Food and Digital Times – Rome


In the beginning of my career, director Mel London taught me that the reward at the end of a good day’s shoot was a fine dinner. In Rome, that included a fine lunch. Having spent the past two weeks working here, the following is a brief selection of film-friendly favorite places to squander per diems in Rome.

Assunta Madre


Assunta Madre Garden

Assunta Madre Garden

Not only Rome’s best, freshest seafood, but perhaps the best seafood on earth. The crudo (raw, thinly pounded fish, with olive oil and coarse sea salt) is a religious experience: shrimp, tuna, sea bass…

Follow the crudo with primi of pasta–perhaps a Paccheri with squid and sea bass in a sauce of cherry tomatoes, olives and lemon.

For secondi, the lobster is like nothing in Maine or anywhere else on earth. Assunta Madre’s owner Giovanni (Johnny) Micalusi knows where to get the best.

In summer, the outdoor garden within earshot of the Tiber River is a pleasant place to dine. Try the wine: Schultauser ’11 Pinot Bianco St. Micahel Eppan.

Not easy wrangling a table.  It helps if you’re shooting a film with De Niro or Stallone or happen to be De Niro or Stallone. I am eternally grateful to have been invited by my friends Jay and Vivian Mellon.

Vivian is the daughter of Hans Ruesch, race car driver and author. Ruesch’s The Savage Innocents starred Anthony Quinn, was directed by Nicholas Ray, with locations in the Arctic and interiors at Pinewood Studios and Cinecittà. The Racers starred Kirk Douglas and was directed by Henry Hathaway. The most recent production of a Hans Ruesch novel was The Day of the Falcon (Black Gold) directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud,  starring Antonio Banderas. The novel was variously published as South of the Heart: A Novel of Modern Arabia, Arab, and The Great Thirst. Panalight of Rome supplied the camera equipment.

Assunta Madre
Via Giulia, 14 00186 Roma‎
+39 06 6880 6972


Ristorante Pagnanelli


If you’re working at Cinecitta, this is a great place for dinner. Or lunch if you have a couple of hours during prep — or invited, as I was, by Massimo Proietti of Panalight.  It’s about 20-30 minutes from the studio, depending on via Appia traffic, high on the hill in Castello Gandolfo, next door to the Papal summer residence. It’s good to be pope, or dining here at Ristorante Pagnanelli. The view of the lake below and the hills of the volcanic crater above are spectacular.

Begin with prosciutto, melon and figs. Or perhaps the carpaccio of salmon with wild fennel. Then Tagliolini with Crayfish. Follow with grilled swordfish with lemon leaves and oregano. Accompanied by a salad of greens and fresh, wild fragolini del bosco — tiny wild strawberries with the smell of a perfumed field of wild flowers.  Quench your thirst with a bottle of La Luna del Casale Sara local Chardonnay.

If you’re still thirsty, descend into the enormous wine cellar where thousands of bottles line the ancient stone corridors. Famous bottles abound–autographed by Wes Anderson, Oliver Stone, Paul Haggis, and the peripatetic Robert De Niro. Gabriele Pagnanelli continues to run the establishment — he is the 4th generation of his family to do so.

Via Antonio Gramsci, 4
00040 – Castel Gandolfo (ROMA)


Antipasti at Gigi's

Antipasti at Gigi’s


Armando Grottesi

Gigi is closer: a few kilometers from Cinecitta, and a favorite spot for lunch indoors or in the garden. You’ll usually find Armando Grottesi there — it’s his favorite spot. Armando is President of Cinetech Italiana, the manufacturer of dollies, and was my host for a spectacular lunch of antipasti, linguini with porcini mushrooms, and a fresh fruit salad. Stop by the gourmet food emporium adjacent, and get owner Luigi “Gigi” Salvi’s “Tavola d’Autore” cookbook.

Trattoria delle Corse (Gigi’s)
Via Appia Nuova 1260
00178 – Roma (Italia)
Tel. +39 06 7180241


Dal Bolognese


The Boss at Dal Bolognese

Garrett Brown at Dal Bolognese waving to his adoring fans

Garrett Brown at Dal Bolognese waving to his adoring fans

Trio of Pasta

Trio of Pasta

When in Rome, try to book a table at this high-powered restaurant off the Piazza del Popolo. Jacques Lipkau Goyard (Producer, FDTimes Rome Bureau Chief) managed to get us in. He, Elisabetta Cartoni (head of Cartoni), Garrett Brown, Ellen Shire, and I were greeted by a throng of fans, paparazzi and police. Alas, we were not the objects of attention. The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, was a couple of tables away. Also vying for attention were a table of Russian oligarchs (names withheld), a prominent diet doctor, members of the Italian political elite, and the FDTimes table.

Oh, and yes, the food was good. A trio of pastas to begin, followed by paper-thin veal Milanese, with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and olive oil drizzled on top. Several bottles of a wonderful Sicilian Nero D’Avola were followed by desert of fruit salads, millefoglie, and a silky Grappa di Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Dal Bolognese
Piazza del Popolo 1
00187 Roma


Taverna Flavia 
Fried artichokes at Flavia

Fried artichokes at Flavia

Workflow during La Dolce Vita days followed gravity and the flow of cocktails, beginning at Harry’s Bary on top of Via Veneto, flowing past Café de Paris, and ending up for dinner at Taverna Flavia nearby. The trattoria was a favorite of Liz Taylor, frequented by Sophia Loren and the celebrities whose photos adorn the walls.
La Dolce Vita may be a memory. It is celebrated by a plaque “to Federico Fellini, who made the Via Veneto the stage for La Dolce Vita.” And Marcello Mastroinni’s custom shoe molds adorn a shop nearby. But Taverna Flavia still indulges, with inspiring Carciofi alla giudìa (fried artichokes), and seafood.
Taverna Flavia
Via Flavia 9
Ph 06 474 5214
(Liz Taylor’s favourite)



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4 Responses:

  1. Randy Wedick says:

    This is one of my favorite articles you have ever written.