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Brancaleone, November 28, 2014

The name means “Paw of Lions” but the insignia is a whale’s tail. Someday I need to ask about the derivation of the name, but for now we are content to have good pizza here every-so-often. This place has grown on us over the course of many visits. The owners are always present and pleasant, and they make their own house wine, a passable Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The other night I was delighted to be recognized upon our return as it has perhaps been 2 months since our last visit. Always a sign of a tuned-in server that recognizes return customers.

Tavern-like and it can be a bit crowded, but warm and welcoming.

Tavern-like and a bit crowded, but warm and welcoming.

Brancaleone gets some traffic from the hotels nearby. It is a short walk from the American Embassy and therefore Via Veneto. It also attracts Italian families, quartets of amici italiani, and some rather large celebrations. We’ve seen family birthday parties and generally lots of conviviality. The layout is a bit strange, but they make it work. The servers are excellent and they make an effort to assign an English-speaking server to English speakers. (I always stubbornly speak Italian anyway.) There is always a large prosciutto ready to cut for those who order it, and frequently lovely desserts are displayed for your after dinner temptation.

The menu is varied: beautiful steaks, fish, an appetizing-looking coniglio at the next table, abundant pastas and giant salads all for the asking, but for us it is a pizza place. For appetizers we particularly enjoyed a polpette di melanzane fritte dorate, literally an eggplant ball fried golden. Not very appetizing to look at, it tasted of mint and fried goodness. I wished I hadn’t had to share it with Ric. Two pizzas and fritti with a litre of the house wine is extraordinarily well-priced, especially in the center of Rome, at €34.00. There’s also a more comprehensive wine list if the house stuff doesn’t thrill you, and beer too. This is definitely a go-back place for us, in the rotation: easy on the wallet, convivial, with a good product.

Pizza Quality: 2  Not run-of-the-mill, and as usual the simpler the toppings the better the pizza. Good sauce, ample cheese. 

Service: 2  Warm and welcoming, sometimes it feels a bit scattered. You may be served by 3 or 4 different people, but they get the job done.

Ambiance: 2   Oddly laid out and divided into three distinct rooms, but warm and chummy, like a tavern. One point deducted for no outdoor seating.

Bonus: 1  Extra credit for menu choices beyond pizza including desserts, fish, grilled meats.

Total Points: 7

Returnability: Go-to Place – fine if you are in the area

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