Da Enzo serves traditional Roman cuisine, and the best of it.
The restaurant does take reservations, and you might want to make one since locals will quickly fill up the few seats they have. To get there, take the metro from the Termini Train Station to Circo Massimo, and then walk up Via del Circo Massimo across the river. You’ll be within 50 meters of Da Enzo from there, but as there is barely an indication of the restaurant outside, you’ll want to have an off-line Google Map to find it. Their hours are 1230-1500 and 1930-2300, Monday through Saturday.
With nearly 10,000 restaurants in Rome and almost all of them offering strictly tourist cuisine, it can be difficult to get a genuine Italian experience for a meal. Walking through the streets, you’ll be accosted by waiters one after the other insisting their restaurant is serving the best Italian food in Italy. Most of them will even give you fliers proving it. But all 10,000 can’t be the best in Italy. I’m not saying Da Enzo is either. But it’s pretty darn close. Try it and you’ll see.