I first discovered Trattoria Moderna last summer. My foodie friend Ellen was passing through Rome with her foodie family on their way home from a few weeks in Tuscany. They wanted one last really great Italian meal. After dithering for ages over the restaurant, we finally agreed on a well-known place near Campo di Fiori. A last minute change of heart due to mixed internet reviews of the well-known place brought us to Trattoria Moderna instead. The restaurant, which has only been open a couple of years, is just off the Campo di Fiori and more or less directly across the street from the Roscioli bakery. The Moderna specializes in fish and, the first time I went, at our request, they brought us plate after plate of interesting fresh and fishy antipasti. I have been meaning to get back there ever since. And last week I found an excuse (and remembered to bring my camera).
My cousin’s daughter has spent the semester studying outside of Venice and traveling as much as she can on the weekends. Last week was Rome’s turn. I met up with Mandy (whom I immediately called Marty — short for Martha, my cousin’s name) and her friends at Campo di Fiori. I was distressed to hear that they haven’t been eating terribly well while they’ve been in Italy. They described their study programme’s lunchroom as resembling a “really bad high school cafeteria.” There appears to be a lot of eating of Nutella on crackers that goes on. Well, that was not going to do. Not on my watch. So off we went to Trattoria Moderna.
It was Sunday afternoon around 2:00 and we easily got a table. It’s an attractive place, high ceilings, well lit, modern-looking (as one might imagine). Mandy ordered linguini with lobster, which looked amazing I must say.
Her friends ordered a sort of chickpea soup with octopus and paccheri with shrimp and squid.
Paccheri are short fat pasta tubes and they have a mysterious and swashbuckling history. Back in days of yore — otherwise known as the early renaissance — Prussian garlic was well known for being of modest size and underwhelming in the taste department. (Prussia is modern day Austria for those of you who have let their memories of European History lapse). By contrast, Southern Italian garlic was fat and sassy and was much sought after by the Prussian nobility, so much so that the ruler of Prussia closed the borders to garlic imports from Italy in order to save the garlic industry.
Furbo (meaning crafty, cunning) even back in yore, Sicilian pasta makers created paccheri pasta, which could accommodate precisely a ducat’s worth of garlic cloves. A ducat is a sort of pre-World War I Euro coin. The garlic-stuffed paccheri were smuggled across the Alps into Austria, eventually causing the Prussian garlic industry to collapse.
I don’t eat pasta much so I had a appetizer of raw fish and shrimp — sooo fresh — and turbot with a zucchini-tomato sauce. Both were excellent. Not to mention the potatoes.
It has been my experience that heavily touristed areas tend to let themselves go restaurant-wise, because they can. So I was happy to discover this fine spot so close to the Campo di Fiori. Highly reccomended.
Trattoria Moderna, Vico de’Chiodaroli 16, Rome. Tel: 06 68803423