Ristorante Rinaldi – Roma

Feeling peckish for a late lunch, and dashing off to see the Coliseum, we asked our hotel concierge for a recommendation for a restaurant around the Coliseum (The Boy had to make his annual pilgrimage there.)  The concierge turned up his nose and recommended that we not eat in the immediate vicinity of tourist areas, but, rather, a short walk away.  He recommended Ristorante Rinaldi, a short 15 minute walk away, off a quiet residential street.  Due to its location, its a place that we would have never stumbled across, so we were thankful for the pointer and made our way over in a taxi.
The restaurant is quaint – and yellow.  We walked in, and walked down a flight of stairs into the main dining room.  The hotel had made a reservation for us, but the dining room was fairly empty, save a local family, out for a late lunch with at least 4 generations present, and a few business men lingering over a bottle of wine.  This place is known for its seafood, but, with the Boy’s allergies taken into mind, we were going to avoid that entirely.
I have found all restaurants I have visited in Rome very child friendly.  The Boy is 7 going on 24, and I always ensure I ask if they allow children when making my reservations.  The staff welcomed us with open arms – all smiles and warmth.  We were seated and asked which water we would prefer.  We were asked if we wanted a bread basket – starving, of course, so we insisted it be brought out immediately, which it was.  The menu was examined and orders were placed.  For appetizers, we had:
Smoked Fresh Mozzarella
Insalata Caprese
Smoked Fresh Mozzarella – Rinaldi has quite an extensive selection of fresh mozzarellas on offer, and this was one that was recommended to us as a Roman speciality.  Small mozzarella balls that have been wood smoked so they develop a blackened exterior coating.  Very interesting – texture, taste etc. was spot on.  But, a little too smoky for my liking.  The Boss and the Boy did not partake.
Bresaola – Air dried, salted beef – whats not to like?
Insalata Caprese – The classic Caprese salad – tomatoes and fresh (unsmoked) mozzarella.  Usually, when ordering this app, people tend to attack the cheese and the tomatoes are the leftovers.  Not if they ordered this – I have never had such firm, crisp, sweet and delicious tomatoes……ever.  I mentioned this to the waiter and he was delighted – he said the chef had selects the tomatoes for this dish and would be very happy to know that I had made it a point to compliment his choice.  Amazing tomatoes – I guess thats the beauty of cooking in an area where access to such amazing produce is availably.  Farm to table, at its finest.
For the main courses, we didn’t want to fool around with anything to complicated – simple pastas all around.  We had
Gnocchi Al Gorgonzola
Tonnarelli Cacio & Pepe
Spaghetti with Black Truffles (of course, ordered by her Excellency, The Boss)
Gnocchi Al Gorgonzola – I like chewy pasta.  I like Gorgonzola cheese.  Put them together, and you have this masterpiece.  It was excellent.  I could eat it all day.  Interesting point to note – while speaking with our waiter (we were discussing pasta – making it, cooking it, shaping it) he told us that the Rinaldi’s pasta chef has been with the restaurant for close to 30 years…….and he is Chinese!  Chinese I asked…..in an Italian restaurant????  He said something I completely overlooked – who knows noodles/pasta better than the Chinese?  CHURCH!
Tonnarelli Cacio & Pepe – The Boy wanted Mac and Cheese.  This is fancy Mac and Cheese – Tonnarelli, Pecorino Cheese and a little Pepper – thats it.  It was delicious and he ate it all.
Spaghetti with Black Truffles – This must have been good (I could smell it across the table – Truffle scent makes me happy) because The Boss finished her plate – this never happens!
No desert at Rinaldi – It was time for the Coliseum.  We were surprised by a complimentary plate of oven fresh cookies, dusted with icing sugar.  We had to order coffees to wash these bad boys down!  Perfect ending to a delightful meal.
I have to admit – I read some of the poor review on Trip Advisor when I got back home and was a little surprised.  I found the service to be flawless – speedy, friendly and very accommodating.  The owner and his son were around, and made it a point to stop by the table and share a laugh or two – as good hosts should.  The food was fantastic, the atmosphere very pleasant – it’s hard to ask for more in a restaurant.  This is a top notch establishment, and, unfortunately, with tier 1 restaurants, sometimes staff can be standoffish and arrogant.  But it is my experience, that people in the service industry treat guests in a reciprocal manner to how they are treated.  This is a restaurant where Italian heads of states and captains of industry entertain their guests – where to go when they want an excellent Roman meal.  If you show up in cargo shorts and crocs, expect a frosty welcome – as it should be.  The same would apply if I were to show up to a similar restaurant in NY, LA or London dressed in a similar way – except, they probably wouldn’t let me in at all.  Respect the establishment and be respected back – its really quite simple.
Food – Excellent
Service – Excellent
Atmosphere – Inviting and Welcoming
Fantastic restaurant that I will recommend enthusiastically to my friends.  Loved it.
Till next time!