“All roads lead to Rome.” For travelers, this is also true. The Eternal City has a way of attracting visitors from all over the world and it’s easy to see why. From street food to fine dining, there’s no shortage of good eats in Rome!
Living Next Door To The Best Restaurant In Rome
Our apartment in Rome just happened to be directly adjacent to one of the best restaurants in Rome, Cafè MeMe. How lucky was that! Trip Advisor rates Cafè Mem as the 109th best restaurant out of 10,000+ restaurants in Rome. Wow! I had a chance to sit down with Gerardo, the chef and owner, and talk about the secrets that make this restaurant so good. Bon appetite!
What Makes Cafè MeMe THE BEST?
Cafe MeMe doesn’t look much different than other sidewalk cafés and restaurants in Rome but don’t let that fool you! Because inside is an incredible chef whose passion for food and love of family has combined to create some of the best Italian dishes in the city.
Sure, Gerardo is a talented chef but there are a lot of talented chefs in Rome. So what makes Gerardo’s food so much better? Everything is made from recipes handed down through the generations. Gerardo follows his grandmother’s recipes and even uses his grandmother’s cookware! His mother, Patrica, who works with Gerardo, was taught by her mother and has taught Gerardo how to make the family recipes. Gerardo’s father also helps out in the restaurant. Even the restaurant is named for his grandmother. It’s a true Italian family affair!
Love Of Food, Love Of Family
And another part of the secret to this great food: the love. You feel it the moment you sit down. Our first time there we did not know anyone and no one knew us, but we felt immediately welcome. More than that we felt we were wanted, as though the family had been waiting all day for us to come down so they could take care of us.
When Gerardo came to take our order he listened to us, closely, and then made suggestions for us. This was not an ‘upsell’ this was genuine love for people, for food, and for people to eat well. The sign by the door sums up Gerado’s feeling about food, it says,
“To Eat Is Human. To Eat Well Is Divine”
After we ordered his father, sitting at a nearby table, started talking to us (we did not know it was his father). Not much chatting, just enough to make us feel really welcome and comfortable. We also met his mother. Every time we walked by from that day on, someone always said ‘hello’ to us. What a way to make tourists feel genuinely welcome and like locals.
Today I was able to sit down with Gerardo and watch him make one of my favorite dishes, Gnocchi Piccadilly.
He started by heating up some olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Here’s another secret: there is no fire in the kitchen, he only uses electricity and he does this purposely. As the oil heats, he adds parsley and capers – not a lot just enough to add a hint of flavor, anchovies from Sicily, and pre-boiled, skinless Piccadilly tomatoes. Then the clams, from the Adriatic, and muscles go in followed immediately by whole garlic gloves.
After just a few moments of heating, he adds wine. Not a cheap ‘cooking wine’ but a quality vintage because as Gerardo says, “Good wine makes good pasta.” Then, surprisingly a bit of Thai Siracha. From here the mixture heats for a few minutes to let the shellfish open and the anchovies “melt”. During this time he adds ladles of boiling water with parsley, lemon, wine, and olive oil which he previously prepared. Then the homemade gnocchi goes in.
After 2 or 3 minutes it’s ready and so am I!
Delicious Rome Food
It was delicious. I won’t list a string of adjectives, or create a cleaver analogy to describe how delicious it was – you will have to try it yourself. I will say that I don’t eat bread with the main course because if the food is excellent I don’t want the flavor dulled by the bread dough. But this time I asked for bread after I was done so I could get every last drop of the sauce!
Cafè MeMe is a sidewalk restaurant in a tourist area. It’s also some of the best food in Rome. Gerardo says it best, “It’s not a tourist place. It’s a place for people who want to eat well”