Al Granasso: lunch with the locals near the Piazza del Popolo

You won’t find Al Granasso in online or paper travel guides. I discovered it after a shopping round in the area around Via Condotti, not far from the Piazza del Popolo (above). What led me to Al Granasso were two very simple rules I follow to avoid being stuck in restaurants filled with tourists (and bad, expensive food):

(1) Go to the side streets or the streets off the main tourist drag. In this case, I was walking away from Via Condotti — Rome’s most famous shopping street — towards the Piazza del Popolo. Instead of taking the most direct route, the Via del Babuino (more designer boutiques and tourist pizza places), I decided to take a small detour and walk down the Via Ripetta which is quieter, more local. I also knew that eating on any of the main squares would be somewhat disastrous (with the notable exception of Dal Bolognese on the Piazza del Popolo).

(2) Look for menus in Italian only. Restaurants frequented by locals don’t bother to translate the menus or daily specials they post on their windows.

Using these two rules, I found Al Granasso on via Ripetta 32, next to a football (soccer) nostalgia boutique that sells vintage jerseys and Adidas sneakers. It is tiny and easy to miss. However, it caught my eye because posted at the door was a dark green chalkboard with handwritten specials of the day, all in Italian. I peeked inside, saw well-dressed Italian men and I immediately decided this was the place to have lunch.

Only seconds after the waiter handed me a menu, people began streaming in. Because the front room is tiny (8 tables), many had to go downstairs to the cellar where they have (a few) more tables. So, if you come to Al Granasso, don’t come too late. Shortly before 13:00 is fine, but if you arrive any time after that, you’re going to be banished to the underworld. Note: it’s not THAT bad since this is Rome after all, and people are lively and interesting to watch.

Lunch was divine. The antipasti of fried carciofi (artichoke) was different from how it is served in other restaurants. Most places stuff the artichoke with herbs, then fry it. But at Al Granasso, they slice it thinly lengthwise, then fry the pieces. The result: crispy, crunchy delicate strips of artichoke (not greasy).

The small salad of greens, rucola and anchovies, with just a bit of olive oil and a hint of lemon, was simply wonderful. I love eating anchovies in Italy because they do not serve the horrible salty little things that come in tiny glass jars (as sold in supermarkets outside Italy), rather  the anchovies are whole, packed in salt and taste fresh.

For the main dish I opted for orecchiette with fresh small tomatoes and rucola. No secondi for me, although the men at the next table seemed to be relishing their big meat dishes. Then they had grappa and went back to the office. I don’t know how they do it. I would have had trouble stumbling out of the restaurant had my lips come in contact with even one drop of grappa. Dessert of tiramisu followed by a shot of espresso, as usual, perfectly made (I have never had bad espresso in Rome), and I was ready to climb the hill above the Piazza del Popolo to the Villa Borghese.

Al Granasso
Via Ripetta 32
Rome, Italy

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About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.