When in Rome… eat like Pierfrancesco Favino

The Italian actor stars in the brutal Rome-set thriller Suburra - but says not to let it put you off your carbonara

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New film Suburra is brilliant but it probably won’t make you want to book a flight to Rome.

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For a start, it makes the Italian capital look extremely rainy. Secondly, it’s home to some pretty scary gangsters who embark on a turf war after a corrupt politician asks one of them to bump another off. According to director Stefano Sollima, Suburra is also very realistic.

Actor Pierfrancesco Favino – who you might also recognise from the Netflix series Marco Polo – plays the crooked MP Filippo “Pippo” Malgradi. He insists he didn’t base his character on anyone in particular.

“I didn’t want to think about a real politician or somebody I might know,” he tells us. “I don’t think it’s very brave to point your finger and say: ‘you’re a politician, you’re corrupt’. Everybody could recognise somebody out of the political sphere. 

“I’m much more interested in why he decides to do what he does and what can bring a man to that. And asking myself and getting the audience to ask: What would I be ready to do for what I think is important?”

Favino also believes that his hometown is no more or less corrupt than any other European capital.

“Absolutely not. There was an article in the Guardian 10 days ago about how people are laundering money through real estate in London. Rome is a place where there’s a lot of political power, criminal power, Vatican power, so it’s symbolic of power. But I don’t think this is about Rome; it’s about corruption in general. What about House of Cards?”

An excellent point. So we wasted no more time and asked Favino where we should go for a taste of the real Rome (if perhaps not quite the Suburra-version).

His first piece of advice is to get lost. “That’s the best way to see Rome. I’m still discovering corners of Rome that I don’t really know. Of course if you want to have a walk in the centre, it’s fantastic. Do see the monuments but then again get lost”.

And once you’ve worked up an appetite, here’s how to eat like a Roman…


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1. For breakfast, we go to a bar and we take an espresso and maybe a croissant. It’s very, very short coffee but you can ask for an American coffee. You can even ask for a tea, believe it or not. “Americano” is not an Italian word though! Cappuccino is.

2. Lunch in Le Ghetto where you can have typical deep-fried artichokes called carciofi alla giudea. It’s a very, very old dish mixing Roman cuisine with the Jewish tradition.

3. Or if you want very fresh fish and seafood, go to Via Giulia, which was named by Pope Julius II. There is a restaurant called Assunta Madre where you can have possibly the best choice of fish that you may have in Rome.

4. If you’re feeling you need something English, there’s a wonderful tea place called Babington’s on the Spanish Steps.

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Fontanone del Gianicolo

5. The best place for an aperitif is Gianicolo. There’s a stunning view of Trastavere and the old city centre from the large fountain there and it’s not so touristy. At this time of year I’d order a wonderful chilled white wine, probably a local one, from the little bar on the stairs on the way up to it.

6. Romans don’t eat as late as Spaniards. Usually you get a table for 9pm, but most of the places would be open from 7.30 so you can have dinner at a nice British time if you prefer. 

7. Traditional Roman cuisine is pretty heavy. One of the most famous dishes is spaghetti alla carbonara, which is pasta with eggs, cheese and a particular kind of bacon. Never cream! The creamy texture comes from the eggs and cheese melted together. If you read on any menu in Rome that cream is added, leave the restaurant as fast as you can.

You can find authentic carbonara in Testaccio, one of the last working-class neighbourhoods in Rome. I recommend the family-run trattoria Adustarello or Felice, where you can have a wonderful carbonara and tonnarelli cacio e pepe – pasta made with pepper and cheese.

Suburra is in UK cinemas and available on demand from 24th June. Watch the trailer below.


 Read more: Director Stefano Sollima: Suburra is much more realistic than The Godfather


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