Rome | Ai Tre Scalini

Rome’s Monti neighbourhood is still relatively untamed: as central as they come at barely a stone’s thrown from the Colosseum and yet off the beaten tourist track and proud of it, its up-and-down streets more than a little scruffy, peopled by arty types, artisans, intellectuals and, come evening, the patrons of many bars and eateries ancient and modern. Among which, the legendary Bottiglieria Ai Tre Scalini. A time-honoured tavern which took its name from the three steps up from the street, it’s now a wine bar and restaurant with more devotees than it can ever seat and enough atmosphere to fill the whole city. Starting outside, where vines practically cover the building and hang from a cable above the street, and the entrance is marked mostly by a small crowd, glasses in hand, waiting to be seated or just hanging out there drinking wine, as you do. Among them is usually a chap directing the traffic: keep on the right side of him if you haven’t booked.

Because there isn’t too much room inside. Small tables in a couple of always-packed rooms plus seats at the bar – and a lot of locals vying for them. What there is is a real buzz and an abundance of genuine vintage allure, as well as a wine list as long as your arm and a fair choice of good food. And it’s all great value at reasonable prices. Starting with the drinks, the Bottiglieria honours its venerable vocation with an excellent selection of regional and Italian bottles to suit all budgets, plenty of wines by the glass and some of the world’s best beers (not only Italian craft beers but also Weihenstefaners and a couple from Yorkshire’s Wold Top on tap). Tasty eats, then, range from finger-food nibbles to soak up your drinks through platters of cured meats and cheeses to hearty Roman specialities (and desserts), all freshly and carefully prepared on the premises. If you’re unsure, staff are knowledgable, amazingly good-humoured (given their arduous task) and pleased to explain and recommend. Sometimes there’s the bonus of live music – just to add to the caciara (Roman dialect for a ruckus). Go elsewhere for a quiet drink, a romantic evening, a soft ambiance. Try out Ai Tre Scalini for the energy, the festive mood, a great night out in Rome.