Often ranked as one of the best restaurants in Rome (of around 6000), Spirito di Vino (in English, "Spirit of Wine") is a certified Slow Food restaurant. The slow food movement was actually born in Italy, promoting the value and process of slow and traditional food production versus the modern industrial way.
To that end, Spirito di Vino buys all of its products from small food producers. The ones who maintain a traditional approach and method for producing meat, bread, dairy and pasta.
The impressive wine cellar at Spirito di Vino is 160 years older than the Colosseum! — Photo courtesy of Eating Italy Food Tours
To get to Spirito di Vino, you'll have to cross over the main drag of Viale di Trastevere to the "other side," a part of the neighborhood that many tout as the real Trastevere.
The place is completely family-run by Romeo, his wife Eliana and their son Francesco Catalani. Father-son duo Romeo and Francesco will most likely greet you on arrival, seat you and take you thoroughly through the menu and extensive wine list.
They're both a fount of knowledge, not only about their dishes and wines, but also about gastronomy and the neighborhood in general. And you won't have to work to hard to have them part with some of that knowledge.
Venison carpaccio, walnut and grape salad — Photo courtesy of Maria Pasquale / HeartRome
Eliana is the impressive head chef. A prominent figure within the local Slow Food sector, she was a successful biologist who worked alongside Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi Montalcini before she finally decided to follow her real passion in life and open up a restaurant.
And you'll be glad she did. The food ranges from inventive to classic, showcasing the best of local produce. Everything from sauces to compotes is homemade and completely organic, things like venison carpaccio, walnut and grape salad and the house speciality – no less than a recipe that originates from Julius Caesar's Roman Empire rule – braised pork with apple purée and roasted vegetables.
If you have a sweet tooth, save room for dessert. The crema cotta, a creamy Italian take on a creme brûlée, is to die for.
Some other interesting dishes include couscous with shrimp, chickpeas and tomato confit; pasta with a white ragu sauce; homemade chicken liver patè with wild apple jelly and toasted bread; and cold spaghetti, with tuna roe, confit cherry tomato and pine nuts.
With respect to the quality, meal prices are not exorbitant by Rome restaurant standards at €8 to €10 for entrees and €15 to €18 for a main course.
Pork and apple, the perfect flavor combination — Photo courtesy of Maria Pasquale / HeartRome
And if the standout food and wine doesn't impress you enough, the building is guaranteed to blow you away. The restaurant is housed in what is said to be the original walls (which are heritage site protected) of the oldest synagogue in the world.
Prior to settling in an area now known as the Jewish Ghetto, Rome's Jewish population and many other ethnic groups called Trastevere home; on the buildings' exterior, some Hebrew inscriptions still remain.
If you ask Romeo nicely enough, he'll offer a post-meal visit to the basement wine cellar – stocked with close to 1,000 bottles – that's around 160 years older than the Colosseum. Several ancient sculptures, now in the Vatican and Capitoline museums, were discovered here.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a location in Rome where history is so felt in the present, with outstanding food and wine and service.