Forgive me, I lapsed into Roman dialect in my title today, but it's only because where we're going now just brings it out in me. This place, IMHO, wins hands-down for Rome's most fun and authentic period building and atmosphere to dine in. Naturally, it's in Trastevere, where else?
First off, it's in what I consider one of the most charming piazzas by night: Piazza de' Mercanti. Imagine those places that Disneyland or some other theme park tries to recreate: a cobblestone square surrounded by quaint houses with flower boxes in the windows; big, hulking medieval buildings with flaming torches out front; ivy lazily creeping down the sides of the brick walls. Eating at Taverna de' Mercanti is definitely like stepping back in time, and even though they do play up the uniqueness of their location (most likely a former stable building from the 1400s or thereabouts, although I'm not really sure on this), luckily it doesn't feel too "touristy" or put on.
Take the front door, for example. After you walk through the heavy door whose entrance is flanked by two flaming torches, you climb this staircase to reach the dining area.
See what I mean? It's one of those places that looks fake because it is so authentic. Does that make any sense?
Now take the menu. When you arrive at your table, you'll find this rolled up into a scroll, waiting for you on your plate. It's about 2 feet tall by 1 foot wide.
I can't tell you how many times I've taken mine home with me, intending to frame it and perhaps hang it in one of our vacation apartments here in Trastevere, but I've never gotten around to it (yet). The fact is though, it makes for a special (and free) souvenir. It's printed on really nice paper and has sayings in Roman dialect.
As for the food, well, it's always excellent. Nothing too fancy. They specialize in "carne alla brace," grilled meats, and they have a large open grill in the dining room, so there's a real rustic feeling to the place, in addition to the period furnishings they have hung on the walls and from the ceiling.
(I can assure you that their chefs are not under the influence of anything; I just happened to catch this poor guy at the wrong moment.)
They also have a nice range of pizze (yes, folks, that's how we say "pizzas" around here). Per esempio:
Now, this is a pizza that's got way too much going on for me to ever eat it (I mean, hello, fried egg in the middle?) but Ale loves it. It's the capricciosa. Usually it's half of a hard-boiled egg, but who knows, I guess they got creative here.
I didn't manage to get a shot of any of the waiters, but they wear traditional period dress, complete with blousy shirts and neckerchiefs.
All in all, it's a fun night out, and a great place for couples and families alike. The place is huge, so reservations generally aren't necessary, but in the summer it gets crowded so you might want to go by early (7:45-8 pm) or call ahead. One of the most coveted spots is a table on the piazza--definitely worth it if you can manage to book one. Pizza is a bit pricey, ranging from €10-€15, while the meat dishes go from €10-€48 (and you can even have grilled quail if you really have a craving). We usually end up spending about €25-€30 per person including the house wine.
TAVERNA DE' MERCANTI
Piazza de' Mercanti 3/a
Piazza de' Mercanti 3/a