Every Friday, the gourmet shoppe on the corner posts a charming sign, Oggi Ceci & Baccalà - just one of those sweet reminders that you're still in the 'Old Country' despite the SUVs, the Happy Hours, the kids on Ecstasy and other imported accoutrements that remind you of home. And while I've never eaten the cod from my local deli (I tend to save it for forays into Venice whereby I eat it 'til my gills burst), I must say, when it comes to imbibing in invertebrates, the Romans really know how to do it.
After having an outstanding meal including a simple plate of sea bream covered in salt at Il Gabriello (near the Spanish Steps), I can tell you that all of the diners were thrilled with their respective fishes in the dishes as well. The locale is charming, in an ancient Osteria (sort of a wine cellar), the staff outstanding as the use pet rocks to indicate (I surmised) what course you were waiting for, and you were surrounded by artworks. Lone businessmen, couples and large tables were treated to plate after plate of some of the best food I've ever seen served [the place is small and tables quite smartly arranged within, so you could pretty much see what was going down the aisle without trying too hard]. And dining surrounded by artworks by one of the sons of the original owner, who goes by B.Zarro. Reservations a must.
My usual favorite has always been Pierluigi's down via Monserrato near Palazzo Farnese. The fish from front to finish is exceptional. I personally love the Catalan dish (shrimp, tomato, potato-they add calamari as well), followed by an exquisitely prepared Rombo [translating fish names is not one of my specialties - no matter what you're eating, in my book, fish=fish] or Turbot. The problem is, while the wait staff could not be more efficient, attentive, and just plain charming, when Pierluigi expanded with a zillion tables out into the even more charming piazzetta, they seemed to have forgotten to tell the kitchen staff that they would be serving 300 more people a night. So, a 90 min. wait for that fish to fry is not unusual. Again, if you want to eat at prime Roman time (8:30pm to 10pm), reservations a must.
There are other places around, with fish flowing out of the storefront windows. I simply haven't gone there. But, another 'eating adventure' is a tiny Osteria in Trastevere, called Il Gensola. Elbow to elbow with the other diners, the fish was outstanding - and we had ordered most of it uncooked. Diners are packed in there tight as sardines, so it's a place I prefer to frequent in winter.
Please let me know where you like to go when things start to get fishy...