Armando Al Pantheon is a medium sized place with small cloth covered tables. Bench seating lines one wall and old art decorates the upper walls, above the wood paneling. Wood beams are part of the ceiling and may help absorb sound as it was a low noise level. Lights jut out from the sides and it felt pretty bright. It has a big menu, specializing in traditional local food, and also offered daily specials. Our helpful server also spoke good English and was willing to make suggestions. It was crazy busy and it would seem that a reservation is a must. Those of us with lunch reservations were lined up before it even opened and it did appear that one no-res couple were given a table. They do turn the tables at lunch. It is run by the Gargioli family. Opened by Armando Gargioli in 1961, his son Claudio (his daughter is in the front of the house) still works in the kitchen and son Fabrizio runs the front of the house.
For a beginning course we had one of the specials that day, Buffalo Mozzarella with steamed artichoke. The mozzarella was squeaky good and the artichoke was cooked to tender perfection. Both were good alone but also good when eaten together. Dressed with a bit of olive oil and salt this was a terrific, yet very simple, dish.
Our other starter was Coratella d’Abbacchio or lamb heart, liver and lungs. It is known as “pluck” and comes from spring lambs. It was served with chicory and both parts were full of flavor. They blended well together and served with a piece of bread underneath and another on the side.
Spaghetti alla Griscia con guanciale (bacon), pecorino romano and black pepper. The flavors here were mild with good flavor from the cheese. The guanciale was not crispy but had wonderful pork and fat flavor. The pasta was cooked perfectly but I would rate this good not great.
Another special that day was Pajata Rigatoni which was the milk filled intestines of veal in tomato sauce. It was huge portion with a few intact intestines on the top and the rest incorporated into the sauce. Again the pasta was cooked perfectly but with the intestine melting into the sauce along with cheese, it made it a pretty heavy dish. This one was good but didn’t make great either.
Trippa alla Romana or Tripe in Roman style with tomatoes, Rome mint and pecorino romano cheese. The tripe bits burst of fat and chewed like a piece of thick chicken skin. The thinner tomato sauce was seasoned with herbs and worked well with the tripe. All the various parts presented with different tastes and textures. Another good one. We had a Carciofi or artichoke on the side. It’s hard to get too many of these wonderfully cooked vegetables when they are in season. This was the same as the one that came with the mozzarella, and worth repeating.
We ordered a grappa as well as a coffee. The coffee came with a lid, in order to keep it warm depending on the order in which we wanted to consume them.