The restaurant scene in Rome has changed a lot since I left my hometown six years ago. The old traditional restaurants are always a must if you are a tourist visiting Rome for the first time. But if you know the city well, like me, you may want to branch out to new and atypical places. For me, it’s not just about the food; to have an all round positive experience, the environment and the brand identity are equally as important.
Luckily my friends always take me to the best places, whenever I’m in town. The latest sensation is Il Porto Fluviale so I went there for aperitivo two weekends ago and took some photos for my Mondomulia readers.
Il Porto Fluviale only opened in December 2012, but is already a popular destination for Roman youngsters and families, making on average one thousand covers per day.
Housed in a 900 sqm warehouse (originally part of the Magazzini Generali, Rome’s wholesale market), it is four things into one: a bar, a trattoria (eatery), a pizzeria and a private room with chef, the Salotto. The name, Porto Fluviale, refers to the old port by the banks of the river Tiber; commercial boats would arrive there from overseas to deliver goods for the city of Rome.
It’s evident that a lot of research was done before launching this venture. The concept was developed by Laurenzi Consulting, the space was curated by architecture studio Roberto Liorni, while the brand image was designed by Repubblica Gastronomica.
The location, in a working class neighbourhood and in a warehouse, reminds me of New York’s Meatpacking district. The interior design reminds me of East London, with its reclaimed furniture and industrial lights. But the food, that is 100% Italian.
In the evening I went for aperitivo, I ordered a half pint of their home brewed beer, a golden ale called La Fluviale, which was served with a trio of appetizers. I nibbled at the bar, while waiting for my friend to arrive.
Later we moved to one of the tables in the bar and ordered spritz and cicchetti (small plates traditionally served in Venetian bars, more about them here).
The spritz is available in many different versions, depending on which liquor they add to the Prosecco: Aperol Spritz and Campari Spritz of course, but also Paperol Spritz (with a rhubarb-based liquor and lime), Rosso Veneziano (with Select liquor), Hugo (with Sambuca syrup and fresh mint) and a few more. All cocktails are created by famous Italian mixologist and spritz expert, Pino Mondello.
The cicchetti menu offers regional dishes from different parts of Italy. The attention to the freshness and quality of ingredients is always very important here. I tried the burrata stracciatella with sundried tomatoes; beef meatballs and aubergine arancino (fried rice ball).
Each section of the restaurant has got its own separate menu, but the common line is to provide comfort food, good and authentic, served in a modern environment.
In the Trattoria for example, you can order the classic first courses of the Roman cuisine: spaghetti carbonara, manicaretti with ricotta, tagliolini with butter and anchovies, and so on.
If you prefer pizza, you can choose between Neapolitan style and Roman style, as the pizzeria comes with two wood-fired ovens, one set to a lower temperature to cook the thick pizza like in Naples, the other oven reserved for the thin and crispy Roman pizza.
Homemade sourdough bread is baked every morning. At the gastronomia counter, you will always find Parma ham, Bufala mozzarella, mixed cheese and charcuterie. Cakes are prepared on the spot, at the dessert counter.
The griglieria corner offers grilled meats, while the friggitoria is where the classic Roman fritti are made: aubergines arancini, salted codfish croquettes, battered mozzarella bites, etc.
At Porto Fluviale, you are really spoilt for choice!
Finally, my favourite part: the salotto. This private dining space, managed by chef Maria Castellano, is right in the centre of the restaurant, separated by glass walls from the trattoria and the pizzeria. One side is facing the outside street.
The space is fitted with a high-quality kitchen, with KitchenAid food processors, a larder, stove and sink.
The stoves are fitted into the long wooden 15-seat table, so that the chef can cook for your guests while they sit around the table. The party becomes a cooking workshop! Or if you prefer, the chef will prepare everything in advance. The menu is always planned directly between yourself and the chef, who is also in charge of the food shopping.
At lunch ( and at the weekend), Il Porto Fluviale offers bargain buffet menus: all you can eat appetizers, pasta and salads, plus drink, for 9.50€ during the week; or 15 € with dessert included, during the weekend.
I think I know where I’ll go for weekend brunch next time I am in Rome! :)