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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Best Restaurant in Rome - Mithos La Taverna dell'Allegria

Interior - looking towards one set of room; there are more tables
in back of the camera view, but you can see the narrowness of
the restaurant here.

We have an easy to answer to the most asked question – what’s our favorite restaurant in Rome, and that’s Mithos – La Taverna dell’Allegria.  The food is amazingly good, at a reasonable price, and the ambiance is without a doubt charming yet understated.  The owner, Mario, is the perfect host.

But, we usually add, Mithos is out of the Centro a ways, and has no English menu.  For us, that’s a plus.  So is the fact that we found Mithos by simply stumbling across it when we lived in the neighborhood 5 years ago.  Then, Mario had a tiny restaurant – about 4 tables inside and the same outside (during the long outdoor season in Rome).  He would write up the menu in his (for us) hard to read handwriting about 7.30 p.m. and go next door to make a few copies.  We watched him do this prep work one evening when we arrived at what was supposed to be the opening time of 7 or 7.30 p.m. – but don’t count on the restaurant really opening before 8 p.m.  No self-respecting Roman would show up for dinner before dark, even in the summer.

About 2 years ago, Mario and his adult daughter and son took a leap of faith and tripled the size of the restaurant by moving into a longish storefront in the nearby Piazza Scipione Ammirato.  The décor features old sideboards, cupboards, kitchen tables and chairs, painted in muted Easter-egg hues, and all placed in a gracefully lit, modern infrastructure.  You can even watch the cooks at work in the kitchen.  The outdoor space is now available too, as you can see from the photos, and gives out onto a relatively quiet (esp. for Rome), recently spiffed-up piazza.

Mario in ubiquitous apron serving outdoor tables

So onto the food.  Mario still does a nightly menu and the selection is limited (4 or 5 pasta dishes, 4 or 5 entrées), but wide – fish, meats, vegetarian.  We love it all.  The seafood is amazingly fresh and good (“Zuppa di pesce,” for example), and the pastas perfectly cooked, interesting, and wonderful.  Mario’s daughter (Alessandra, as I recall) oversees the scrumptious desserts.  The Slow Food movement has found Mithos and sponsors events here, which tells you something.  The TripAdvisor reviews are all in Italian (except mine) and are almost all highly favorable. And, by the way, there is nothing Greek about the cuisine.  This is Italian to the core.

Two of us usually eat here for Euro 45, including wine.  Though those who choose a full menu will probably see a bill for 2 of Euro 60.  By Rome standards, this is a deal.

Sunday brunch menu
We chatted with Mario this summer about his expansion into pizza offerings and Sunday brunch (not a Roman custom).  We think, like many restaurateurs , he is trying to cover his costs, having expanded into the heart of the Great Recession which, you may have heard, is hitting Italy even harder than the U.S.  I wouldn't waste a trip to Mithos on pizza or omelets, but you may have different ideas. 

Okay – so is it worth a taxi ride out of the Centro and back?  It’s hard to justify a Euro 30 taxi each way for a max Euro 30 per person meal.  The Metro A stops of Ponte Lungo and Furio Camillo are at most a 10 minute walk from Mithos.  We recommend them.  You'll also get a feel for this very Roman suburban neighborhood.  Technically Mithos is in the Appio Latino quarter, but it also is very close (walking distance) to the Tuscolano quarter.  (If you must stay in the Centro, and are foodies, definitely go to Katie Parla's site,, or her app for great recommendations.)

We almost always go to Mithos on one of our last nights in Rome each year, and we are never disappointed.  As we discover each time, it’s a romantic and delicious way to savor the Eternal City.

We recommend reservations.  Mithos is often full, even on weeknights.  tel: +39.067840034. Email (I've never tried it - but go for it) -  Address:  Pizza Scipione Ammirato, 7.


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