Before spaghetti, marinara sauce could only find work by staining shirts in laundry detergent commercials or moonlighting as fake lava in low budget action films. Relish the union of pasta and sauce with today’s Groupon: for $25, you get $50 worth of Roman fare plus two glasses of house wine at Testaccio Ristorante in Long Island City (a $70 value).
The Zagat-rated and New York Times–complimented Testaccio Ristorante melds authentically prepared Roman fare with contemporary Italian viands. A choice of red or white house wine tickles noses with aromatic tannins as customers scour the dinner menu to unearth piquant gems or exotic names for future children. Commission plates such as spaghetti alla carbonara, a whirlwind of roasted guanciale doused in an egg-yolk sauce and spiced simply with freshly ground black pepper and parmesan and pecorino cheeses ($16), or take a taste-bud tour of Italy’s capital city with the coda alla vaccinara, a pairing of braised oxtail in red wine with roasted veggies, tomato sauce, and rosemary mashed potatoes ($21). Diners forget about interchangeable street pizzas with a thin-crust pie such as the con i funghi, topped with three types of mushrooms ($15) and guaranteed to refine palettes faster than eating an art history textbook.
Exposed brick walls and tables beset with candles and glistening cutlery contribute to Testaccio’s elegant atmosphere spread over two floors. Sip or sup at the spacious bar, or point out framed black-and-white photographs hanging from the walls instead of posing rote first-date questions like “What color is my chewing gum?”