Restaurant & Wine Review: Osteria Fernanda in Rome

by Ian D’Agata

Osteria Fernanda

Via Crescenzo del Monte 18/24

Rome, Italy

Tel. +39 06 5894333

The dishes

Mushrooms, miso and whisky (funghi, miso e whisky)

Lightly smoked lamb, chestnuts, dark beer and wild muustard (agnello legegrmente affumicato, castagna, birra scura e senape selvatica)

Veal sweetbreads, uni, broiled tangerine and watercress (animella di vitella, riccio di mare, mandarino alla brace e crescione)

Pigeon, hazelnut, pomegranate and leeks (piccione, nocciola, melograno e porri)

9Lemon tart, pepper and vanilla (tarte au citron pepe e vaniglia)

The wines

I Clivi 2022 Malvasia Ottant’anni Venezia Giulia       93

Giacomo Fenocchio 2018 Barolo Bussia                 94

Osteria Fernanda in Rome is one of those places that leaves you amazed when it finally hits you just how far it has come in a relatively short time span. I remember my first time eating there, now at least six to eight years ago (I cannot recall exactly when). I dined there with a great friend, Fabio Turchetti, then of the Il Messaggero daily newspaper (Italy’s fourth most read newspaper) who just happens to be one of Italy’s best food writers and an excellent wine writer as well. Cutting to the chase, it is fair to say that neither one of us, that fateful prima volta now so many years ago, came away that impressed. So unimpressed in fact I never went back for a second round (admittedly, Covid played a role since I was forced to go AWOL from Italy  for almost three years). Not that the place had disappointed to that degree: solid but slightly boring Roman-inspired cuisine, but the food and wine memories we came away with were dimly lit in our brains and not particularly long-lasting.

How time will change things. Today, Osteria Fernanda is one of Rome’s 10 best bistro/restaurants (easily) and it is worth going back to not just a second time, but a third and fourth too. The ambience is minimalist-elegant, NYC style-loft with large ceiling to floor windows; the food is very well-cooked and creatively sound; the wine list excellent and fairly priced. Honestly there is very little to complain about here, and I had a truly wonderful time during my most recent time at Osteria Fernanda. The chef is Davide del Duca, a young thirty-something who likes to bring modern flourishes to his roman cuisine-inspired food; certainly, the quality of the ingredients stands out in all his dishes. Andrea Marini, who doubles as the sommelier and the dining room director/coordinator ( the latter post also held by Manuela Menegoni). I specifically mention del Duca and Marini as they are the two “founding fathers” of Osteria Fernanda in today’s, definitive, form. A winning form.

The dishes are creative without falling into the caricatural or preposterous. Even better, they taste good. But I want to begin by praising to high heavens the amuse bouches and the bread, served with an excellent extra-virgin olive oil from Lazio, both of which were far better than those served at many Michelin-starred restaurants of Rome. The two appetizers of mushrooms, miso and whisky and the lightly smoked lamb, chestnuts, dark beer and wild mustard could not have been anymore different, showcasing del Duca’s ability to draw from different world cuisines techniques and characteristics. For those who like the trappings of a more French-oriented cusine (ie. exaggerating somewhat, thick creamy sauce everywhere), the mushrooms were just perfection, while those who prefer the Med cuisine of southern Italy, Spain, Greece and France will have preferred the cleaner, more direct and unadulterated flavours of the lamb. For my money, the DOTN was the veal sweetbreads, uni, broiled tangerine and watercress, a marvelous jusxtaposition of textures, aromas, and flavours that worked magic on the taste buds. For sure, the earthy  note of the rather fatty sweetbreads was well buffered by the sweetness and acidity of the tangerine and the watercress, with the uni adding that touch of umami savouriness that elevated the composition to a whole other level. The pigeon, hazelnut, pomegranate and leeks was good, but didn’t quite hit the high notes of the sweetbreads main course. By contrast, the dessert, hearty, sweet, rich but ultimately light on its feet concoction of lemon tart, pepper and vanilla was the perfect way to close out a fabulous meal.

The wines also hit high notes. The I Clivi 2022 Malvasia Ottant’anni Venezia Giulia is one of Italy’s best wines made with Friuli’s Malvasia (Istriana) grape variety; clearly, the very old vines (as the wine’s name implies, 80 years old) help deliver depth, length and aromatic complexity (pear, ginger, lemongrass, ripe tangerine peel, white flowers, minerals) in every glass. The Giacomo Fenocchio 2018 Barolo Bussia was just as good: from one of Barolo’s most talented winemakers, Claudio Fenocchio, a Bussia that actually is worthy of that cru’s prestigious status (as my readers well know, Bussia has now been turned into a laughable 300 hectare large vineyard that is nowhere near in quality to the grand cru it should be, and many of the wines carrying that important cru’s name make it all too obvious). Not so with Fenocchio’s great wine: minerals, red cherry, rose and violet notes are precise and deep. All in all a highly successful 2018, a wine that showcases Claudio’s great talent as few other producers managed to come up with a similar result in the difficult 2018 vintage.

The two wines, matched with the great service, food and ambience made my night at Osteria Fernanda a memorable one. So memorable that my dining companion on the night said we should go back soon. You will agree, there‘s nothing better that can be said about any restaurant.

Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata