~ The warmly lit entrance to Armando al Pantheon ~

Just steps from the ancient Pantheon in Roma lies a classic Trattoria called Armando al Pantheon.  Small, intimate and homey,  the tiled floors and the large wooden beams welcome those fortunate enough to plan sufficiently ahead for reservations. An eclectic mix of prints and artwork adorn the walls and the high ceilings make this cozy venue seem larger than the 15 or so tables it has room to hold.  Armando is a local treasure.  We were treated more like lost cousins than travelers by Chef Claudio and his friendly wait staff.  Typical, authentic Roman food is the order of the day and all the classics are traditionally represented.  If you’re a smart traveler, you’ll find your way here during your stay in Rome but one thing you won’t find is a tourist trap.  Armando is a jewel in an area that can be filled with less worthy restaurants.  Earlier this summer, I spotlighted another fine gem,  Fortunato.  Both are worthy destinations.

~ My antipasto: Buffalo Mozzarella, creamy and tangy, with the typical Roman artichoke lightly dressed in a basil oil ~

The area around the Pantheon is one of my favorite spots in the ancient part of Rome.  I’m not sure why as I enjoy many of the other classic spots like Piazza Navona and the Colosseum. However, I think it’s just the brooding, commanding sentinel like nature of the building rising over the piazza in front of it; the modern buildings that clutter around it and its sense of “I’m watching you all” as it stands majestically.  Shops, enoteca, bars, cafés, trattoria and gelato abound in that area so there’s always something to do and someone to watch.  And despite its location in a tourist area, there are plenty of wonderful places to eat and drink.

~ The Pantheon is a popular area to relax in Rome.  There are fountains, bars, restaurants, shopping and usually live music in the evenings ~

Armando is one of those places.  Since 1961 it’s been serving authentic Roman food, tastefully presented in its warm dining room.  Over the years I’ve sent many friends and family to Armando and it’s always met with praise.

~ Artwork on the walls of Armando. This was right above our table and I could not take my eyes off the woman with the hot chocolate ~

Finally, one of Rome’s classics; Amatriciana.   Perfectly seasoned and cooked, well balanced, with juicy, crispy guanciale and a little heat from the pepper. One of my favorite dishes and among the best I’ve ever had in Rome. Not pictured, but equally delicious, was Armando’s Cacio e Pepe.

~ Bucatini alla’Amatriciana ~

And of course, we had wine……

The 2011 Arnaldo Caprai Rosso Montefalco was the perfect accompaniment to the various dishes we enjoyed.  Medium bodied without being overbearing, the wine was presented at the perfect temperature.   The 2011 is 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Merlot.  In the glass, the wine is a medium ruby throughout.  On the nose, the wine evolves with soft aromas of red cherry, cured meat, olives and herbs.  Elegant in the mouth, with no rough edges, the wine’s flavors echo the nose and soft hints of worn leather and vanilla.  Aged in a combination of barrique and larger barrels, the balance of the flavors is well done.  Medium length finish with soft acidity.  88 points.

~ Arnaldo at Armando! ~

And so we were off for a passegiata….. for that, we headed over to Piazza Navona to stroll the “racetrack” and browse the various offerings of the many artists selling their wares.  And of course, some grappa……

Buona Notte…………..

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