The thing about Alfredo e Ada is that you could very easily miss it. If you’re walking down Via dei Banchi Nuovi in Rome, you might pass by a mahogany coloured door bearing the words “Alfredo e Ada” and not think anything of it. However, you’d be making a very unfortunate mistake if you merely walked by this place without a second thought.
Let me begin with this: Alfredo e Ada is the only food destination I visited more than once during my 3.5 days in Rome. This quaint restaurant left such an imprint on my taste buds that I had to make time for a repeat visit and I’m so grateful that I did.
This restaurant wasn’t on my radar at all until I ran into a friend a few days before going to Italy. He’d been to Rome before so of course I asked for food recommendations. His only advice was that I go to Alfredo e Ada. I should also add that he’s half Italian so his food endorsements are to be trusted.
During my first full day in Rome, I spent an entire morning exploring the Vatican museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. Afterward, I was very hungry and I was craving pasta (as you do in Italy). I consulted my food map and saw that Alfredo e Ada wasn’t far away. To the trattoria! When I arrived, I stepped into the restaurant to see if there was any availability. The restaurant is a small, dimly lit room with about 5 tables that can host up to 25 people or so. The waitress greeted me and directed me to the end of a table which had already seated a few fellow lunch-goers. Alfredo e Ada creates a communal atmosphere by sharing tables, which means that you might find yourself in conversation with another traveller or even a local.
The other thing about Alfredo e Ada: there isn’t a menu. Instead of conforming to a printed menu, the waitress lists the day’s dishes to each table before taking their order. In my eyes, it was a sign that the restaurant is at the whim of seasonal ingredients (or the impulses of the chef!). The waitress was able to verbally deliver the menu in Italian, French, Spanish, and English. Impressive! There is a menu posted on the restaurant’s door for passersby to read, but we’ll call these guidelines more than fact. On the day of my visit, some of the dishes on the menu included chickpea soup, potato mushroom soup, pasta alla carbonara, pasta all’amatriciana, eggplant parmigiana, zucchini stuffed with carrots, and sausage with broccolini. For me, it had to be the carbonara. There was no debate!
In case you’re not familiar with pasta alla carbonara, it’s a traditional Roman dish made with eggs, guanciale (pig’s cheek), pepper, and pecorino. One theory is that it gets its name from the carbonari (coal workers) who spent long shifts guarding burning coal and cooked meals over the coal fire. Of all the things to eat in Rome, this is one of the most important!
While I waited for my pasta, I took in my surroundings. The restaurant is decorated with an eclectic collection of drawings, paintings, and photos. It’s almost as though the owners added new items to the walls if and when they found something they fancied. There’s a no-fuss, but charming nature to the place. Hell, the place is so no-fuss that it doesn’t even have a website! But you know what, I like that about Alfredo e Ada. It made me feel like I had stepped back into a simpler time when restaurants earned success based on the merit of their dishes and not on the quality of their social media.
Not long into this train of thought, my lunch arrived. A heaping mound of pasta was placed before me and I was thrilled. It looked SO GOOD! The dish was moderately topped with pepper and cheese, while chunks of guanciale were hiding throughout, and the pasta glistened in its coating of carbonara sauce. The plate was tempting, nay imploring me to dig in! And when I did dig in, I was in foodie nirvana. Everything about this dish was spot on: the sauce, the al dente pasta, and the flavour. I never wanted the dish to end! This is what Rome and Italy are all about: memorable and sometimes unexpected food experiences. While I savoured my carbonara, I noticed some people peering into the window and walking on by. Those poor souls. They didn’t even know what they were missing!
I very happily finished my carbonara and I was on a foodie high. The waitress cleared my empty plate and then brought out 3 biscuits and a small glass of white wine. This was a small complementary treat to end the meal and they did this for all tables. The biscuits were crunchy and slightly sweet with a hint of cinnamon. It was an enchanting touch and my love for Alfredo e Ada was born.
Fast forward to two days later, my last day in Rome. I spent the day wandering the city and when my stomach grumbled for lunch, I couldn’t help but crave that carbonara. I debated whether I should try a new restaurant on my list or return to Alfredo e Ada for the carbonara that I loved so dearly. The carbonara impressed me so much that I HAD to get it one more time. It was after all my last meal in Rome. I went back and the restaurant was delightfully busy again. I was seated at a table with 3 Austrian women. Although they didn’t speak much English, we managed to communicate and they told me that they come to Rome often and that every time they do, they eat at Aldredo e Ada. The restaurant has clearly won the hearts of many a traveller!
This time I wanted to try the amatriciana, a pasta with a tomato-based sauce. I tried my luck by asking the waitress if I could have a half portion of amatriciana and a half portion of carbonara (I needed to save room for one last gelato in Rome!). She told me that it would be possible for the amatriciana, but not for the carbonara as each portion is made with a set number of eggs to get the correct flavour and consistency. No worries, my dear. I’ll take the carbonara and a half portion of amatriciana, please. I can handle it.
And handle it, I did! I started with the amatriciana, which was a simple and classic dish, but it paled in comparison to the magnificence of the carbonara. I loved this dish all over again. That carbonara… I can’t even write a description that will do it justice. Every bite was fantastic. As I ate it for a second time, I internally applauded myself for having the brilliant idea to come back to Alfredo e Ada. Sometimes I’m a damn genius.
During my meal, I chatted away with the Austrian women. They were so lovely and even let me sample their dishes of eggplant parmigiana and stuffed zucchini (which were tasty too, but the carbonara still wins). They also said that if I ever visit Vienna, I should get in touch with them! How generous! I think they were impressed with my ability to tackle both plates of pasta too. They totally understood my “When in Rome” mentality. I mean, who doesn’t?!
We were again presented with the biscuits and wine; however, I learned from my new Austrian friends that you’re supposed to dip the biscuits in the wine before eating them. Such a rookie mistake! Of course you’re supposed to do that! I must’ve looked like an oblivious foreigner the first time around! But not this time! By dipping them into the wine, the crisp biscuits are sweetly softened to seal your meal on a delicate note.
It was another fantastic meal at Alfredo e Ada. When I left the restaurant, I revelled in having found this charming place. I’m so happy that I discovered this family-run eatery, but I’m also sad that I can’t visit it whenever I want. If I ever return to Rome, I can guarantee that I will seek out the carbonara once again.
In a city where restaurants are numerous, it can be overwhelming to know where to eat. If you go to Rome, please, please, please visit Alfredo e Ada. It’s a restaurant that has retained its original rustic charm and this is more rare than you think. Rather than seeking to impress restaurant patrons with flashy décor and advertising, this little Italian trattoria runs on a simple principle: high quality, traditional home-cooked food. That’s all you need.
Address: Via dei Banchi Nuovi, 14,