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apr 03 2009

Back from Rome, with a first report

There's usually a wait at old-time trattoria Da Augusto in Trastevere (Courtesy Kate Appleton)
Happily squeezed into a corner of Da Augusto (Courtesy Kate Appleton)
Happily squeezed into a corner of Da Augusto (Courtesy Kate Appleton)

Ciao! I'm back from Rome and eager to begin responding to the many comments you posted before I left. Look out for future blog posts and stories that will address common questions like alternative lodgings (apartments, convents), personal safety and security, finding reliable tour guides, and smart strategies for visiting major attractions.

First off, congrats to reader Bruce Logan for completing the Rome marathon! I landed at Fiumicino airport early that sunny morning and joined the crowd at Piazza del Popolo just in time to watch the leaders speed by, as a brass band played and kids waved balloons.

Lorraine's comment about eating a wonderful meal 20 years ago at Taverna Cinque intrigued me. She wondered if the restaurant was still open. I took up the challenge, roaming the blocks around the Colosseum, searching online, and asking some locals, but no luck. Sorry, Lorraine.

I did make it to Da Augusto in Trastevere, however, and thank Peggy for the tip. It's a no-frills, perpetually jammed Roman trattoria, where we were greeted—or rather, brusquely acknowledged—by the owner, who motioned us back out to Piazza de Renzi to wait. Da Augusto doesn't take reservations, or even names. After waiting our turn for about 20 minutes, a waiter plunked down a brown-paper tablecloth (where our bill was eventually scrawled) and a laminated menu. It seemed only right to order something as traditionally Roman as the restaurant: rigatoni all'amatriciana, cooked al dente in a chunky, lightly spiced tomato sauce with pancetta for €6. Piazza de Renzi 15, 39-06/580-3798.

That's all I sampled at Da Augusto because it was actually the second dinner of the evening. My husband Dilip and I stopped first for an aperitivo at nearby Freni e Frizioni. Once a car mechanic's workshop, the trendy bar (named "Brakes and Clutches") whips up creative cocktails—buy one, and help yourself, as we did, to multiple servings from the buffet. Via del Politeama 4-6, 39-06/5833-4210.

I noticed that Dorie, Debbie M., and other readers asked about places where Romans eat. Freni e Frizioni is one of them! So is Felice in the mostly working-class neighborhood of Testaccio, where we enjoyed our favorite meal of the trip: a steaming bowl of tonnarelli cacio e pepe. The waiter mixed the thick spaghetti with potent cracked pepper and pecorino shavings for us tableside. No menus, and no English in earshot. Via Mastro Giorgio 29, 39-06/574-6800.

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