Monday, March 30, 2015

Pescheria dei Consoli, or Hurry And Go Before Success Ruins It

I’ve discovered the Roman fish restaurant, and it is called Pescheria dei Consoli. Though far off the beaten track, this tiny place is worth making the necessary reservations and taking the Metro A down to Numidio Quadrato. The restaurant started as a fish market by day, eatery by night, but well-deserved success has seen them add a lunch seating and expand the restaurant a bit. If it is always packed to the brim, it is with good reason. The fish is impeccably fresh and as locally sourced as possible, the chef has an uncanny ability with pasta sauces, and the prices are borderline ridiculous in their affordability. Anyone who has gone out to a fish restaurant in Rome knows how hard it is to find quality, even in the higher price ranges. Here, they deliver every time.
I took my parents when they were last here, and I admit we gorged ourselves. We started with two mixed fried seafood plates, which meant perfectly crispy moscardini (tiny octopus), whitebait and tender calamari. Next came two platters of marinated seafood and salads such as octopus and potato, octopus and roasted pepper, seafood salad with carrot and celery, boquerones, salmon and pink peppercorns in olive oil and more. Each preparation was delicate but flavorful and clearly made with the freshest of ingredients. 
At this point, our bottle of Vermentino from the Gallura region of Sardegna had run dry, so the friendly staff brought us another, along with the three pasta dishes we had ordered to share among the five of us. The best of the three was without doubt the scialatelli with crab, a huge portion of fresh noodles shaped like thick fettuccine tossed in a fragrant and creamy tomato based sauce and topped with about half a succulent crab. The linguine with lobster and paccheri with perfectly done scampi and truffles, while both delicious, couldn’t compete with the incredible combination of sweet crab, chewy rich noodles and velvety sauce.
Though you might not find the scialatelli on the menu, which changes depending on the catch of the day and seasonal ingredients, there is always at least one dish as extravagantly wonderful. For my last birthday, the chef made the best paccheri (wide smooth tube shaped pasta) I’ve ever had, with cherry tomatoes, scampi, mazzancolle shrimp and squash blossoms. We crave it regularly.
That time we decided to skip their secondi, but I can attest that the grilled calamari, shrimp and scampi are perfectly done and as with everything else, exquisitely fresh. With a bit of lemon squeezed on top, they make you feel as if the beach might be just on the other side of the Pescheria’s nautically decorated window. Even the oysters and sea urchin are excellent, so you really forget you're in Rome!
My only complaint is that service used to be slowish (before the expansion) but was carried out by two really sweet women that liked to go out salsa dancing after work and put correspondingly good music on the restaurant’s playlist. Since growing a bit, service has fallen into the hands of two young men who are perfectly competent and friendly, but attempt to order for you at least once a dinner. For example, you’ll order three mixed fritture, look around at your table mates to make sure they agree, and they’ll break in to say, “Why don’t we do the risotto with lobster and a grilled fish tonight?” complete with diminutives inserted wherever possible (risottino,  prosecchino, that type of thing). You get the feeling that both of the waiters have at least a couple small children each at home and haven’t gotten the hang of turning off dad-mode while at work. 
Nonetheless, it is easy to accept this small flaw by keeping in mind the casual vibe and the correspondingly low price tag of an evening at the Pescheria. We five ate extraordinarily well, drank two bottles of wine, water, and shared a few lemon sorbets, digestifs and coffees between us, and the bill was about 110 euro. For the quality, at that price, I’ll put up with being brought the “conticino” when I ask for the bill.

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