It was around 10:30 that we rolled out of bed and another hour and a half later that the three of us were dressed, perfumed and ready to leave our Trastevere AirBnB. Too many Negronis and Sambuca and not enough water the night before at Freni e Frizioni (which quickly proved itself one of my top 5 favorite bars in the world) left a bitter burn in my stomach. As we headed out for the attraction of the day, which would be the mighty Colosseum, I became more and more certain I’d need something in my stomach before dealing with the crowds, the early afternoon sun and the stress that comes from finding the perfect angle for selfies. Luckily, the neighborhood of Monti with its cobblestoned streets lined with charming shops and restaurants was only a few blocks away. We quickly looked through our options on google and chose Urbana 47.
A peaceful, breezy terrace with just 4 tables and a bar betrays the real vibe of the restaurant’s interior – a noisy and enormous cantine that stretches back surprisingly far, all the way to a stage on which jazz is performed live on weekend nights. The place is owned by antique furniture vendors, which is why the spacious dining room is studded with unique tables and sofas, all still for sale. It took quite a while for our coffee and then food and then coffee again to arrive, which we didn’t quite understand until dipping into the craziness of the chaotic main dining area. Urbana 47 secializes in fresh, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients prepared with classic Roman recipes in mind. The menu includes loaded focaccias, pizzas, light appetizers and big mains, along with some “street food” served at a bar counter outside.
My friends went with the obvious choice, a filling bowl of gnocchi drenched in a savory cheese sauce. But what called out most to me that day was the warm salad of seasonal fava beans, peas, tender lettuce and artichoke topped with a creamy bundle of toasted ricotta. I followed my gut (literally) and ordered what would end up my favorite dish in Rome. This is called la vignarola, a Roman ode to spring. The medley of spring vegetables are traditionally only served for a few weeks in the city’s restaurants and I was lucky enough to indulge in a wonderful version of it at Urbana 47. The favas are plump and large but stewed to a perfect tenderness, as are the peas which still retain a pleasant bite. The juicy petal bases and hearts of artichoke were sliced into bite-sized pieces, adding a luscious, velvety texture to the medley. And then, the ricotta… The quivering tower of what would be the frothiest, lightest ricotta I had ever had. My fork skid seamlessly through it, separating off warm mouthfuls of cheese, which melted into soft little curds on the tongue. Around the edge of the ricotta column, the cheese had been toasted to a golden brown crunch and developed a caramelized, nutty flavor that was irresistible. This dish is everything I want on a breezy spring day with a glass of white wine out at lunch with the girls.
Their choice was pretty wonderful too – green spinach gnocchi in a luscious cheese cream, sprinkled with crunchy bits of toasted almonds and chewy sundried tomato. The gnocchi had a great texture, chewy and firm inside getting gradually softer and fuzzier towards the exterior. It was still a tiny bit too hard for me, but I realize I can be unrealistic and far too strict when it comes to how light and fluffy I want my gnocchi. The cheese sauce was also delicious and, like my vignarola, pleasantly under-seasoned to show off subtle flavors. The sundried tomato added a great earthy, pungent flavor to the dish, while the almonds delivered a fantastic textural contrast.
In addition to its wonderful menu of genuine locavore food, Urbana 47 offered us a great environment in which to chill and recuperate from the night before. After about an hour of sitting around and a second coffee, my metabolism kicked in and I felt my body absorb all the nutrients it had been devoid of before. My glazed-over eyes cleared, my temples stopped throbbing and I felt energized for the rest of the day of shopping and sightseeing around Monti.