Enoteca is an Italian word derived from old Greek that literally means, wine repository. The old tradition of the enoteca was created to give visitors to Italy’s many regions a chance to taste the local wines at cheap prices before buying.
Today most enotecas are independently owned and operated just like any other bar or restaurant. However, the traveling wine lover will be pleasantly surprised by the prices as wine mark-ups in Italy are typically modest.
On a recent trip to Rome I sampled a few favorite enotecas as well as new spots. Here is my quick guide.
Via della Croce 76
As soon as you step in the door, it’s clear this place has been here for a long time, since 1720 to be more exact. Locals and visitors alike fill the bar stools and seats, close to Piazza di Spagna. Antica Enoteca offers many wines by the bottle and the glass. Daily food specials are often a wise choice and all the menu items pair well with the wine offerings.
You can find everything here from simple to exotic. I love this enoteca and have been coming here for longer than I care to admit. You just can’t beat the atmosphere. While I love nearly everything about this place I have always been troubled by the wine by the glass offerings listed simply by appellation with no vintage or producer name listed. I have no issue with a bar listing Fractal or Pinot Grigio by the glass with no further explanation but serious wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, or Amazon require more data. Luckily they always happy to show you the bottle before pouring.
Enoteca Cul de Sac
Piazza Pasquino 73 (Piazza Navona)
On the intimate Piazza Pasquino (steps away from Piaza Navona), wine and oils have been sold since the early 1900s. In 1977 Enoteca Cul de Sac was born and began offering an extensive wine list (now over 1500 labels present daily – it’s like a major metropolitan phone book) and traditional Roman, Italian and world handmade specialties, as well as an extensive list of cured meats and cheeses.
The wine list features the wines of Italy and the depth of selections presented from each of Italy’s wine regions is impressive. This is one rare spot where you will able to sample through dozens of local – Lazio – wines sadly not offered by other Roman wine bars. Even the most experienced wine drinker will find loads of tasty yet unfamiliar wines. The prices are fantastic and this invites guests to perhaps order bottles that you would never consider at home. This place is a must stop for the serious or beginning wine aficionado.
Via Dei Balestrari 12-14
Vicinanze Piazza Farnese
This family-run wineshop since 1946 evolved into a wine bar by the third generation. Shelves upon shelves of wine surround the tables. Cured meats, regional cheeses, smoked fish and a selection of homemade dishes are offered to accompany the wine offerings.
Via dei Giubbonari, 21
In 2002, brothers Alessandro and Pierluigi decided to expand the family deli by adding a wine bar and restaurant. In additional space around the corner, wine and food tastings are also offered. Simple cuisine is their theme.
This place is very cool but sadly it’s one of the very few spots that is unwelcoming to visitors. With so many great spots in Rome – this one is hard to recommend.
Piazza di Pietra 32/33
This is a beautiful and peaceful enoteca on Piazza Pietra (they do have a second location) just steps away from the Pantheon, Piazza Colonna, and Via del Corso which is to say that it’s very well located.
The wine list is modest but it does represent the wines of Italy from north to south. They is a focus on the wines from Feudi di San Gregorio, a well respected producer from the Campania region. Feudi di San Gregorio is a partner in this establishment but many other brands and regions are represented as well as a good selection of cocktails and a smart food menu that will satisfy your desire to graze or dine.
The service is attentive and friendly without hovering. It’s well worth a special visit while in Rome.