In an attempt to improve my writing, in particular, my food writing, I’ve been reading like crazy lately.
Two books I’m working on concurrently – Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl and Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob – both state that you should eat at a place several times before writing about it.
This was to be my firm step one in improving my food writing.
Don’t just write about a delicious, one-off meal, Molly! Go back again and again, for lunch and dinner, write, record your thoughts, tell your company that you’ll be distracted as you taste, think, taste again, and take notes, trying to describe every morsel of food so that you can effectively convey each culinary sensation as you smell, touch, look at, and taste it!
Then I ate at Trattoria L’avvolgibile, and I couldn’t keep my big mouth shut. This place is too good to keep secret, so I’m sharing it with you.
I promise I’ll obey Dianne and Ruth and go back as soon as possible. Trust me, I’m already figuring out when that will be.
Trattoria Popolare L’avvolgibile: classic Roman fare in a retro setting
La trattoria “di una volta”
Entering Trattoria L’avvolgibile is like stepping back in time. Chef Adriano Baldassarre and his partner Fabrizio Macchioni were going for exactly that when they chose the retro decor, which includes a pinball machine and a credenza from the 1970s.
They even chose the lacy curtains to remind diners of their grandmothers’ houses.
The walls are decorated with simple copper pots and small framed pictures.
Slow Food certified
L’avvolgibile made it onto Slow Food’s list of Osterie d’Italia 2020. This guide is issued yearly and highlights “the best of regional cuisine” all over Italy.
Chef Adriano Baldassarre earned a Michelin Star at his other restaurant in Rome, Tordomatto. His goal for L’avvolgibile – a so-called “trattoria popolare” – was to produce high-quality, traditional Roman fare at affordable prices.
Everything, even the wine, is 20 euros or less.
What’s in a name?
L’avvolgibile comes from the verb avvolgere, “to wind.” It refers to the twirling of long pasta onto one’s fork, which you’ll see reflected in the restaurant’s logo.
The menu is divided into short sections – warm and cold appetizers, fritti, pastas, soups and minestrone, avvolgibili (the twirlable pastas), pietanze (second courses), sides, and fruit and dessert.
We had a little bit of everything.
Cold appetizer: Lingua con salsa verde
I’m slowly making my way through all of Rome’s famous offal dishes. Thus far, I’ve had rigatoni alla pajata (calf intestine) and trippa alla romana (tripe with tomato and mint). When my friend suggested that we try the tongue at Trattoria L’avvolgibile, I was alllll about it.
Having never bitten into a tongue except for my own, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
The thin ribbons of meat were dressed with salsa verde and sprinkled with a chopped hard boiled egg. I expected the tongue to be chewy, but this was the opposite – each bite was tender and delicate, with a mild flavor.
Fritto: Filetto di baccalà
Done poorly, filetto di baccalà can be oily, limp and/or bland. These were anything but. The hot, salty filets of fish were encased in a crunchy coat of batter. I only had a small piece so as not to spoil my appetite, but I easily could have had a whole filetto to myself.
L’avvolgibile: Spaghetti alla carbonara
Jeremy ordered this, and declared it the best carbonara he’s had in recent memory. The egg-based sauce was thick and creamy and covered each spaghetto evenly. What stood out to me was the flavor of the meat, which brought a smoky tinge to the whole dish.
Fuori menù: Rigatoni al sugo di polpette
This was one of two specials available. When I heard the word “polpette,” I just said yes.
You may be aware that meatballs hold a special place in my heart as an Italian American. My mom’s meatballs are legendary. If I close my eyes, I can hear them sizzling and smell their scent as she gently fries them, swirling a bit of hot oil over the top of each one with a spoon before turning them to get a perfect, even crunch on all sides.
My pasta arrived and I started digging around for the meatballs. I quickly realized that there weren’t any – it was pasta served with the sauce that the meatballs are cooked in. (I obviously ordered meatballs immediately, but more on that later.)
Back to the sauce. The sauce! First, the tang of tomato, then the sweetness of carrot, a whiff of celery, and a note of rosemary at the top.
Secondo (which is actually an antipasto caldo): Polpette
So, as soon as I realized that there were no meatballs hiding under my pile of pasta, I ordered some.
I definitely showed my Italian Americanness here. The sweet waiter raised his eyebrows when I said I wanted them with my pasta, rather than after, but he kindly obliged.
The meatballs were good – they were plump and moist – but the best part was that they were served with about a cup of the same delicious sauce that my pasta was blessed with. I found myself repeatedly reaching for the breadbasket to chase up every last drop of it.
This act of using bread to swipe up sauce, in Italian “fare la scarpetta,” is frowned upon in public by some, and can be classified as a “brutta figura.” At Trattoria L’avvolgibile, I went for it with gusto, because they’re trying to emulate an old-fashioned grandmother’s house. I don’t know about yours, but my grandmother wouldn’t have wanted anything going to waste.
Contorno: Cicoria ripassata
Jeremy has fallen in love with cicoria ripassata since moving to Rome, and I think he could probably create a top ten list for the city because he gets it everywhere we go.
This one was right up there – bitter, tender and earthy.
Dolce: Millefoglie alla crema e cioccolato
I was full at the end of our meal, but not too full for a sweet. As I crunched each layer, I tasted the richness of the lemony cream, the darkness of the chocolate, and the delicate sweetness of the powdered sugar. It was the perfect end to an excellent meal.
Location and booking information
Trattoria Popolare L’avvolgibile has the added bonus of being located in a neighborhood that’s not packed with tourists. It’s located at Circonvallazione Appia, 56, near the Ponte Lungo metro stop (A Line), so it’s still easily reachable from the city center.
You can book through the Fork app, or call +39 06 5069 5104.
Want more foodie tips?
Check out my post on where to eat in Rome for a list of my favorite restaurants.
Here’s another post on apps and websites for booking restaurants in Italy.
Want to make sure you’re eating the real deal while you’re here? Check out this post on how to find good restaurants in Italy.