We had our final dinner in Rome at Agata e Romeo, a Michelin 1* near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. The restaurant is a husband-and-wife operation, with Agata Parisella doing the cooking and Romeo Caraccio running the front of house.
Agata is known for her sophisticated renditions of Roman classics, and it seemed like a good option to finish this leg of the trip. The dining room is small, with a welcoming yet fancy vibe. The decor and service are upscale and homey at the same time - it's as if Agata and Romeo are hosting you in their home, but made sure everything was nice before you arrived. It's a great example of my vision of Michelin 1-stars - excellent food in a more modest, less over the top environment.
The menu has an a la carte section divided into antipasti (€35), primi (€30), and secondi (€40), and also offers two set menu options. The longer €130 "Agata e Romeo" menu offers what seem to be changing seasonal dishes, while the €110 "Signature dishes" menu offers some of Agata's well-known classics. They were flexible - I wanted to try most of the stuff on the Signature menu, but asked to switch out my secondi for one that was on the a la carte (and also the other tasting menu), and it was no problem.
A nice set of variety of bite-sized amuses arrived first, each quite savory and appetizing. Agata has a deft hand with pastry.
I tend to crack on bread quality at the average restaurant in Italy - I'm always shocked by the prevalence of pre-packaged breadsticks and dry, lifeless loaves. So it would be unfair to ignore Agata e Romeo's delicious collection of breads. I'm always torn when encountering such plentiful bread options... I feel like I need to try them all but I get worried about being too full. Oh well, I tried them all, and it was worth it.
A second amuse came in the form of this turbot mousse. It was like a fancified quenelle de brochet, with a silkier texture and more concentrated flavor. Very nice.
The first real course was this flan made of Pecorino di Fossa, a prized sheep's milk cheese from Sogliano al Rubicon. The balsamic and figs were a nice contrast to the sharp tang of the flan - an interesting set of flavors overall.
The main reason we chose Agata e Romeo was to try Agata's reknowned version of spaghetti cacio e pepe. I generally think of myself as a carbonara kind of guy, but in recent years I've grown fond of the pure simplicity of cacio e pepe (just cheese and pepper). I've been on a mission to find excellent renditions, and Agata e Romeo came up frequently as a top contender.
I can say without hesitation that this was the best cacio e pepe I've ever tried. It was tremendously rich, as you can see, and the cheese and pepper played off each other beautifully. The spaghetti was toothy and perfect for mopping everything up. Simply awesome.
I subbed this pork for the original secondi in the menu, salt cod cooked in tomato sauce. The cod was good (I tried my dad's), but I'm glad I made the switch. The pork was moist and tender, with just a tinge of sweetness from the honey. The hazelnuts provided a nice textural contrast.
This was a semi-palate cleanser - a small crepe with a nice, citrusy lemon curd. Simple but well done.
Agata is also very famous for her version of millefeuille, and deservedly so. The custard was smooth, refreshing, and not too sweet, while the pastry was crumbly and delicate. Nothing unusual going on here, but a very well executed classic.
We finished with a pretty impressive set of mignardises. Again, very good - I particularly liked the little cream puffs. It seems anything pastry-based is a strength here.
Overall, I thought this was a great meal, and Agata's famous dishes are definitely worth trying. It's still a splurge, though the food has a more rustic feeling than La Pergola. Well in line with its 1-star rating, possibly into 1.5 range.