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Rome restaurants changing, not necessarily for the better PDF Print E-mail
Jan 06, 2014 at 03:19 PM

Image Over the last several years, the restaurants of downtown Rome have undergone a sort of restyling in order to better exploit the fact that tourism appears to be one of the few sectors of the city’s economy that is suffering less than others from the ongoing economic crisis. Many restaurants in the centro storico have thus adopted fixed-price tourist menus, sometimes at very enticing levels. To better serve the visitors from other countries, many of whom are used to eating much earlier than the Romans are, the restaurants in Trastevere and around the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Camp dei Fiori have decided to break with tradition and stay open, uninterruptedly from 12 noon on, hiring young, non professional (and often non-Italian) servers. This way the tourist who is tired and hungry after a long visit to the Vatican Museums or to the Roman Forum, can sit down and have a meal without waiting until an official dinnertime.


In addition, the owners of many restaurants have also set up huge (often very ugly) signs outside on the street in front of their eateries or on the walls next to the door of their places of business; and as these are sometimes decorated with Japanese-style pictures of this or that plate of pasta, it would be an understatement to say that they add little to the already-challenged décor of the city.


But to a certain degree, these are changes that one can easily understand. In a difficult economy, it is normal to try to survive. But there is a risk, and it is that of the disappearance of the dear, old irreplaceable Roman trattoria, with its professional waiters in their white jackets, with their heavy Roman accents and their tired, “I have seen it all” expressions. Following the lead of their owners, who often took your orders personally, they made you feel at home, taking care to satisfy your every wish.


In these trattorias, whether they be the more famous ones such as La Campana, Al Moro, Da Fortunato, La Fiorentina, Il Pollarolo, Il Girarrosto, Il Comparone, La Tana di Noiantri and so on, or the smaller corner trattorie of your local neighborhood, if you were a regular they probably didn’t even bother giving you a menu. The discussion with your waiter was almost a sort of negotiation in which he (in those days they were almost exclusively men) would tell you what was good (and what wasn’t) that day and you could talk about your liver problems or your mal di pancia and ask for something simple, in bianco, and easy to digest.


Are we going to lose all this with the imperatives of modern catering – low cost tourism, fast food and so forth? Some of you will remember the fantastic diner scene (still available on YouTube) from the American film, Five East Pieces (1970) when a very young Jack Nicholson is totally frustrated when he proves unable to convince a recalcitrant waitress to bring him something that is not on the menu. Let’s hope we here in Rome don’t make such a sorry end, a sort  of Back to the Future,


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