Every time Michele and I are in Rome we go to Checchino dal 1887 and have been doing this since 1983. This time we went with three friends on a Sunday afternoon. The restaurant is owned by the Mariani family.
Francesco Mariani takes care of the front of the house while his brother Elio is in the kitchen and their sister Marina handles the accounting. Considering the wine and the food, it is the best restaurant in Rome with over six hundred wines from Italy and all over the world.
When we arrived and Francesco showed us to our table, he pointed to the table next to us and there was Daniele Cernilli (aka Doctor Wine and author of the Essential Guide to Italian Wines 2019), his wife Marina Thompson, and Daniele’s mother and father–his father is 96 years old.
Francesco brought up me two magnums from the cellar. I knew immediately which one I wanted, the 1975 Chianti Classico Villa Antinori Cantine del Marchese Ludovico e Piero Antinori because I know it is a wine that can age. In 2016 I had the 1964 and it was fantastic. I asked Francesco to pour some wine for Daniele and was interested to see what he would say. I asked him about the wine. He said it was mostly Sangiovese, with some Cannaiolo and a very small amount of white grapes, most likely Trebbiano. Antinori was just beginning to experiment with barriques and Daniele said a little of the wine was most likely aged in barriques.
The wine had great color and was drinking like traditional Chianti, with hints of red fruit, cherries, blueberries, leather and a touch of violets. We all agreed it was a wonderful wine!
I started with the Assaggio di Fagioli e Cotiche, pig skin and borlotti beans cooked with tomato. This dish is so good, so intense, that I cannot resist it.
Bucatini all’Amatriciana is my favorite pasta dish and, as they say, “nobody does it better.” I always order it here.
Michele had the rigatoni with oxtail ragu.
Three of the best red wines in Italy are made around Rome. They are Torre Ercolano, Fiorano and Colle Piccioni. The only one still on the list is the
Colle Piccioni Rosso 1983, Paola di Mauro, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine consultant at the time was the legendary Giorgio Grai. The wine was aged in large oak barrels. The wine has hints of leather and cherry with a very long finish and great aftertaste.
For my main course, I had Fegato di vitello ai ferri, thin slices of grilled veal liver with onions. It was very flavorful and tender, and as a side dish.
I had an Artichoke alla Romana.
Michele had, at Daniele’s recommendation, the padelloto, a plate of assorted innards including kidneys, liver, sweetbreads, and so on, cooked with garlic, rosemary and a dash of vinegar. It is the classic quinto quarto, fifth quarter of the calf that was eaten only by the poor people of Rome, though it is now considered a great delicacy.
There was a cheese course with some aged Fontina, pecorino Romano, and goat cheese.
Daniele sent over a bottle of port to go with the cheese
.Vintage Port 1970 Quinta da Roeda Corft. The Quinta da Roêda is one of the great Porto vineyards. It is produced only in years of exceptional quality when a general Porto vintage is not declared. The grapes are trod by foot in granite lagares to minimize the release of harsh bitter compounds from skins and seeds. The wine spends two years aging in vats before bottling. It had hints of red berries, dark cherry, plum and spice and was a perfect combination with the cheese.
Checchino dal 1887 is the best restaurant in Rome for real Roman food. If you are in Rome this is the one restaurant you must go to. It is also Daniele’s favorite restaurant in Rome, and he is a native Roman.