Rome is to wine bars what Montreal is to hot dog joints and Toronto is to Tim Horton’s. Business people negotiate deals over a glass or two, students study will sipping, and friends get together and savour. Where in North America you head to Starbucks, Italians go to the wine bar.
First of all, you can get a decent glass of wine for the price of a Grande Caramel Latte. There is no awkwardness about going into a bar by yourself. And there is no pressure to hurry up and clear the table. How civilized.
Il Ritrovo del Gusto (The Hangout of Taste) Via dei Coronari 30, Rome
I discovered a lovely wine bar next door to our apartment around the corner from Piazza Navona, one of Rome’s most beautiful historical squares. A couple of priests sat in the back sipping on a beer. Five Polish women were laughing in the corner – enjoying the special day after coming here with one million other pilgrims for the Canonization of two popes by two living popes.
I sat back, by myself, and enjoyed the show. While it was sheer coincidence that I came to Rome the same day as the pilgrims, I was moved by what was going on outside – the songs, the masses, the celebration of groups from all over the world. They joined the Old Nonno (Italian for grandfather) with a new pair of shoes, the young men who emerged from the shadows with armfuls of ponchos and umbrellas at the slightest drop of rain. This is the Rome I love.
And I am sheltered from the rain inside this little wine bar that treated each customer as though they were royalty.
When I was not enthusiastic about the wine-by-the glass choices on the board, the bartender brought me new choices; a Cerasuola from Sicily and a Primitivo from Puglia. The bartender lamented that tourists come in asking for Chianti, Chianti, Chianti – or if they feel adventurous Amarone, Barolo. “These wines need food to be properly enjoyed,” he says. As he tells me and my friends about the wine we are drinking, he offers us a plate of bruschetta to sample some of the local specialties. No charge.
A five minute walk away in a neighbouring piazza, a different experience. Cul-de-Sac prides itself in having a great selection of wine. No kidding! There is a short one page menu for food and 3-inch binder with wine picks. Fourteen hundred choices to be exact, 55 by the glass.
From best of local to exclusive bottles such as this 2000 euros (3000 dollars CDN) Montrachet that I passed on. They have something for every palate.
They have an interesting menu with such offerings as pasta with hare ragu to lasagna and a killer Tiramisu (My husband Steve should know, he has ordered it in every restaurant in Italy.) Everything is homemade.
We were surrounded by business people who work in the area – it is always a solid endorsement when the majority at the tables are local. The beauty of it is you can sit and watch the world go by, or you can catch up with the world with their free WIFI – which is offered at most places now.
Slowly after a two weeks in this country, I am losing my automatic skepticism that everyone is out to cheat the tourist. Because despite my proud but broken Italian, and my Euro-sneakers, they can spot that I am a tourist in a millisecond. Offering that extra service is good business.
Because…I went back the next day – and now I am telling my friends.