I admit it. I’m an Italophile, and I’ve been hooked on Rome ever since I landed there in the late 1960s right out of college. I was supposed to stop over in the Eternal City for a few days of summer vacation before heading on to Greece and then back to the States for a job. Well, I never made it. I was cajoled into staying to become director of admissions at a new international school called St. Stephen’s. I stayed for two glorious years, living in an antique-filled apartment on the Via Giulia for which I paid $90 a month. My salary was all of $6,000 a year, but it bought a wagonload of Lira in those days and allowed me to dine out at some of Rome’s best restaurants and get to know a culture that’s been alive for two and a half millennia.
For more than 30 years, I’ve been going back to many of the same restaurants and find that they just get better with age. In New York, where I’ve been domiciled for most of the interim, restaurants and hotels come and go like weeds in your garden. In Rome, an establishment is usually passed on to succeeding generations. Running a good restaurant is more than a business: It’s an avocation, a family heirloom to be nourished, improved and passed along to the next generation. Il Matriciano is a case in point. You can find it at 55 via dei Gracchi in the Prati section of the city, a well-maintained upper-middle class neighborhood that’s an easy walk from the Vatican. Il Matriciano is now in the hands of Alberto Colasanti, the sixth member of the family to captain the ship. The bucatini all’amatriciana is better than ever, and when the weather is nice, you can sit outdoors and watch the world go by. The restaurant celebrated its 100th anniversary a few years ago.