The restaurants in Capena are a triumph of substance over style
Expect great, good-value food in the local restaurants, sometimes (but not usually) with no menu, in relatively homely surroundings. Some restaurants will bring a mouthwatering array of antipasti unless you stop them. Restaurants start serving dinner at around seven but are at their busiest at about 8.30pm. Don’t be surprised to find the locals watching the football at Da Felllicino (the triple ‘l’ is intentional), aka Billy’s (with just the double ‘l’).
Most restaurants in Capena are best for evening meals (apart from Bar Sport, below, and the café-style establishments). A cheap lunch option for a great choice of top quality dishes is to go to the self-service restaurant in L’Arca shopping mall. Drive out of Capena on the Via Provinciale, follow the road for about 3 km until you get to a T-junction and then turn right. Look for the big entrance to L’Arca on your left after about 200 metres.
There are also three shops in Capena that serve take-away pizza slices and other excellent fast food, Italian style. Currently the best one is Pizza e Sfizi in Via San Luca. Fork right at Antica Caffetteria (Bar Centrale) when walking up the hill and it is on your left. Here you can buy everything for a great meal at home at very low prices. All the restaurants serving pizza also offer a take-away service.
The small café-bar in Piazza del Popolo below the Rocca is very convenient for Casa Capena guests, especially as it also sells a small range of grocery essentials, as well as various gift items and souvenirs of Capena. This quirky little place with painted and ceramic decorations is owned by Rosina Wachtmeister’s daughter Gabila and her husband Sandro and decorated by Gabila, Nina (a local artist) and Gabila’s son Battista. It is a great place for a cappuccino and cornetto (Italian style croissant) in the morning – at the time of writing, a bargain at €1.70. However, the bar is closed for at least five weeks in summer from the end of July to the beginning of September.
Capena currently has a little explosion of home-made ice-cream and cake shops (three in total) and the temptation to sample them all is almost irresistible.
Undoubtedly the best value food in Capena if all you want is pizza or pasta. A lively, bustling atmosphere. Probably best to book a table or go early to beat the crowds. Serves a large pizza and pasta menu. Outside eating area in summer.
A bit of a hike up the hill, but worth it when you get there: an excellent restaurant with a Sardinian flavour, specialising in fish and seafood dishes. The seafood antipasti are superb. Worth asking for a menu because the pricing can sometimes be a little erratic. Outside eating area in summer.
Bar 3000 (Chico’s Bar)
Friendly bar with pool table. Great place for a cheap lunch. No menu but offers a choice of pasta and simple main courses. Ask for a mozzarella and tomato salad. No outside eating, no food served in high summer (too hot in the kitchen, apparently).
La Taverna dei Viaggiatori
This new taverna in town offers hearty Roman fare with a promise of a bill of no more than around €12 per person. It opened in May 2011 in place of the Anatra Grassa, which has gone on to bigger and better things in Rome, though still within striking distance of Capena, at Via Savoia 68.
La Taverna dei Viaggiatori is exciting news for holiday-makers who would ideally like to eat out as much as possible but don’t want to pay top prices every night. Mirco, the ebullient new owner, is an overland travel enthusiast (hence the Taverna’s logo and name ). They also do pizza. Great for kids, and Casa Capena guests get a free aperitivo – who could ask for more? The Taverna also has a lower terrace where you can linger over a beer and puff away to your heart’s content if you are a smoker (at least in summer).
A tiny ice-cream and cake shop selling home-made cakes in winter and home-made ice-cream in summer.
Another shop serving only home-made ice-cream is Liky Liky, which is located at the start of the Via Provinciale on your left, just after the children’s playground. You may notice that the shop looks a little more stylish than many establishments in Capena: that’s because Liky Liky is a Milan-based franchise operation. The English language section of its website boasts of ‘artigianal ice creams purpooses, cakes, confectionery and gluttonies’ – perhaps the company could benefit from using a better translator!
Pizza e Sfizi
An excellent value take-away that has become a firm favourite with our guests and is only a few minutes’ walk from the house. Dishes range from pizza to chicken and chips Italian style (which is as different as can be from KFC). Open until 8 pm. Phone 06 903 3049.
Incidentally, sfizi is a hard term to translate accurately but dictionaries usually offer ‘whims’ or ‘fancies’. According to Clifford A Wright in ‘Little Foods of the Mediterranean’, sfizio (the singular) is a Neapolitan word meaning ‘the urge to enjoy’. “Anything sfizio whets the appetite, makes the mouth water and rouses the spirit of the bon vivant who lives in the heart of all Italians.”
Le Delizie di Tiziana
Despite its modest external appearance, this is a delightful little café-bar, located next to the equally superb Conad ‘Margherita’ supermarket on Via Morlupo. It’s just up the road from Notting Hill, another of Capena’s slightly quirky bars and a good spot to enjoy an evening glass of beer or wine, while sitting on the compact terrace above street level and watching the world go by (rather slowly).
The owner of Le Delizie di Tiziana makes all his own cornetti, cakes and ice-cream, so this a pleasing place to visit at any time of day, and especially for breakfast. It’s by no means the nearest café to the Casa Capena properties but is certainly worth the stroll on days when the bar in Piazza del Popolo is closed. There are two possible routes: a longer but more gently inclined approach skirting the corner of Piazza della Libertà (see the map below), or via the challengingly steep Via Monticelli. If you choose to walk the latter route you may feel justified in scoffing two of those delicious cornetti when you arrive at your destination! Incidentally, the bar’s name – ‘Tiziana’s Delights’ – is a reference to the owner’s amiable wife.
A little further afield …
This long-established and highly distinctive Irish-Italian-American-Canadian themed bar is located a short distance outside Capena on the Via della Mola Saracena. The ambience and decor are hard to beat (if you like that sort of thing) so it’s worth stopping by for a beer. If you decide to stay and eat, a pizza is probably a better choice than a burger.
On your right as you leave Capena down Via Provinciale. Probably only 10 to 15 minutes’ walk but you might prefer to drive as the main road has no pavement. An excellent restaurant with a really good value all-in seafood or meat menu. Also serves pizza.
Giardino degli Ulivi
Although it is a five minute drive out of Capena, it is worth it for 5 star service and food. Giardino degli Ulivi costs a fraction more than the restaurants in the village but it is well worth the extra. The restaurant has a somewhat formal and tasteless interior but in summer you can eat outside on a lovely terrace.
Another pizzeria with a very good reputation, located virtually next door to Giardino degli Ulivi.
Il Giardino di Sara
Watch out for the sign a few hundred metres out of Capena on the right and follow the directions off the main road. Il Giardino di Sara also has an outdoor swimming pool and fitness centre.
Follow the Via Provinciale all the way down out of Capena to the T junction where it meets the Tiberina (about 10 minutes). The Antica Fattoria is on your right with a big car park. Despite its location on the main road, the outside eating area is a pleasant spot where you can either watch your pizza being made inside or your meat being grilled on the outside barbecue. However, dining at this establishment can be a bit of a hit-or-miss experience: the little touches aren’t always right and the staff aren’t always as friendly as one might hope.
This is an unassuming looking restaurant on the Via Tiberina, south of Fiano Romano, with a nice view of the Sabine Hills from its veranda — hence the name. They serve a selection of seafood, which is on display in tanks — and meat grilled on an open fire. The staff are really friendly and the prices are reasonable, considering the very high quality. Apparently quite a few celebrities go there too — if you know your Italian celebs.