I am in shock. Last night, while walking down via della Pace (side street off of Piazza Navona), I came across the open doors of the new restaurant for Bar del Fico, Navona's historic bar in Piazza del Fico around the corner. After a two-year mega-overhaul which shut down the palazzo and part of the piazza, Bar del Fico has not only re-opened, but it has opened as a whole new beast.
Bar del Fico was one of those places my cousin Giampi would always take me. It was a typical Roman bar- dimly lit, slightly noisy and definitely not hip. Very local. So local that whenever I'd escape the boredom of Venice (where I worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum), I head straight to Fico to find Giampi with a rolled cigarette and aperol spritz, eating those spicy corn things they gave instead of olives.
Eventually, I'd move around the corner from Fico where my evening dog walks always included a chat up with Fico's resident chess players who seemed to live at the tables. When the renovations shut down the bar, the chess and checker players claimed ownership of the piazza, setting up portable card tables under the fig tree from the very first day of the shut down to yesterday.
I had a sneak peak at the newly renovated Bar del Fico- it has a very French vibe including signage in French and a kind of country-kitchen feel. My friend remarked that maybe Francophone is the new black, since just around the corner is Etabli, which, up until yesterday, had the market on francophilia. Around the corner, Fico has opened a very attractive looking restaurant and pizzeria-- the decor harkens back to the pre-face lift Bar del Fico with mismatched chairs and sparse, industrial decoration. The menu is Roman, of course, with handmade pasta favorites (evviva la carbonara!) and pizzas. With Fico stepping up, I wonder how da Francesco feels? La vie boheme, non plus.