Saturday lunchtime we stopped by Zoc trattoria (aka Zoc 22) for some food and ale. Zoc is owned by the same people as the more established Urbana 47 in the Monti neighbourhood of Rome. Urbana 47 is stylish place where the food is produced along sound principles, with an emphasis on season and local (“KM0”), the provenance of ingredients front and centre on the menu.
As it should be.
We eat far too much food where we have no idea of the origins of the ingredients. This is important for all ingredients, but especially so for meat and dairy, where barbaric industrial techniques have cheapened the human relationship with animals, resulting in a form of de-humanised husbandry that emphasises quantity at any cost. Sadly, many people have been duped by the persuasiveness of the meat industry and supermarkets. Your intensively reared beef, pig unit pork, or industrial broiler chickens really aren’t that cheap if you factor in the subsidies and the cost we’ll all have to pay in the long run for the accompanying pollution and disease.
So yes, bravo Urbana for its principles. These principles are similarly followed at Zoc, where the menu lists not just the ingredients, but the azienda that’s provided them. The trattoria even has photos on the wall of some of their suppliers, including one chap Fran recognised as the guy we’ve bought salumi from at the market in the Testaccio Ex-Mattatoio (currently closed for the summer – go figure).
I was also encouraged by the drinks list, which mostly consists of local wines, but also includes four bottled beers from Birradamare. Birradamare has pretty much established itself as the craft brewery for Rome. Although it’s not in the city, but instead is located at Fiumicino, the town at the mouth of the Tiber near the airport of the same name, its products are fairly ubiquitous here. If a Rome venue has just one craft beer brand on offer, chances are it’ll be Birradamare (eg here).
I ordered a Birra Roma, Fran a ʼNa Biretta Rossa. I’ve had the latter before – it’s a decent malty beer, inspired by German bocks, sweet and medium bodied, with 6.4% ABV. Its colour is amber or copper. Surprisingly, the Birra Roma was a similar colour (see pic, above), despite being called a birra oro (golden ale) on Birradamare’s site or even bionda (blonde) on the label. Birradamare’s own site says the Roma is 35EBC, which is about right, but there’s no way the Rossa is 74EBC (a serious porter tone). Surely that’s an error?
Anyway, the Birra Roma (5.5% ABV). Like Baladin’s Nazionale, which I tried a few days ago, the Roma seems to be one of the many experiments going on to create specifically, uniquely Italian style beers. In this case, even a specifically Roman beer. It’s a beer that clearly takes into consideration Italians’ love for fairly straightforward but strong lagers, as it was inspired by Bavarian Märzen lagers. I found it had a slight orange aroma, slightly hoppy. Taste-wise, it’s hoppy but not bitter (35 IBU apparently), crisp, fresh, with very faint smokiness and more body than a lager. Interestingly, Fran said it reminded her of the sea, of seaweed and salt and Breton Atlantic beaches, the Côte Sauvage, which is far more poetic than I can be about it.
So anyway, we were enjoying the beers, and the ambiance of the place, which is located in a 1950s block on the Centro Storico side of the river near the Ponte Sisto. The dining area is spacious, with high ceilings and some great design features, like an enlarged detail of a nautical map (I love maps). Much of the furniture is for sale, with price tags, so there’s a slightly distracting feeling of eating in a hip secondhand furniture showroom. There’s also a decent sized courtyard at the back, though it was a pretty hot day when we visited, and they seemed to be trying to cool it off with misters – which only succeeded in making everything soggy.
When the food finally arrived, it was pretty tasty. Fran had three chicken legs and a fig, the flavour profile a nice change to much Roman food, with some turmeric, cumin, rosemary. But it really was just three drumsticks and a fig, for €16. Mine, meanwhile, was half an aubergine (/ melanzana / eggplant) and one piece of cheese toast. Like Fran’s, the flavours were a nice change, more north African say, though it was underseasoned. And just plain meagre (for €9). I’m more than happy to pay for quality and provenance, for more ethical food, but there’s got to be some balance – the portions were so small we left feeling hungry, which isn’t what you want when your bill comes to €44. We even had to ask for bread (a dense, white sourdough, somewhat stale), and there we no other contorni (side dishes). Essentially we paid meal prices for a snack.
This is all something they need to work on, to make for a more satisfying experience. They could also do with working on the service. The staff were amiable enough but just seemed a bit apathetic. When, for example, a fuse tripped, cutting out the fans and lights, the waiter wandered around for a while first before going to click it back on. He wasn’t busy either, there were just a few covers there for Saturday lunch. Perhaps it’s busier in the evening. Although it’s right near two very popular areas – Trastevere and the Centro Storico around Campo de’ Fiori – it’s just off the main drag. Although Urbana 47 suffers from the same small portions/ high-ish prices issue at least it’s got a bit more atmosphere from being busier, as Via Urbana is a more lively street.
So, Zoc: nice spot, good beer, sound principles, iffy value for money. Must try harder (er, as I may have had on my school reports a few times in days of yore).
Via delle Zoccolette 22, 00186 Rome, Italy
zoc22.it (English site, sort of) / 06 6819 2515 / email@example.com
Birradamare.it (English homepage) / 06 658 2021 / firstname.lastname@example.org