When Salvatore Aracri, whose family hails from the Italian region of Calabria, says “it’s freshly made from zero,” the owner and floor-pacing manager of downtown’s Trattoria Roma restaurant means to say that all of his restaurant’s pasta is freshly made. Not that he needed to point that out. The lasagna noodles are as thick as shingles and fantastically chewy, and the house-made sauce is vibrant and sweet, saturated with peppery ground beef and a rich blend of cheeses that stretch from the plate to your mouth in thick white ropes. This is not your modern lasagna, filled with chunky vegetables to fool you into thinking you’re eating healthy—thank God—and most of the pasta dishes follow that rule. The trattoria itself is easy to miss, wedged next to the fresh funk of Bootsy’s and directly across the street from the Aronoff. Unlike the mournful Italian ballads that played in the background, the service we had on our visit was upbeat and efficient, quick to light a candle with one hand and offer a wine list (which could use updating) with the other, all while explaining that night’s special: a beef filet medallion stuffed with provolone, and roasted peppers in a portabella mushroom sauce. The filet was tender and well cooked, but not all that flavorful. The oven-baked salmon, served with steamed risotto and buttery asparagus, plus a side of mussels sautéed in a white wine sauce, was a moist, briny treat. And even though the cooks like to get creative with their specials from time to time (rabbit, octopus, etc.), Aracri should never forget that his specialita della casa is pasta, pasta, pasta.
609 Walnut St., downtown
Lunch & dinner Mon–Fri, dinner Sat
Originally published in the February 2009 issue.