Photo by Faith Willinger
I met Anna Dente at an event--she was cooking with young chefs who all tried to outdo each other with weird combinations, foams, and gels. She made classic rigatoni all'amatricana--the best dish of the evening for me. Of course, I had to visit her restaurant, Osteria di San Cesario, outside Rome. Anna's cooking, like her accent, is ultra-Roman. Her father is a butcher, specializing in local lamb, kid, "fifth quarter" (leftovers from the four official quarters--offal, head, tail, hoof), pork, and guanciale cured pork jowl, and supplies the restaurant with fantastic products.
The menu features wild greens and mushrooms, grain soups, Roman-Jewish dishes like pasta and Roman cauliflower in skate broth, fried artichokes and salt cod. I was simply wild about the puntarelle, Catalan chicory with garlic and anchovy dressing; and the Jewish artichokes were the best I've ever eaten. For dessert there are cookies, jam tart crostata, and an interesting tiramisu with strawberries instead of the usual chocolate and coffee flavors.
The wine list is focused on the region, and there are many well-priced gems. Most diners conclude with Anna's homemade fennel liqueur. Best of all are the four rooms at their bed and breakfast, inexpensive and ideal for those who want to indulge in the wine list. It's a perfect stop for anyone who arrives in Rome and plans to head south.