I have been sitting by a bit and waiting for Trattoria Pennestri to get more attention but I don’t really want to wait any longer. The Rome restaurant opened on a quiet street in the rapidly gentrifying Ostiense neighborhood in 2017. For some reason, the excellent eatery is still flying under the radar.
Run by a chef and sommelier team, the restaurant is serving fantastic dishes paired with an impressive wine list.
While many of the neo-trattorie popping up in Rome tend to shy away from offal, Trattoria Pennestri embraces it. You will find all the Roman classics here, as well as some 80s throwbacks and truly new dishes like fried egg alla vignarola (topped with perfectly braised spring vegetables and goat cheese), which I am still thinking about many months later.
And even though Trattoria Pennestri respects the untouchable Roman pillar of eating innards, the chef has found a way to brighten up the heartiest of the traditional dishes.
Take, for example, coratella. This farmyard stew is made up of lamb heart, lungs, and liver and it usually tastes exactly like it sounds. At Trattoria Pennestri, the addition of ricotta salata and lemon zest adds layers of flavor that are usually missing from the heavy dish.
I was even convinced to try the tripe – which is earthy and tripe-y and still very Roman (in fact, it is a dish which remains a bit too Roman for me).
The plates of pasta that I have had at Trattoria Pennestri are either excellent or very close to excellent. I write that last part as a compliment rather than a negative review. The menu is interesting and the chef is willing to push some boundaries to try new flavor combinations. Sometimes they are flawless. Other times, they are compelling but not quite there. I wish more restaurants in Rome would be willing to take this risk to try something new.
The menu changes regularly and you should always ask what the daily specials are. They have tempted me to change my order more than once.
One of the best ways to taste this creativity is on the appetizer list. The starters at Trattoria Pennestri (like that vignarola egg- oh dio) nail it every time. Most recently for it, it was the pumpkin hummus with primo sale cheese that was topped with light, fresh herbs (a garnish that appears with a welcome heavy hand in several dishes on chef Pennestri’s menu).
I almost want to go back again and order all starters plus a bottle of wine. So, when you are trying to decide between one or two appetizers that sound interesting – get them both. You won’t regret it.
The other thing that Trattoria Pennestri has absolutely perfected is the ambiance. It is the perfect reflection of the menu – a respect for traditions pulled into the 21st century.
Go. Then go back. That is what I have done, and it has made me appreciate this little trattoria more each time. (And the prices are fair enough to make it possible to eat here regularly, unlike some of the other restaurants with a modern spin in Rome).
Via Giovanni da Empoli, 5
Phone: +39 06 5742418
Open: Tuesday – Sunday for dinner from 7 pm – 11 pm. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, also open for lunch from 12 pm – 3 pm.
Reservations highly recommended. It is still easy to book a table if you call ahead, but if you show up without a reservation, there is a good chance of being turned away.
Note: I’m using some press photos in this post because my memory card was corrupted and I lost most of the photos I had of one big meal at Trattoria Pennestri. The first time I went to Trattoria Pennestri, I was invited as press. But I liked it so much that I have since gone back and spent my own cold hard cash there. I only write about places and experiences that I genuinely enjoy and want to put my money where my mouth is, so you can read my entire policy about honest reviews here.