I giggle when I think of the first time I ate coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew) more than 6 years ago. I was at a trattoria in Trastevere with a dear friend/chef. After appetizers, pasta, a main course and dessert the conversation went like this…”I could eat something else, you? You’ve never had oxtail?! you call yourself a food person and you’ve never tasted coda.” So our second dessert was coda alla vaccinara and there began my obsession. I’ve been chasing the best tail in Rome ever since.
Coda alla vaccinara is a Roman specialty. Recipes vary. The tail is cut into pieces and slowly boiled with carrot, leek, celery, bay leaves and thyme. Prosciutto or lardo is browned with onion and added to the stew. Next steps? Add white or red wine and let it evaporate. Add tomato puree, salt and pepper. Some recipes call for pine nuts, raisins, dark chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Here are my top 5 places to dig into coda.
Agustarello is my absolute favorite informal place to indulge in coda. Wafts of cocoa fill the air as the plate floats from the kitchen to the table. Tender oxtail with pine nuts, chocolate and spices wins my heart and stomach every time.
Cesare al Casaletto is my go to trattoria not only for beautifully braised oxtail but also for classic Roman pasta dishes. The off-the-beaten track gem serves a refined coda alla vaccinara, delicate with lovely stewed tomato flavors.
Checchino dal 1887 is my choice for a special occasion. The somewhat formal Roman institution serves top notch offal and oxtail with a subtle hint of chocolate. The wine list is also a plus.
Trapizzino is the place for trapizzini (triangular pockets of pizza bianca) filled with coda alla vaccinara. Pop in for a quick bite. The outstanding sauce and crusty pizza make a delectable meal on the go. Get your coda-trapizzino fix at the Testaccio shop or head to the Ponte Milvio location at Piazzale Ponte Milvio 13.
Hostaria da Settimio is my neighborhood joint. The no frills hostaria serves coda stewed in a dense tomato sauce. Honest prices, a warm atmosphere and good food make for a winning recipe.