Considering I spent a year and a half living in the wilds of Brooklyn during my New York years, I’m a little surprised it’s taken me so long to get around to venturing to San Lorenzo, which, as near as I can tell, is the Billyburg of Rome (which I daresay makes Pigneto the Bushwick, but we’ll get to that later – preferably after I’ve actually spent time in Pigneto). Until last Friday, I’d really only made two journeys to the Land Northeast of Termini. The first was an apartment viewing, cut short by the fact that in the 25 minutes it took for me to get to the loft after calling to confirm I was coming, the tenants had already given it away to another. And the second was a rollicking tram ride on the 19, down Via Regina Margherita, in search of an ever-eluding birthday party. Which I finally found and quite enjoyed, but only really later realized I was in San Lorenzo.
So, last Friday, a friend and I decided to venture back into the great relative unknown. That, and we were really craving fried anchovies and heard they have great ones at Tram Tram. Departing from the Ottaviano Metro stop, it was really a six of one situation on deciding between the metro and the tram (tram). The 19 would have deposited us a bit closer to the final destination, but we probably would have been on it for an hour. So, 7 metro stops later, we hopped off at Vittorio Emmanuele, ventured through the Termini-surrounding netherworld, dashed through the urine-scented underpass, and emerged into a quite pretty little piazza.
The sun had just set as we arrived, so as we wandered around, dusk continued to settle and the streets began to light up. We passed by countless bars, pizzerias, and trattorias, each offering dining al fresco and a fair amount of ambience. We continued on our way, finally locating Tram Tram, a mid-priced trattoria near the Basilica of San Lorenzo and, surprisingly, the tram tracks. A plate of the perfectly fried anchovy filets, trofie all siciliana (a twisted ligurian pasta with swordfish and eggplant and something else delicious), a liter of house red (the mediocre chocolate and pear torta need not be mentioned), and an outdoor table were wonderfully complemented by the passing trams, including the JazzTram! Which I will someday take.
Afterward, upon recounting the evening to another friend, he remarked that to him, the slightly lower prices of San Lorenzo were never quite enough to justify making the trek out there. And while I agree that it’s not notably cheaper (certainly not expensive, but probably comparable to Trastevere locales), sometimes a different ambience is enough to warrant the journey. For the price of a metro ticket (and, let’s be honest, had we taken the tram we wouldn’t have even incurred travel expenses), we entered one of Rome’s true local neighborhoods. The young groups gathered in the piazzas (this is the student area after all, home to La Sapienza) had a causal, relaxed aura that reminded me more of the families milling around Piazza Sant’Oronzo during my summer in Lecce than the hordes filling up Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori just a few minutes away.
San Lorenzo, ci vediamo presto.