I won’t boast the Carlo Menta serves the best food about town, but the atmosphere is always lively, service is fast, prices are extremely economical and its ideally located for a night out. Thats not to say that the food is bad – far from it. In fact, you would probably be hard pushed to find truly awful food in a restaurant in Italy. Its food with no frills, but tasty enough all the same.
The menu is typical trattoria style with antipasti, primi (pasta dishes), secondi (meat and fish), pizzas and contorni (veg and salad sides).
The bruschetta is a satisfying way to start the meal. The single slice of bread may not be much for €3 (I would say that the starters are a little overpriced for what they are compared to the rest of the menu which is fairy good value), but it whets the appetite. The tomatoes are lovely and fresh, topped with peppery rocket and a good glug of flavoursome olive oil.
When eating at Carlo Menta, my friends and I would often share a pizza between 4 or 5 of us instead of ordering a starter. The pizzas range from €2 for a simple marianara to €6 for those with more costly toppings.
The Roman-style pizzas had a thin and crispy base, the crunchy crusts were perfect for dipping on olive oil and balsamic, or even better, Carlo Menta’s chilli-infused olive oil (we almost finished an entire bottle of this!)
The vegetariana (€6) was one of my favourites – a pleasing combination of tissue-thin slices of courgette, ribbons of sweet red pepper, soft artichoke and black olives on a tomato base, topped with mozzarella cheese and a handful of olive-oil dressed rocket.
The capricciosa (€5) was a little trickily to share as each ingredient is allocated 1/4 of the pizza, so you’ll inevitable be fighting over the solitary olive of piece of artichoke. However, all for yourself, its extremely tasty and you won’t get bored half way through – each slice is different.
For a bit of spice, the diavoletta (€6) is for you. There is not a great amount of heat, but the smokey pepperoni, rich cheese and flavoursome tomato base are a great trio of flavours.
Onto the pastas; the gnocchi alla Trasteverina (€5) is a reliable choice. Plump and light little gnocchi tossed in a well-seasoned, aromatic tomato sauce. This is comfort food Italian style.
The scoglio (€7) used fresh seafood in their shells and doesn’t skimp. You’ll have to get your hands dirty to de-shell the prawns, but it’s well worth the effort.
If you fancy seafood but would prefer gnocchi, Carlo Menta have you covered with their signature gnocchi “Carlo Menta” (€5).
My personal pasta favourite was the tagliolini radicchio e gamberi (bar one occasion where it was a little cloying – perhaps a busy night and the dish had been sat for a while?) Thin, delicate al dente pasta folded in a creamy tomato-seafood sauce with cubes of fresh tomato, flecks of vibrant purple chicory and plump shrimp, finished with a liberal sprinkling of parsley.
The lasagna is a great let-down. There was hardly any béchamel sauce and the thinnest spreading of ragù (in which I struggled to find any trace of meat). It was basically just 10 sheets of pasta glued into a slab with a little passata.
For a classic Roman side dish, try the artichoke which are well cooked and sprinkled with herbs, although they need a little extra drizzling of olive oil at the table.
The gorgonzola and rocket salad comes undressed, but with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic from the table, it makes a nice end plate if you don’t fancy dessert. The cheese seem good quality – creamy and pungent.
The desserts are a bit hit and miss – I once had a lovely fruit tart here, however I have also experienced a rather tasteless tiramisù. Choose wisely!
All in all, you can’t go too far wrong here for a cheap and cheerful night out. And with a carafe of wine at only €3, you’ll soon be feeling merry!
Via della Lungaretta, 101
T: +39 (0)6 580 3733
Open 12:00-23:30 daily