It’s a good while since we’ve had the chance to check out the more upscale Via dei Condotti area of Rome, and the visit of Mr. Kenneth Gineger, a publisher from New York, provided the opportunity. He was staying in the area and wanted to take me to the restaurant known as La Matricianella in the Via del Leone. It has been in operation since 1957, and is located on a side street around the corner from Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, just off Via del Corso.
The restaurant consists of three dining areas, one outside and two inside. It was too cold, we thought, to dine outside, even though they had lit several of those gas burners, and some hardy tourists were there. The indoor dining areas are cozy and classical with blue-checkered tablecloths.
The cuisine is typically Roman, with staple pasta first courses like carbonara and amatriciana, and standard main dishes such as trippa alla romana (tripe), abbacchio alla scottadito (lamb), saltimbocca alla romana (veal with ham and sage) and polpette (meatballs). Along with fried zucchini flowers, there are artichokes alla romana (lightly stewed) and alla giudia (fried).
Kenneth says he does not eat much in the evening, so we decided to go straight to a main course and we settled on the lamb (abbacchio scottadito) which was very finely cooked. It was accompanied by some cicoria in padella, chicory turned in the frying pan with oil and chili peppers. At the end we decided on a dessert and both took a specialty of La Matricianella, based on a Jewish recipe with ricotta and chocolate.
La Matricianella has a very long wine list, and it runs to 600 mainly Italian wines, which are stored in the cellar of the Palazzo Borghese. Kenneth asked me to choose a red, and I selected a Montepulciano. We also had a liter of sparkling mineral water. As I was the guest, I’ve no clear idea of what the check came to, but it could have been around 30 Euro ($40) each. As this restaurant is very popular, also with visitors to Rome, it is wise to make a reservation.
Not far away, just across the road, as a matter of fact, is a jewel in the heart of the historical center of Rome, the Hotel Fontanella Borghese, located inside a palace that belonged to the Borghese princes. The palace, considered one of the wonders of Rome, is the cornerstone of the so-called “Borghese district,” a patch of baroque surrounded by the majestic antiquity of the historical center.
The position of the hotel, in Largo Fontanella Borghese, is unmatched: you are within walking distance of the Trevi Fountains, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Via Condotti. Walking at your leisure, in a few minutes you’ll arrive at Via del Corso, and from the Spanish Steps you can go to Trinità dei Monti and Pincio to admire a view unique in the world.
The hotel is close to well-known restaurants and the historical cafés where the intellectuals met in the past, and also to the most important national institutions, the Parliament and Senate buildings, both in the same area. The approach to the hotel is through an enchanting courtyard that conveys a feeling of peace and quietness, assuring a discreet and silent atmosphere, a little oasis inside the great metropolis.
The communal areas of the hotel are decorated with ancient marble floors, evidence of a tradition of refinement, while in an inner lounge there is a wrought iron and marble staircase, made by local craftsmen, that leads upstairs. The hotel offers 29 rooms, each equipped with furniture made by Italian craftsmen and embellished with elegant Roman curtains. The floors of the rooms are magnificent terracotta tiles or light brown parquet. The guests can choose between single and double rooms, superior or deluxe, all well appointed with the essential services for a comfortable stay: phone, mini-bar, flatscreen satellite TV, free Internet access, air conditioning, hair dryer, safety deposit box and private bath with shower and bathtub. The superior and deluxe rooms are very large, perfect for couples or families with 1 or 2 children, thanks to a comfortable sofa bed. The rooms overlook an inner courtyard or romantic side streets, so full of history.