‘La Campana’, the oldest restaurant in Rome, opened in 1518 at n.18 of its namesake alley between via della Scrofa and piazza Nicosia, and has always offered the most excellent Roman traditional cuisine, including coda alla vaccinara, artichoke alla giudia, roast lamb, coratella, cacio e pepe, etc.. This is one of the main reasons for which, in the past five centuries, the restaurant has served some very important customers. The other reasons are to be found in the timeless charm invading the three white rooms decorated with paintings of Rome and antique topographic maps, in the ageless typical ‘osteria’ furnishings and in the familiarity of the waiters, Ernesto and Pino, who have worked there for decades.
The current owner is Paolo Trancassini, whose family, originally from the province of Rieti, has been running the restaurant for 100 years. Trancassini (who is also the mayor of Leonessa) told Corriere that his great-grandparents arrived in Rome from Leonessa in 1830 with their three daughters Marina, Francesca and Alice. Then, there was the brother of his great-grandmother, Salvatore Iacobini, and his dad, who went there to learn from him when he was twelve.
If Trancassini was to use a time-warp in place of ‘La Campana’ entrance door, was to invite current and past prestigious patrons to the 500th birthday party of the establishment, the guest list would include: Caravaggio – who used to dine there while he was painting Sant’Agostino’s church -, Goethe – who mentioned it in the ‘Roman Elegies’ -, Picasso, Guttuso, Pierpaolo Pasolini, Anna Magnani, Federico Fellini, Maria Callas – who used to have work lunches there -, Alberto Sordi, Riccardo Muti, Francesco Purini, Luigi Ontani, Mario Draghi, and many more. Having to use the usual entrance door Trancassini, opted to celebrate the occasion with a lunch for all the historical suppliers, including the baker and the butcher in Campo de ‘Fiori – “We want to have a party with the companies that have been working with us for many years, and which we trust” explained Trancassini. The celebration will see also the publication of two volumes, one by Manuela Maggi and Eva Osti on the restaurant’s long history, and a collection, which is still work in progress, of memories and anecdotes written by current patrons.
Ilona Catani Scarlett