We never would have gone to – or even known about – this ristorante if we hadn’t taken that amazing cooking class with Chef Leo. After having such a great time with him, we knew we couldn’t leave Rome without visiting the restaurant where he is king of the cucina.
Located about five minutes away from the Trevi Fountain, That’s Amore – owned by chef Fabio Bongianni – offers up delicious food served by a friendly staff in a relaxed atmosphere. The walls are covered with photos of famous faces from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the tables are all within cozy proximity of each other. We actually ended up talking to our “neighbors” for quite a while, but I find that things like that often make a good experience even better.
The menu offers a wide range of selections – from the traditional starters, pastas and main courses, to pizzas and calzone cooked in a traditional wood burning oven. We started with the verdure gratinate con focaccia calda(grilled veggies, sprinkled with breadcrumbs gratin style and warm rosemary focaccia bread). Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of this until we had almost polished off the whole plate:
You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was delicious. I mean, why else would I eat vegetables so quickly??
I need to backtrack for a minute here. Even though we were pretty much BFFs with the head chef, we played it safe and made reservations online. I would recommend doing the same, because the restaurant did get crowded quickly, and when we left, there was a line outside (more on our exit later).
Anyway, after we were seated and the waiter came to take our drink order, I asked him to let Chef Leo know that the ladies from his cooking class were there (I didn’t do this in a stalker-ish way, Chef Leo had told us that if we came to the restaurant, we should ask for him…I swear). Within just a few minutes, he came out to our table, and I felt like we were seeing an old friend. He is so genuine and nice, and there is no doubt that he truly has a passion for what he does. I couldn’t help but notice other diners noticing the head chef chatting with us (okay, okay…I looked around hoping people were paying attention, and a few seemed mildly curious – though I prefer to call it “envious”).
We asked him for his recommendations on what to order, and he asked if we liked white truffles, because they had gotten a hold of some earlier that day (October marks the beginning of the season for these rare mushrooms). The special for the day, therefore, was tagliolini with white truffles shaved on top. “Bring it on!” cried the three of us in unison, banging our forks and knives on the table. (Kidding!) Alas, Chef Leo does not encourage rash decisions, so he went back into the kitchen to bring out a white truffle or two for our inspection. He reappeared with what looked like a couple of dirty rocks in a jar and opened it up for our sniffing pleasure. Many people detest the earthy, intense aroma of truffles. I, personally, love it. Love, love, LOVE IT. If they made truffle-scented incense, I would buy it. After that, when we said we would, indeed, all have the special, he accepted our decisions as sound and returned to the kitchen to get cookin’ (or at least boss people around).
As we were waiting, we noticed a man walk into the restaurant that looked a lot like a picture of the owner that was in the menu (the aforementioned chef Fabio Bongianni). We watched him walk to the back of the restaurant and speak to the staff and to Chef Leo. While we were still watching and trying to decide if it was him or not, he turned around and walked right over to our table. I thought he was going to tell us to stop staring at him or maybe to stop stalking Chef Leo, but instead he greeted us warmly and said he heard that we were excellent students at our cooking class. He was a truly delightful person and stayed to talk with us for a while (*more people staring at us enviously*).
Soon after, our waiter brought delicious-looking plates of pasta to our table, and Chef Leo came along to personally shave the dirty rocks/white truffles over the top (*more people stari–okay, okay, I’ll stop). Here’s a picture of the chef in action, as well as the finished product:
Given the fact that white winter truffles are so expensive (we’re talking thousands of dollars per pound, folks), the dish wasn’t cheap – 35 euros – but…when in Rome, as they say. All of us loved it and felt like it was worth the splurge.
Thankfully, we still had room for dessert! There’s lots on the menu to choose from: tiramisu, gelato, chocolate cake, fresh pineapple (FYI…I would have to be body-snatched by an alien before I ordered fruit for dessert, but I included it here for you healthy-types that might be reading this). Since I was still fully in possession of my own body, I ordered the homemade millefoglie con crema e scaglie di cioccolato (millefoglie with chantilly cream and flakes of chocolate). Yuuummmmm:
We lingered over dessert and wine, talked some more with our neighbors…and decided to head out. As I mentioned earlier, there was a line outside the door by this time, and we saw that Fabio was standing outside talking to the people while they waited. We walked outside, and Fabio spotted us. He came over and gave all of us the traditional double cheek kiss (I just love that), enthusiastic thanks and demands for our return.
After Fabio bestowed the kisses, some other random guy grabbed my mom and said he wanted kisses, too, kissed her cheeks, and then – I’m not kidding – everyone in line started applauding us and I think I saw a few people snapping pictures with their phones. They were probably whispering “I don’t know who they are, but they must be somebody!!” I was not drunk and the truffles were not hallucinogenic (I don’t think)… I swear this really happened. I started looking around for paparazzi, and even though I didn’t spot any, I quickly put on my sunglasses and pulled up the hood of my sweater just in case they were lurking around the corner (okay, I am kidding about that). It was weird and fun and just added to the wonderful feeling we had all night being treated so well by Leo, Fabio and the whole staff at That’s Amore.
Given the type of people they are, it’s entirely possible that they treat many, if not all, of their customers with the same care and attention. But I like to tell myself that we were special…
Have you ever eaten at That’s Amore? If so, tell me about your experience in the comments below. If not, you should definitely add it to your list of places to dine the next time you’re in Rome!
Via in Arcione 115, Rome
+39 06 679 0302
Open daily for lunch and dinner (from 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.)
To read more about chef Fabio Bongianni, his restaurants and his cooking classes, click here.