There was a chill in the air and the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome was quiet with no tourists or Vespas in sight. Locals smoked cigarettes as the setting sun cast long shadows in Trastevere — a neighborhood that’s been part of Rome since the time of emperor Augustus.
It was late afternoon when we stumbled upon a tiny restaurant called Pianostrada Laboratorio Di Cucina. There were no menus showing pictures of food and no maitre-d standing outside, giving a hearty “Boujoirno!” Only a simple black-and-white sign outside gave away the rustic interior, complete with mason jar lights and the day’s menu written on a chalkboard.
Locals Chiara Magliocchtetti and Chef Paola Colucci opened the restaurant just last year. It quickly became known for a unique blend of traditional, Roman home cooking and street food. If you’re looking to grab a bite and run, this is probably not the best place. Magliocchtetti ’s inviting smile and friendly chatter make it impossible to want to leave.
She greeted every customer by name and asked them about their day. Aromas of freshly-baked bread and herbs wafted through the open kitchen. Walking in on a given day, you could see Colucci making fresh pasta or strike up a conversation Magliocchtetti. Their daughters, Alice, and Flaminia also work at the restaurant.
“May, June and also July we just, pow!” said Magliocchtetti, making an explosive motion with her hand. Word spread fast about the four beautiful blondes running a new restaurant, and their unique take on Roman cuisine.
“We try to capture the essence of what you would find at home. The simple flavors and familiar tastes. Paula uses memories of what she ate when she was young to create something different.”
Different or not, they still cook according to the principles that govern all Italian cuisine. The ingredients are treated with the uttermost care, arguably even more than the recipe itself.
“We start with simple things like bread, flour and salt. We use them to create something much greater and a lot of people appreciate that. Our targets are young people and people that can appreciate quality and love to eat. People that truly eat, not people that eat to just fill up!”
Most tourists who come in say that this is not a place meant for tourists, according to Magliocchtett. Those looking to try a fettuccine Alfredo need not apply. We ordered a Caprese sandwich with homemade potato chips. The mozzarella was creamy, the tomatoes ripe and sweet. You could taste the olive oil and sea salt on the potato chips.
Out of the four women, Colucci is the only professional chef. She and Magliocchtetti met in cooking school and both talked about wanting to open up a restaurant. They wanted a business of their own and to leave a legacy for their daughters.
“Paula has a great passion for the simple and good things. Food with fewer ingredients. It’s simple but there’s a harmony to the flavors and in the taste.”
Rome’s culinary scene like most big cities is dominated by men. Painostrada is the antithesis of that and Magliocchtetti said that they’re felt welcomed into the scene.
“With us people come in, they will see four women and say hello or ‘Quatra bellas!’”
Single women like to come to talk about their relationships and their woes. Maybe it’s Magliocchtetti carefree laughter or her self-deprecating jokes, but you get the this is the kind of place when you can just be yourself.
“We cry almost every day, we are four women. Everything is important to them right now, especially friends. We try to organize everything to find a balance in our lives,” aid Magliocchtetti referring to the younger girls.
Running a restaurant is already one of the hardest jobs out there and sourcing quality ingredients can make finding this balance even tougher. They spend more time and money than other restaurants, according to Colluci.
“There are a lot of standard places where you can eat something standard. Where the quality is the standard. A lot of tourists try (and like) these places…you can appreciate something else (at Pianostrada).”
When asked what she would have for the rest of her life if she could have only one thing, Colluci answered, “Pasta with basil with tomatoes, fresh onion and basil and parmigiana,” without hesitation.
Magliocchtetti was a bit more general and smiled, “I love her food… anything from her would be delicious because it’s so good.”
After trying the fare at Pianostrada, we couldn’t agree more.
Words by: Aleksandra Bulatskaya
Pictures by: Victoria Felicity Elizondo
Visit Pianostrada at: www.facebook.com/Pianostrada-Laboratoriodicucina