Romans scorn guides to the city's restaurants for the sensible reason that such brochures rarely include the unpretentious neighborhood trattoria , pizzeria or osteria , where--everyone knows--the food is better.
Every neighborhood has one or more, and the best are known throughout the city by way of an underground grapevine that, for obvious reasons, excludes tourists and Guide Michelin tasters.
I shudder to think what the other regulars will do to me for this revelation, but my favorite is Grappolo d'Oro, at 80 Piazza Cancelleria, a cobblestoned block from central Rome's most mouthwatering open-air market, Campo del Fiore.
The ambiance is strictly neighborhood, but what a neighborhood, jumbled with some of the ancient city's oldest buildings and richest Renaissance palaces. The decor is eclectic--an odd mix of old photographs, prints and paintings facing strings of garlic and sausage dangling above the service counter, all given a splendid dignity by hand-hewn 16th-Century beams supporting the ceilings of the restaurant's two modest rooms.