Antico Arco, Rome

January 27, 2009

Antico Arco is by the Porta San Pancrazio on the Giancarlo hill overlooking Trastevere.  The young owners of this restaurant say in their website:

The style of the dishes presented is clear and uncluttered, aimed at enhancing above all the quality of  produce used.
For the cuisine of  the Antico Arco more important than the region of origin and tradition is the authenticity of the essential flavour. Every dish is based on a regional recipe.
Traditional Roman dishes are the basis of this search for perfection beyond all boundaries and is obtained by using the best ingredients.

This sounded like our kind of restaurant and so on January 16, 2009, Linda, Sue and I went for dinner. We were seated in a room with the kind of loud music that young people like and asked to be transferred to a quiet area upstairs, which we shared with a birthday party that was at just the right level of jollity.

The wine list was quite extensive. I ordered a bottle of 2003 Bianco Breg Gravner from NE Italy. This wine from Josko Gravner, arguably Friuli’s most esteemed and influential winemaker, is aged in terra cotta amphorae, rather than the traditional wood or the modern stainless steel. This blend of Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling Italico grapes was awarded a 92 by Parker in 2002. It had a pinkish color and an unusual flinty flavor that needed food, but even then, didn’t win me over.

I also ordered a bottle of 2003 Poggio le Volpi “Faunus.” The Faunus is 80% Cesanese del Piglio with the balance Barbera and Montepulciano. Cesanese del Piglio produces robust, aromatic wines; it is an indigenous red grape of Latium, the region around Rome.  I liked this wine, although it could have used some more time in the cellar.

There was a little amuse-gueule on broccoli cream.



The first course was
Mozzarella di bufala croccante, bottarga di tonno e pomodori confit

The buffalo mozzarella had been topped with grated dried tuna roe, encased in a filo dough and baked. The crunchiness of the crust attracted all my attention and the mild insides made little impression on me.

Carpaccio tiepido di gamberi con schiacciatina di patate alle erbe

Almost raw shrimp were served on top of a round of traditional potato flatbread with a green herb dressing. The fresh flavor of the shrimp came through nicely.

Tagliolini verdi al sughetto di triglie e zafferano

Triglie (rougets) are a small Mediterranean fish which require delicate handling. I thought that using them in a tossed pasta dressing is abusing them and that the saffron was wasted alongside the tomato chunks. But Linda liked this pasta very much.

Mezzi paccheri in guazzetto di amatriciana

All’amatriciana is a classic sauce, more appreciated in Rome than carbonara, which is also based on guanciale (with egg yolks, without tomato.) The name comes from the town of Amatrice (in the mountainous Province of Rieti of the Lazio region) where good guanciale is made. The addition of tomato goes back over 200 years. Guazzetto in this title seems redundant as that also means a tomato sauce, but may indicate that it is puréed. Mezzi paccheri are shorter and wider than rigatoni, which are often used with this sauce. Anyway, this was delicious with all the ingredients in harmony with each other. That such a traditional dish would sparkle among the other more adventuresome creations is interesting.

Maialino da latte croccante e morbido in agrodolce, soufflè di finocchi e agrumi

Here we have two tender filets of suckling pig with two very crisp pieces of the skin served with a sweet and sour sauce. There is also a small lemon-fennel soufflée and a braised leek. This was a good main course that was creative without wandering too far from basics.

Selezione di formaggi e le loro composte
We each received a plate with three pieces of cheese; the matching condiments were passed around the table. I don’t remember the first cheese, but it was served with honey. The second was a tomme, or hard cheese of sheep’s milk, served with a chocolate liquid. The third was gorgonzola with a persimmon compote. Nice.

There was a little predessert of a vanilla Bavarois.


We could choose our desserts from the menu.
Linda chose
Cilindro di financier, ricotta e visciole

Being a fan of French financières, she was disappointed with that aspect of the dish, but thought it was light and well made.

Sue’s dessert was
Il caffè, l’anice e la liquirizia
and mine was
Sorbetto al mojito

Sue’s martini glass had several layers including creams of coffee and anise. My sorbet was of rum, lime and mint. Good.

I cannot say that Antico Arco always succeeded in its objectives quoted above, but it didn’t stray far from trying. We are glad we tried it.

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