Popolino translates to “the common people” or “the masses,” and the new BYO, going into the former Lafayette Bistro space at Fifth and Fairmount, will focus on Roman cuisine. Because the Vatican took the best of everything, the rest of the people living in Rome were forced to be creative with odd parts and ingredients, what is known as the “quinto quarto,” or “fifth quarter,” the chef told us.
McAndrews is most excited about his planned antipasti bar, a feature of many small Roman trattorias that he notes is missing from the Italian dining scene in the U.S. Each day a variety of dishes will be set out at a long open station that diners can peruse, such as salads, pickled vegetables, baccala and other seafood dishes, anchored by a stand for hand-sliced prosciutto. Patrons will follow the server to the bar, pointing out items they want to try, and the plate will then be weighed to determine the antipasto’s price.
In addition there will be a well-rounded a la carte menu, including dishes made from sweatbreads, tails, hooves or even brains of animals, as well as unique combinations that feature garum, a fermented Roman fish sauce that is an ancient staple of the region. The chef expects small plates to range from $7–$15, including the antipasti bar at around $16/lb, with entrees topping out at $25.
Popolino will have a rustic, open decor, flooded with light thanks to the large windows on either side of the corner location. Walls of exposed brick will surround approximately 45 seats, with several more planned for outdoor tables when the weather is warm. “It’s going to be the nicest looking of all my spots,” McAndrews says.
“I didn’t really expect to open this many restaurants,” he adds, “but it’s like when you meet a gorgeous woman, marry her and then all of a sudden you have five kids. It just happened, and I love it.”