… but should you have the opportunity, you are in for one of the most exquisite and delightful culinary experiences that one can find in Rome – though in this case you will have to do some serious Google Mapping to find this place since it is in the outskirts of Rome. Less than an hour west, towards the sea and not more than an hour from downtown Rome, the trip is easily made by car or taxi.
The restaurant is situated in a small alley off the main road that hugs the coast and where most of the action is in the town of Ostia. A converted wine depository, Il Tino is a small, intimate establishment, starkly decorated, almost as if to not distract the patrons from the main focus, which is its delicious food. The room is managed with elegance by Claudio Bronzi and his girlfriend Michela. Claudio co-owns the restaurant with his executive chef and true star of the place, Daniele Usai, whom is in fact a native of the small town in which the restaurant is situated.
Once seated, Claudio, who also is a highly knowledgeable sommelier, will provide you with all the information you need to know about the restaurant along with your dining options for the evening. It is important to note that even though they have a regular menu, parties of 4 or more are required to have the entire tasting menu – which believe me is the way you want to go since it allows you to savor the delicate and delightful flavors of Chef Usai and includes several of his outstanding dishes. Not to mention, that the six course menu is priced at a mere 50 Euros – a true bargain considering the quality of the food and the level of cuisine you experience. This does not include wine, which at the same time is very reasonably priced, and Claudio, in his role as sommelier will guide you through the various options, choosing the perfect pairing for the evening meal.
The menu changes seasonally – we happened to come in the Fall where the menu steers away from what is usually a seafood-centric presentation and includes for this particular tasting some exquisite meat options along with some fresh seafood options.
Our first course started out with fresh local red shrimp presented with clementines and rhubarb – a very refreshing start and a delicious combination of flavors. As a second course, Chef Usai’s expertise in seafood is brought front and center with his Crispy Octopus” with Tart Cherries, Sour Cream and Rosemary Smoke – not only an incredibly delicious dish but also dramatically presented. The octopus is soft and crunchy at the same time, with a fruity contrast from the cherries and a rustic finish provided by the rosemary essence. Course three is the pasta dish – a thick spaghetti (spaghettone) with garlic, oil and pepperoncino with mussels and sour seafood garnish. The flavor is delicious, soft and silky and may very well be the best pasta dish you have ever tried in your life. I must say as the courses are presented to you, Claudio gives you a rundown of the ingredients and cooking methodology making the experience not only tasty, but also allows you to appreciate the techniques and cooking secrets of Chef Usai.
Course four was my favorite (and for this reason I have used the photo to introduce this entry) is Chef Usai mind-blowing Licorice Root Consume with Duck Agnolotti and Jerusalem Artichoke. Heaven in a bowl… The duck consume has a hint of licorice and the duck filled agnolotti melt in your mouth – you could eat a dozen bowls if you could.
The fifth and final savory dish is a small “pork tenderloin with apple, black cabbage and mustard”. Probably the heartiest of all the dishes, but equally delicious, though I found this to be the weakest of all the dishes presented that night.
For dessert you are given the option of choosing from one of the six desserts on the regular menu (all very tempting and all very delicious). I opted for the Pistachio Souffle. A better and more delicious soufflé you cannot get anywhere, with a rich pistachio flavor and cooked to perfection offered with a ball of freshly made vanilla ice cream which you spoon yourself right into the idle of the fluffy dough.
Il Tino is a very special place – and Claudio Bronzi’s impeccable service and care for detail make it even that much more special. So if you are in the mood to get away from the maddening restaurant scene of downtown Rome, get out your GPS out and make your way to Ostia for what will be, I can assure you, one of the most remarkable culinary experiences of your life.