La Fraschetta: An Institution in the Castelli Romani

Genuine food, local products, traditional pastas, wine from the Castelli and don’t forget the porchetta! A fraschetta, a typical rustic restaurant in the Castelli Romani, offers homemade Roman cooking in a joyful and informal atmosphere.   


On weekends they are packed with Romans and Castellani who travel for a causal, inexpensive and cheerful meal with friends and family. The small, charming town of Ariccia is the fraschetta "capital" as it boast not just one, but two streets lined back to back with these characteristic eateries. 


Their origins date back to the Middle Ages: The name derives from frasca, a laurel branch full of leaves draped over the entrance, to let travelers know that they would find new wine inside.  The name could also originate from the ancient village of Frascati.

Historically, they offered only wine and bread, and patrons brought their own food;  the opposite of a BYOB restaurant.  Over time they have changed their appearance and their food offerings, but traces of the past remain evident.  

Often located in a converted cellar or grotto, the general theme of décor includes long wooden tables and benches, large wine barrels and a glass case showcasing all the cured meats and cheeses.  


What do you eat? You can start off with a ridiculously abundant antipasto; a selection of salamis, my favorite being the coppiette (a spicy pork jerky), prosciutto, cheeses, olives, beans and porchetta

It can leave you too full for anything else, but keep powering through to the classic Roman pasta dishes: Pasta alla carbonara, gricia or amatriciana are found on most menus, and when options such as fettuccine con funghi porcini (porcini mushroom) or ragu di cinghiale (wild boar) appear, I tend to order those. 


The secondi dishes lean towards grilled meats. To finish on a sweet note, order the typical ciambelline al vino (ring cookies) to dip in wine.

Wine, of course, is all local from the Castelli Romani. Most house wines are on tap and many fraschette also offer bottled wines if your hesitant about wine in the carafe.  Most all offer inexpensive fixed menus along with their à la carte menu. 


If you are not a meat eater, don’t despair, you have options. Ask for an antipasto with a mix of cheeses, bruschetta, followed by a pasta dish such as cacio e pepe, tartufo or funghi porcini, and seconds such as grilled scamorza cheese.  Dar Burino, via dell’Uccelliera 44/50 Ariccia, tel.  333/1828584,  even offers a fixed vegetarian menu.


If a full meal is too much for you, some fraschette offer a porchetta sandwich to eat in or take away; it's simple and delicious: A highlight of my nephew’s 10 day trip to Italy was a pork sandwich from Ariccia.

Although the fraschette are scattered all throughout the Castelli,  my favorites are located in Ariccia:

Da Rugantino: Homemade gnocchi, excellent primi, abundant portions. Good house red wine as well as respectable local wines in bottle.  Here they have long stemmed wine glasses, rather than the short, thicker water glasses,  for those who like drinking wine out of a thinner rimmed glass (like me!). via dell’Uccelliera 18, Ariccia. Tel +39 06 933 2953


Osteria Da Angelo - Outfitted with the typical long wooden benches, a vaulted ceiling and a jubilant atmosphere, you’ll find delicious homemade pastas. As it is a favorite of Romans, booking is recommended. via dell’Uccelliera 24/26, Ariccia Tel. 06 9331777

Fraschetta Antico Grottino - Located in the main piazza of Ariccia, Antico Grottino offers a full menu as well as the famous pork sandwich to eat in or take away. Excellent porchetta and has a good price/quality ratio.  If it’s nice weather, grab a table outside and take in views of piazza designed by famed artist Bernini located across the street. Piazza di Corte, 15, Ariccia Tel. 06 8936 3364 


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