I love Rome for the fact that essentially, you’ll find a great spot for aperitivos and an even better place for dinner after in each corner. When we arrived, the sun was getting ready for golden hour and it somewhere near the Piazza di Spagna, an aperol spritz was calling out my name.
On my friend L’s recommendation, we ended up at Il Palazzetto, a pretty decent terrace bar atop the Spanish Steps.
Il Palazzetto just about became our fave spot for aperitivos for the trip, with its laid back chilled out vibe and central location and great views of the city. Plus the potent cocktails were rather tasty.
By sundown, we headed off to get ready for dinner at Ad Hoc along Via di Ripetta. Our reservations manager aked if we wanted to head down to the restaurant’s truffle shop first for a little bit of a treat. I mean, freebies in a truffle shop? OF COURSE, I’m down.
We sampled Ad Hoc’s truffle spreads (all eight of them) at the shop and were treated to some prosecco. I thought this was quite a generous offer, as all of them tasted gorgeous (and I really loved the porcini truffle spread). Our server was polite and informative and uberfriendly. We left without feeling obliged to make any purchases unlike other places where they’d throw it in your face.
Tartufo tasting done, we walked a full two minutes to the main Ad Hoc restaurant. Walking in, I couldn’t help but feel slightly claustrophobic with the wine-adorned walls. God forbid, someone as clumsy as me would… I dunno… accidentally elbow one of them creating a domino effect and flood the whole restaurant with fortified grape juice. YIKES.
As we perused the menu, we asked for a wine recommendation and our server came back with a bottle of Falesia Chardonnay from 2011.
A few sips later, I started to feel less claustrophobic and the smell of hearty, Italian cooking, and the glorious sound of punters laughing and having a great time pulled through. I relaxed.
Ad Hoc’s menu is pretty straightforward, if not a bit romanticized. But hey. Rome puts the ROMA in ROMANTIC so… #justsayin.
Anyway. Here’s what we had.
A beautiful bread basket I wanted to steal and take back to my hotel room.
An amuse bouche of fried risotto. Nice, but I’ve had better.
Plus some bread sticks.
Carbonara 3-ways. As we are in pasta country after all, I’m sure you’re expecting me to say “Oh, the pasta is perfectly al dente!” and it was. It really was. But here’s the thing, there’s only so much “al dente” I can take. Ad Hoc’s carbonara trio was delicious but one of them was a little TOO al dente for my liking.
There was carbonara with truffle, carbonara with crispy bacon and carbonara with honey and mushrooms (my fave). I don’t even like carbonara normally but holy shmokes, guys… Ad Hoc’s offering was so good. The sauce was thick, creamy and buttery with a good type of grit. This kickstarted the whole meal for me.
Another starter was grilled polpo. Lying on a bed of what we jokingly classified as soupy mash (a very delicious and well-seasoned mash), this dish was simple cooking done well. I can’t tell you enough how tender the octopus was and how much we enjoyed the smoky flavours from the grill. It was well executed and was a very good start.
Suckling pig with cheese and pepper fondue. When we saw this dish on the menu, I said I don’t think I ever associated pork with a cheesy sauce which was quickly countered by “Ham and cheese sandwich. Double Bacon cheeseburger.” Fair point, but this was an actual meal of its own. The suckling pig medallion was soft to the core and the cheese and pepper fondue was subtle enough to let the pork flavours shine. It wasn’t a bad combination at all, in fact it was really good. But it was just a bit odd for me.
The seabass fillet rolled in zucchini and honey mushrooms was beautiful. I mean I’m not gonna lie, it looked rather lifeless on the plate and I was rather scared it would taste bland. One bite later, I’m obsessed. It was the most flavoursome piece of seabass I’ve had in a while, perfectly seasoned and slightly sweet from the mushrooms. I think this could be something we can all recreate.
Slowly braised beef cheek. Served with a Roman “vaccinara” tomato sauce and some sort of pastry resembling a Yorkshire pudding, this was heartily divine. The sauce was strong and punchy and the beef was boldly tender.
Personally, I preferred the Tuscan beef fillet. Served with buttered spinach and a tournéed roast potato, the fillet was of good quality and cooked nicely.
Cooked medium rare, I would’ve preferred it a bit more on the rare side. But that didn’t stop me from devouring the lot, because it is actually very delicious.
Dessert was a tiramisu which looked a bit more. Set in a hollow chocolate sphere perched on a bit of marzipan, a huge blob of fluffy marscapone screams “EAT ME”, almost freakshake-like. The taste itself was decent, although the coffee flavour was slightly lost in sweetness and strength of the marsala wine. But it was a fun eat and yes, I’d probably order it again.
Whilst having coffee, we were given some petit fours to munch on.
Verdict for Ad Hoc
I actually really liked our meal at Ad Hoc. I thought it was quite a good place to spend your first meal in the Eternal City. The truffle tasting part was a nice touch and the food in the restaurant itself was honest and hearty. The vibe is relaxed and service is fantastic. We laughed and toasted to our servers, who I think – based on the Italian bants I’ve witnessed from other punters – enjoy their work, too.
Was it the best Italian meal I’ve had? I’m on the fence here. Because it was seriously authentic – which, by the way, I totes loved. But with the world having different concepts of what Italian food should be like, I perhaps thought something else. Was it the best Roman meal I’ve had? It’s definitely somewhere up there.
Go with friends, go with a date, go for your first night in Rome. You won’t be disappointed for sure.
Ristorante Ad Hoc
Via di Ripetta, 43, 00186 Roma, Italy
Ave spend pp: €50 per person with wine
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