After my trip to Marseille, I learned to find a place for dinner that required as little walking as possible. Osteria dal 1931 was literally one block away from where I was staying. I walked past it and did a double take; the blackboard said they have a special menu at lunch for 10 Euros, or $12 US which includes two dishes, a side and a drink!
I was the first diner in the place at 8 pm, eating with the staff as they got ready for the Roman dinner rush which started as I was leaving at 9pm.
When I first ordered I learned that although their menu is extensive, very few of the items listed are actually available, for example the rabbit, the spinach, and most of the soups were not offered any of the three times I went. One of the specials was a sliced beef dish with arugula and tomatoes that was both tender and savory for 8 Euros or $9 US.
On a cold rainy night, I chose the one soup available, a pasta and lentil, that had a rich soup base of vegetables and which arrived in a huge bowl. Thankfully it was all I ordered because I couldn't finish the copious serving even though it was a perfect meal for a dreary wet night.
My favorite side dish were the Roman artichokes in lemon, olive oil, and garlic:) They were so good that I ordered them twice and immediately ate them before my main course both times. Depending on how many they have in the kitchen that day, they are either 3 or 4 euros, or $4-5 US which gives you either one or two. If you go to Osteria dal 1931 and order nothing else, order the artichokes!
Their chicory side was very simply steamed and needed something to liven it up, but if you just want plain greens, they will fit your bill.
On my first visit, the owner served me and offered me this purée of tomatoes, potatoes, and garlic, so addictive that I'm glad I didn't taste it until I had eaten my artichokes and pasta because I would have filled up on it alone. It was a very warm welcoming place, and even though they don't speak English, anyone could feel comfortable here using the international language of pointing and smiling. One evening there was a surprise birthday party for a little girl and all the adults hid so when she arrived she was jumping up and down with joy. It's the kind of place that locals go when they don't want to cook at home.
My favorite pasta dish in Rome was Pasta Alla Gricia here for 8 Euros or $9 US, a local version of a bacon and cheese pasta. An Italian friend insisted that if I was going to Rome it should be the one pasta I order, and I am so glad I did! The cured pork jowl was the closest thing I've tasted in Europe to US thick cut smoked bacon! This very generous bowl was easily enough for two, but it was so good I did my best to make a dent in it.
It was a delightful surprise to discover more bacony goodness as I ate about halfway through the bowl, because I realized that most of the guanciale was hidden underneath the pasta, like buried pork treasure!
A quarter liter (about 2 glasses) of decent red wine here is only 3 Euros or $4 US, but after coming for a few days, they filled my carafe up well past the quarter line mark! Water only comes in a huge bottle for 2 Euros or $3 flat or sparkling, and they charge a 1 Euro or $1.15 cover charge per guest here (normal in many restaurants in Italy). I never spent more than 16 Euros or $18 here for a very generous meal including wine, water, and a main and a side dish at dinner. If you would like to eat at a small family run local Roman place during your stay, get away from the touristy places and hop on the 44 Bus from Teatro Marcello which drops you off literally across the street at the Abate/Ugone/Donna Olimpia stop.
Fortified with food, I headed out to the Colosseo or Colosseum. We call things "colossal" for a reason and this is it!
Save some energy after your visit for the trek back on ancient cobblestones,
the Romans wore flat sandales for a reason :)