I will not be writing about Olive Garden in this post. I simply borrowed their slogan because it sums up so well the way many trattorias in Rome are. It was certainly a family affair when I brought my parents to Trattoria Da Lucia since, like many trattorias in Italy, Da Lucia is family owned and operated.
When my parents came to Rome for a long weekend to visit me, I wanted for them to get the true Roman experience. I wanted them to see the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Sistine Chapel, St, Peter’s Basilica, Campo De’ Fiori… you get the idea. I wanted them to see everything. Similarly, I wanted them to experience all the foods of Rome as well, and along with it, the different dining environments. We had aperitivi at an enoteca (wine bar), had pizza in a pizzeria, ate a good amount of gelato (and then ate a good amount more), and most fitting of all, ate a traditional Italian style dinner at Da Lucia, a quaint, authentically Italian trattoria on a small side street in Trastevere.
We finally arrived at the restaurant after making several wrong turns down the ever-changing and famously confusing streets of Trastevere (another Roman tradition, at least in my experience) and were lucky enough to snag the last open table in the tiny restaurant; all the other tables had been reserved, a good sign to say the least.
The staff had been friendly from the moment we walked in the door, greeting us with a hospitality that is characteristic of homey places like this one. It felt like we were joining a family for dinner as the husband and wife team set the table and welcomed us to our seats. When we finished ordering, an older man seated at a different table asked us in Italian about our family. The man seemed a bit odd, for he was roaming from table to table, occasionally joining other diners for a brief visit. After a few moments, we realized this man was not as odd as he seemed, he was simply checking on the satisfaction of his clients, for he was in fact the grandfather of the family who owned the restaurant.
It is common in Rome to come across similar family dynamics in trattorias throughout the city. Trattorias are most frequently the type of eating establishment that has maintained the family tradition Italian dining has acquired the stereotype for in the United States (thanks in large part to Olive Garden). This quality of trattorias often makes them feel the warmest and most welcoming, and the food is often good quality, fairly priced, and as comforting as the food from your parents’ kitchen. This was all certainly true of Da Lucia. After 4 courses of delicious food and a bottle of wine, my parents and I walked home fuller than ever. It had been my favorite kind of Roman dining experience: one with family.