Hotel San Francesco, Roma, February 4, 2013—THERE IS ONE TRATTORIA left here in Trastevere that I have long been interested in but have not yet tried. Why not give it a try on this, our final night in Rome for this year?
So we met a beloved granddaughter for an aperitif in a wonderful bar on the San Cosimato — sorry; don't have it's name — and then went on to the Piazza die Ponziani, on what is now our side of Trastevere, for dinner. And there I began with a carciofo alls giudia, of course, with a filetto on the side; and then went on to spaghetti caccio e pepe. If you don't know the English for these Roman menu items, you haven't been paying attention lately.
I order these standbys in a spirit of scientific and critical research, I suppose, thinking — if you can really call this "thinking" — that there must be an order, a ranking, by which I can find the "best" Trastevere trattoria. I'm here to tell you, after now about seventy days of research spread across the last near-decade, that this cannot be done. There is no best Trastevere trattoria, because there can be no ranking among them.
Tonight's artichoke was as good as I've had. The best, of course, since it was the one I did have; though others I've had recently are vivid enough in my taste memory (which in the case of artichokes also includes mouth-feel, a very important component) to permit me to, in a sense, compare this one. But only in a sense: in fact there is no comparison; comparisons are odorous as Dogberry says.
Similarly, the cacao e pepe was authentic, the pasta perfectly cooked al dente and tasting of nothing but flour and water, the dressing beautifully balanced among cheese, salt, black pepper, and a tiny bit of olive oil. I'm sure different trattorias use different pecorinos; nearly all are perfectly satisfying, but most in their own individual ways. Consistency is a virtue only to those who prefer not to attend to the tiny delights of unexpected pleasures.
What I will say is that Da Teo is a trattoria I will willingly return to, I don't care what TripAdvisors say about its current position on the long trajectory of its varied history over the years. It's comfortable, quick, resourceful, pleasant, and authentic; we had a fine Ribolla; the service was pleasant; the neighboring table spoke Italian. I'm glad we chose it.
Ribolla Gialla, Isidoro Polencic (Collio), 2011: the best white wine we've had in weeks• Da Teo, Piazza die Ponziani 7, Roma; 065 818355