Wandering Chef: Locanda’s Anthony Strong in Rome
Chef Anthony Strong spent quite a bit of time working, eating, and drinking in and around Rome to research the menu at San Francisco’s Roman-inspired restaurant Locanda. Here, he shares some of his most delicious and inspired finds.
Filetti di Baccala
“I cannot begin to explain how much I love everything about this shop. It’s the kind of unapologetic, straightforward place that any geek-cook will lose it over. The name says it all: you sit down and order fried salt cod, wash it down with a couple Peroni, drop a couple euros, and run off into the night. There is something magical about this place, from the burly nonnas in back frying off the most epic amounts of salt cod you’ve ever imagined, to the way the restaurant spills out onto the piazza at night with the servers hollering to each other amidst a display of Italian chaos. You order the filetti by the piece, and they arrive crisp-shelled, juicy and steaming inside, and totally free of any adornment, with the oil seeping into the paper towels under it. If puntarelle is in season you must not leave without ordering a salad of it, served in typical “alla Romana” fashion—just dressed with anchovy, Parmigiano, garlic, a squeeze of lemon, and some extra virgin olive oil. This might be my deathbed meal.” Largo dei Librari 88, 39/06-686-4018.
“This is my favorite pizzeria in Rome and one of my favorites in the world—and eating pizza is kind of what I do. Using traditional Roman pizza bianca as a platform, they have an impressive array of topped pizzas displayed and ready to sell “al taglio” (by the slice, just give some indication of the size you want). The best one I had was the Testarossa, topped with coppa di testa, mozzarella marinated in Campari, and potato. They also make these genius things they call trapizzini, which are triangular pieces of the pizza bianca stuffed with all sorts of decadence—like oxtails, tongue in salsa verde, or meatballs. I basically became addicted to this place when I had an apartment a few blocks away and then had to go through horrible withdrawal symptoms upon returning to the States. It’s that good. Or bad…” Via Giovanni Branca 88, 39/06-4341-9624, 00100pizza.com.
“No restaurant that’s ever been called a “hole in the wall” could ever compare to this. Sora Margherita is down a nondescript street off a piazza in the Jewish Ghetto, marked by nothing but a red curtain-covered doorway (shown above), in a building that is literally crumbling before your eyes, and they crank out some of the best food in the city. The menu is hand-written in marker every day. It’s dirt-cheap and loaded with some seriously old-school Roman stuff; Jewish-style artichokes, trippa alla Romana, a stellar rigatoni with pajata (milk-fed calves’ intestines—a delicacy to end all delicacies), grilled beef sausages, and a traditional crostata of ricotta and cherry jam. I loved the grilled calf’s liver there so much at lunch that I ended up going back late that same night to have it again for a second dinner. The only chance that your dinner here will not be incredible is if you happen to sit next to some American girl who is reading Eat Pray Love and won’t leave you alone while you’re trying to devour food and take notes.” Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30, 39/06-687-4216.
“This is possibly the most adored, and busiest, coffee bar in Rome. It inspired me so much that, as a nod to them, for Locanda I ordered the bright yellow espresso cups they use. I would go here religiously when I was in Rome. Coffee is such a completely different routine in Italy. Instead of kicking it with your laptop for hours, you walk up to the bar, down your perfect molten-hot espresso (or cappuccino—before 10am only or you might be lynched) in a few short sips, and go back to business. On a side note, with nothing to do one Sunday afternoon (pretty much the whole country shuts down on Sundays), I got the crest of Sant’Eustachio tattooed on me. Not kidding.” Piazza Sant’Eustachio 82, 39/06-6880-2048, Santeustachioilcaffe.it.
Photos courtesy of Anthony Strong.