The San Lorenzo neighborhood has a gritty appeal that reminds me of New York's Meatpacking District. During the turn of the century, San Lorenzo was an industrial, working-class district of Rome, it was heavily bombed in World War II, and then gradually became a graffiti-plastered hangout for left-leaning university students.
Recently the neighborhood has gotten more shabby-chic. A testament to that change is Pastificio San Lorenzo, a dimly lit restaurant with nostalgic decor, a trendy clientele, and even a gourmet hamburger that meets my American standards. Despite its foreign allure, which certainly has Romans buzzing about this place, it mostly serves innovative Italian dishes.
I just spent a decadent evening at the restaurant that started with a pumpkin cappuccino: a salty-and-sweet pumpkin broth enhanced with crispy pancetta, layered with a creamy froth, and sprinkled with black truffle flakes. Other menu highlights include linguine with red onion and zucchini flowers, tuna and goat cheese dumplings on courgettes, and sliced smoked duck breast fillet with coconut milk and candied grapes. If you still have room for dessert, try the black cherry velouté with a crispy mascarpone pastry roll or the passion fruit crème brûlée with banana caramel. Entrees from €13 ($17.56), reservations recommended, 011-39/069-727-3519, open Tues.-Sun., 7 p.m.-2 a.m.
Pastificio San Lorenzo is located within an early 20th-century building that used to be a pasta factory and flour mill. It's known as the Cerere Building, named after the Roman goddess of agriculture. Today, it also houses the Pastificio Cerere Foundation, an organization that promotes contemporary art. The entrance is at Via degli Ausoni, 7.
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