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© The Chicago Bar Project   Written by Sean Parnell

Black Falcon Pub
Via San Martino Ai Monti, 50/a
Rome, Italy
+39 (0) 6-474-5074

When perusing the seemingly infinite supply of guidebooks on Rome and Italy, it is unlikely that you would run across the Black Falcon but you'd be very fortunate if you did. While small in size, though not necessarily by Roman standards, the Black Falcon is big on warmth especially because of the husband-and-wife team that run the place. Fabio and Stella are the most inviting and friendly people we encountered in Italy and, considering all the incredible people we met in this resurgent country, that should say a lot. The Black Falcon is also notable for its real cork dartboards, satellite football, and its fully stocked bar specializing in Scotch, rum and Italian liqueurs. They even pull a mean pint – not bad for a country were a good pub is as hard to find as an American without white socks. What more could you want, whether you live in Rome or elsewhere?

The Black Falcon is located about 10 minutes northeast from the Coliseum and five minutes south of Termini Train Station, along Via San Martino Ai Monti and across from the Hotel Tirreno – a nice and cost-effective accommodation where we stayed for our first three nights in Rome. A sign advertising the Black Falcon's specialties can be found just east of the pub on the larger street, Via Merulana. You can't smoke in the Black Falcon, or anywhere in any other restaurant or café in Italy for that matter, so the best way to find the pub is to look for the crowd of smokers just outside the door of its modest façade. Step through the door and you'll find a long and narrow barroom with orange-painted walls, exposed brick archways and an impressive array of beer memorabilia. Up front, there is seating at low-slung wooden tables on the left and booths on the right of a nicely ceramic-tiled aisle leading from the front seating area all the way to the back.

In the back, you'll find additional seating across from a semi-hexagonal wooden bar with tasteful wooden columns holding up a shelf of liqueurs. A semi-nautical theme presents itself, with a ship's wheel, model ship and ship's bell in the bar area, along with a collection of framed bar towels above it. The stock at Black Falcon includes four beers on tap, including two types of Moretti upon our visit, as well as Heineken and one other beer, as well as a good selection of whiskey and Scotch, rum, and a good sampling of "digestivos" from all over Italy. Feel free to pull up a stool at the bar, but mind the end of the bar where an international cadre of dart players (and wannabes like myself) are lured by the prospect of victory in 301, 501 or Cricket on one of the pub's two cork dartboards that are quite rare in this part of the world. There's also a plasma screen that features satellite football broadcasts on Sky TV just above a portal to the keg room in back. If you're hungry, the Black Falcon also serves a small but adequate menu of Italian pub grub, consisting of paninis, small pasta dishes and hot dogs.

At the end of our second day on our first trip to Rome, my wife and I were very tired from an entire day spent walking through ancient Rome and we both wanted a nightcap before bed. I suggested the Black Falcon directly across from the Hotel Tirreno where we were staying. The hotel is not to be confused with the similarly spelled Hotel Terreno, also located nearby – you can guess why I know this... Not knowing what to expect, we walked into the Black Falcon and went straight to the bar. There we met the Stella, who claimed to speak English poorly until my wife attempted Italian at which point Stella's full command of English quickly returned. My wife didn't really want beer or wine so, after having a Limoncello, she asked for recommendations and Stella responded with an impromptu guided tour of Italy via alcohol. My wife tried the Calabrian digestovo called "Amaro de Cabo" (a liqueur made with bergamot, a sweet and aromatic herb from Southern Italy that tastes like Jägermeister mixed with Amaretto), another liqueur that tasted like coffee and was fantastic, and a muscatel from Tuscany amongst others that have since been forgotten thanks to their enjoyability and potency. As part of "the tour," Stella told us all about the different libations, where they are from, why they taste they way they do, etc. Stella could not have been more accommodating and really helped make our night one that we would not forget.

After a few Morettis, my loosened tongue let slip how I felt myself to be superior in darts – the fool I was. Stella then summoned her husband, Fabio, who was minding the kitchen and, since it was a slow night, Fabio agree to play me in darts thanks to my wife's revealing of my bragging. After toying with me initially and then falling behind, Fabio quickly caught up but had difficulty hitting a double to win at 301. As pure luck would have it, I squeaked out a victory and after losing the next one, I also managed to eke out a second victory of three. Fabio was rather gracious and claimed that he did not let me win... The next night, we returned with the couple we were traveling with. After the previous night's victory, I felt rather confident, particularly after beating my traveling companion handedly but, to his credit, he never played darts before. Fabio agreed to play us and, since the bar was busier, so Fabio was forced to beat us quickly, out of necessity. Well done, Fabio.

Simply put, my traveling companions and I love the Black Falcon. We love it so much, perhaps a bit too much, that after a round of picture-taking and goodbyes on our third and final visit to the pub after traveling to Florence and Venice, we forgot to pay our tab! After realizing our horrific mistake, we hurried back, paid up, tipped well, and both Fabio and Stella had a good laugh along with us. Stella and Fabio are fabulous and true publicans they run a public house as this genre of watering holes is meant to be run. The result is a place that attracts locals, expatriates (and their respective book clubs), and international travelers alike including us on our next trip to Rome. For more information, check out the Black Falcon website. Chin chin!

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Left to right: Stella, Fabio and the Chicago Travelers

Nautical Theme at the Black Falcon
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