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Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Tartufo (Truffle) War

We can’t resist the very famous chocolate ice cream dessert, the tartufo - or truffle -  at Tre Scalini on Piazza Navona, no. 28. Although a bit pricey, they’re also big enough to share.   The restaurant itself gets widely divergent reviews; some people love it; some think it's a tourist trap.  Our view - just get the take-out tartufo and stop while you're ahead.

Tre Scalini is in a building that housed an inn as far back as 1815, and the Ciampini family created the tartufo (see photo right) in the 1940s.

We found a mild war going on the last time we were there, however. A maitre d’, or owner, or manager, of THE Tre Scalini virtually accosted us as we were going in to get our fix (he's the one with the shock of white hair in the photo at right).  He wanted to point out to us that HIS was the TRUE tartufo – not the imposters literally across the narrow pedestrian street, with an equally imposing location on Piazza Navona. And, sure enough, the “imposters” had a sign saying they were selling “Tre scalini tartufo” – but of course their café is not THE Tre Scalini.  They've cleverly named their cafe' "Ai Tre Tartufi" (below left), slapped on an 1896 date, and it's at 25 (not 28) Piazza Navona.  Here's the website for the TRUE Tre Scalini, tel.

So market capitalism, caveat emptor and all that. But we recommend the original, of course.



FongHistory said...

Just came across this post and was pleasantly surprised to find the picture you posted of the gentleman outside Tre Scalini. I'm a teacher and was on a trip to London, Paris, Florence, and Rome with students this past March and April.

On the night train from Paris to Florence, three students and I shared a compartment with two Italian men. One was the white-haired man above, Roberto! He was a good roommate, though he liked to illegally smoke in the train's bathroom....

He was very passionate about Rome and he also told us about his restaurant and how famous the dessert is there. We got off the train in Florence and bid him farewell, thinking that the likelihood of seeing him, days later, in a major metropolitan city (and one we'd never been to before) like Rome was impossibly slim.

A couple of days later when we were wrapping up our tour in Rome, we had some free time at, of all places, Piazza Navona and lo and behold, there was Roberto outside Tre Scalini! The guys bought his tartufo, "take away," but I was too cheap and just got a gelato nearby. We took some pictures with him and came away with a great story. Nice to see Roberto again on your blog!

Unknown said...

Dear Dianne Bennett and William Graebner, nice to meet you over the net.

I am Emmanuele Gramaglia and our company, MITdesign ( ), is in charge to manage the the image and the communication of
Tre Scalini Restaurant, located in Rome (Italy) and precisely in Piazza Navona, one of the world’s most famous square.

First of all we want to thank you mentioning our location in your article. Because of the confusion that is above our Original Tartufo, caused by several restaurants with the same name,we kindly ask you if it is possible to insert a link to the official website of the restaurant ( ). The website has also an English version.

The correct data about the restaurant are:
Tre Scalini
Piazza Navona 28

Waiting for your reply, please accept our best regards.