Michael Lomonaco, the chef of Porter House New York and Center Bar can’t help returning to Rome year after year. “I have a longstanding love affair with Rome since visiting for the first time after I graduated high school,” he says. “The vibrant everyday life of Rome, the history that surrounds you everywhere, the magnificent hospitality of its people and the food and wine make Rome impossible to forget. Rome will eternally be a draw for and influence on me as a chef. Great traditional dishes are intertwined with new cooking and reinvention and this recharges me as nowhere else.” Here he shares some of his Rome travel tips and favorite food spots.
What’s your favorite place to stay in Rome?
“My wife Diane and I prefer to stay in the historic center of the city, whether in a pensione or a five-star hotel. The ability to walk to all of our favorite restaurants and cafes makes the whole experience richer—if you try just a little you can feel like a true Roman for a few days. On our most recent trip we stayed at The Hotel Grande Minerva, just behind the Pantheon, which of course is thronged with tourists day and night—but rise early or get home late from dinner and you nearly have the piazza to yourself. And Gammerelli is right there too and is where I can buy my favorite red or purple socks. The tailor is famous for making the socks worn by popes for 200 years. The cotton socks are great in hot kitchens too.”
What are your go-to restaurants?
“We always enjoy a dinner of lunch at Sora Lella, where the authentic and delicious Roman food, prepared for six decades by the same family, leaves me thoroughly satisfied and looking forward to my next meal. Sora Lella is a cozy restaurant on the tiny island of Tiberina and I think they make the best carbonara in Rome. The owners are Slow Food leaders and follow generations of tradition in all their cooking. The restaurant also has a superior wine list that represents all of Italy with the finest vintages from hard to find producers.
Another favorite is La Rosetta which is perhaps Rome’s finest seafood restaurant. It’s located near the Pantheon and is overseen by the great chef Massimo Riccioli, and his father before him. Riccioli prepares the freshest Mediterranean fish and shellfish with great style, expertise and creative flair.
The Bar Rosati, on Piazza del Popolo is a favorite of mine for café and pasticcerica, and for a Sogni Romani cocktail, which is a tall, colorful concoction made from orange juice and four types of liquer in red and yellow colors. The drink is delicious and it helps the warm afternoon pass as the Vespa hordes go by.”
Where in your opinion has the best gelato?
“The Gelato San Crispino is a revelatory gelato experience and one I always return to because of their obsession with perfection—the flavors change regularly and they are always experimenting.”