Checchino 1887 is my favorite restaurant in Rome for food and wine. I missed the return of Pajata by a week when I was at the restaurant this winter.
Checchino 1887 and the return of Pajata by Daniele Cernilli, Doctor Wine 28-04- 20015
Testaccio is one of Rome’s most traditional neighborhoods and even has its own cuisine that derives from it once being home to the city’s main slaughterhouse. Although today the area has become a trendy nighttime scene, filled with pubs and discos, the Checchino dal 1887 restaurant remains a stalwart of an almost forgotten past. The Mariani family has owned and operated the restaurant for seven generations and Checchino is considered the birthplace of one of the important dishes in Roman cuisine: Rigatoni con la Pajata. The sauce for this pasta is mad by stewing the entrails of calves that have not been weaned and are filled with chyle, which has a consistency between ricotta and yogurt. A misunderstanding of its recipe led it to be banned by the European Union in 2001 in the wake of the ‘Mad Cow’ scare, a ban that was only lifted a few weeks ago. Now that it is legal again I obviously went straight to Elio and Francescoi Mariani to taste it after almost 15 years. Being the direct heirs of those who invented the dish, they have not changed an iota of the original recipe, an act of gastronomic archeology and the restoration of a cultural and traditional asset with deeply social roots. Rigatoni con la Pajata dish is now once again the signature plate of this extraordinary restaurant which offers and maintains the best of Testaccio cuisine with wonderful versions of Coda alla Vaccinara (Ox-tail stew), Trippa alla Romana (Roman-style tripe with tomato sauce) and Coratella con Carciofi (Entrails with artichokes), along with standard Roman classic pastas like Carbonara, Amatriciano, Gricia and Cacio e Pepe. Their wine list is also very good with the bottles conserved in a cellar carved out of ‘Monte dei Cocci’, a huge mound built out of ancient stacked clay fragments from amphora dating back to Roman times. The restaurant is a magical, unique place where a meal runs around 60 euros a head, if you don’t get carried away with the wine. Walking out you cannot help but think: ‘’Screw fusion cuisine…’’. I could not agree more-traditional Roman cuisine at its best!