Struck with the eternal dilemma while traveling: eat excellent food in a remote place away from the tourists vs. eat good food next to your hotel. Most of the time I choose the former.
Common complaint regarding the restaurants in the historic city center of Rome is the number of touristy restaurants with the menu in six different languages, and offerings of pizza, spaghetti, sushi, and chicken fingers all in the same place. Surely if this restaurant is located in Rome right next to this famous fountain, it’s going to be good!
Which brings me to Armando Al Pantheon. Its location is suspect, a stone throw away from the Pantheon. Almost too convenient wouldn’t you say? And yet, you smartly made a reservation a month in advance for lunch for your trip to Rome. You walk towards the entrance of the restaurant and open the door where you face three other couples in the small entryway. The waiter asks if anyone has a reservation. You proudly say yes, I do. The three other couples look dumbstruck — reservation?! You smile smugly. The waiter escorts you in and points to a table in the far left with a soft cushion booth. The waiter then turns to the three other couples and says in perfect English with a mild Italian accent, “I am sorry, we do not have any openings today for lunch.” And that is the beginning of your wonderful lunch.
Family owned, mentioned in numerous travel and food blogs, for good reason. It is conveniently located and a solid choice. Tourists and locals both frequent this establishment. Closed Saturday Evening and All Day Sunday.
Now if someone told me that during my vacation in Italy, I had to choose only one dessert, I would tell them to go home and think about what kind of person they want to be.
I always make it an effort to order dessert in Italy. Usually its delicious and yes, I’m on vacation. But if it’s a monetary thing, then I would probably skip the dessert and save room for gelato at one of the many fine establishments.
The torta antica is a delicate cake with ricotta and the strawberry jam is so delectable you’ll be scraping the residual jam with your fork off the plate. Serving size is small.
Everyone seems to praise the tiramisu. I may go against the grain here and say that it tastes like.. tiramisu. May be I haven’t had too many bad tiramisus. It was good, we finished it, of course, end of story.
Armando Al Pantheon
Salita dei Crescenzi, 31, 00186 Roma RM
Mon - Sat 12:30 - 15:00 | 7.00pm - 11.00pm
Closed: Saturday evening and all day Sunday
Where to Sit
No one wants to sit in the table in the middle of the room. Request to sit at the tables on the far left with the cushiony seats/booth. (Left as in, when you enter the restaurant, these tables will be on the left).
The ambience is classic Roman trattoria with vintage photographs decorating the walls. Ambience is classy and traditional, but if you showed up in shorts, no one would probably bat an eye.
What to Order
I would stick to the popular Roman classic favorites in the restaurant. I did become adventurous and tried the anchovies on toast. It is certainly an interesting flavor, perhaps something to try since you are in Rome, but by no means is something I would request to have every day for lunch.
Of course you must get the pasta, clearly the favorite, especially the seasonal pasta they had with fresh fava beans (and I hate fava beans).
Would not order again: saltimbocca which I found rather heavy. Boiled beef with onions and tomatoes was unmemorable. Homemade sausage with beans was flavorful but not in the right setting. Eating cheese covered pasta alongside chunks of sausage meat did not mix well in my stomach.
Recommend: Solid Choice (4/5)
Work in going here for lunch before or after the Pantheon.