There’s been a lot going on in Italy lately what with Habemus Papam and Non Habemus Governum and I probably should be writing about that. But there are others far more qualified than I to do that; so I will just steer you their way and write about restaurants instead.
I have written about Le Coq before but I love it so much that I feel compelled to gush some more. It is honestly my favourite place to eat right now and the fact that it is merely ten minutes from where I live is just icing on the cake. If you are in Monteverde, you simply must eat there. Or make a special trip. It’s really not that out of your way and it totally blows the doors off its near neighbour Cesare al Casaletto, which many people adore but which I think is super overrated. I will concede that Cesare’s antipasto is still very nice but the rest of his offerings seems to have gone really downhill since the first time I ate there (and gushed about it). The pastas are meh, the main courses boring and overcooked, the pizza is greasy. And the service has been absolutely atrocious the last several times I have eaten there. I can forgive almost anything but not atrocious service. Grump. Now I’ve put myself in a bad mood. Quick, back to Le Coq!
The thing that I really love about Le Coq is its cosiness. It feels like nothing bad can happen to you there. The front room is pretty and well lighted but I always head to the back, where there are wicker chairs, a tented ceiling, paper lanterns, fairy lights and colourful paintings on the walls.
The food is cozy too; it does stray into the neighbourhood of dust and foam from time to time, but not in an overly gimmicky way. The last time I was there, the very friendly waitress first brought us not one but two amuse bouches from the kitchen. Man, I love when they do that. The first was a little fried meatball of boiled meat in a puddle of garlicky salsa verde. The second was a perfect crunchy shrimp in a passion fruit mayonnaise.
Next came the antipasto. I had scallops (which I love but are very hard to find in these here parts) on top of crispy fried pork belly, cream of pumpkin and this grass stuff the Italians call agretti (or Barba di Frate, Monk’s Beard).
Jane had an egg that had been cooked at 65 degrees C for an hour and then placed atop some broccoletti and parmesan and smoked tea foam (I know, I know. But it was really good).
I very rarely eat pasta but as this was (nearly) my birthday, and in the spirit of scholarly pursuit, I ordered a dish that combined two classic pasta styles: ravioli stuffed with cacio e pepe (pecorino romano cheese and black pepper) and sauced with amatriciana, which is based on guanciale (cured pig cheek, pecorino and tomato). Crazy good and I don’t even want to think of the calories in that one.
Jane had sort of gnocchi things stuffed with n’duja (a soft, spicy hot, spreadable salami from Calabria) and sauced with a sort of broccoletti pesto. Spicy! And also delicious!
The main course for me was slow-braised beef cheeks with spinach on a puree of Jerusalem artichoke and, for Jane, roast lamb with mashed potatoes and crispy artichokes.
For dessert we split a sort of molten chocolate mousse thing. No photo of that, sorry. Ate it too fast.
Le Coq is open Monday through Saturday for dinner and Sunday at lunch. They do a tasting menu, which I have yet to venture. Do yourself a favour and go.
Le Coq, Viale di Villa Pamphili 35c, 00152 Rome, Italy. Phone: +39 06 5833 5146