Sarah Maduri is a brand marketer, writer, and traveler. She lives in Washington, D.C.
The next time you find yourself wandering around Rome by yourself, I suggest you wander into a little piazza off Viale di Trastevere. Just around the corner past lit archways is a dark, candlelit, little wine bar without a name. It does have one of the most notable wine lists in the city. The house red alone is enough to make you grateful you're alive on this abundant planet. Also, the lovely and hilarious owner-operator will happily teach you some Italian slang.
As the saying goes, "it's not about the grades you make but the hands you shake." And thanks to my seven new Roman friends, later in the week I was invited to become a card-carrying member of a little private establishment called Country Roma. Tucked away in a small garden along a winding road above the city center, Country Roma offers one of Rome’s most inviting dining experiences to its members. An iron door literally stays locked to everyone except the handful of members that frequent the establishment’s six tables. Easily one of the most delicious and fun meals of my life, the atmosphere has a kind of rustic warmth that you would expect from any Italian kitchen. One of the best parts of the experience: there is no ordering from a menu at Country Roma. Whatever they bring to the table you eat! My experience consisted of sautéed chicory, lentils, and about six different versions of their famous brick oven pizza. Since it was just before Christmas, homemade panettone was the perfect endnote.
After Country Roma, it was difficult to imagine my last night in Rome could deliver a meal that could compete. As luck would have it, I was wrong. One of the Roman locals pointed me to La Pace Del Palato, a restaurant she assured me was well off the touristy beaten path and situated near Piazza Navona. After devouring a life-altering dinner of beef carpaccio, traditional Roman pasta dishes, and warm, breaded mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto, we closed down the restaurant by drinking the last couple bottles of Chianti with owner Renato who speaks barely a lick of English. With a wink and a thumbs up, he turned the music from ambivalent ambiance tunes to American 80’s pop, blasting Rick Astley as he smoked a cigarette at the table. A few minutes after we said our goodbyes outside the restaurant, I found myself standing under a magnificently starlit sky in an empty Piazza Navona. Rome, it’s been swell.