Photos by Ernesto Tedeschi / With thanks to Riccardo Lionello
Rome is a beautiful, crumbling city whose brilliantly nonchalant creative independence stems from a deep rooted cultural ambivalence towards their ruling class. Whether that’s the Roman Empire or the Pope, two hefty powers, the people have always had to make do - and ultimately create their own ecosystems, all out on their own tip. From music, art, fashion and food and drink, the Romans aren’t doing this for anyone else.
Check out one of the city’s independent publishing vanguards, NERO - often deemed too art-led for the fashion crew and too fashion for the artists. And then there’s the Roman cuisine, the cucina povera - the local’s food. Rome invented the suppli - the deep fried, stuffed cheese arancini (because everything tastes better deep fried, especially leftovers) or cacio e pepe, so much more than the sum of its simple parts of pasta, cheese, black pepper, loosened with starchy pasta water. Or Rome’s pizza bianca and pizza rosso, where the Roman way of approaching pizza is in some places how the rest of the world approaches complex, yeasty, risen bread. And is nothing like the “white pizza” being peddled in London or New York.
Which leads us to Toni Cutrone and his unique venue in the east of Rome, DalVerme. Named after the street it’s situated on - translated as either a Medieval knight or a worm - Toni is one of Rome’s underground DIY heroes. With his label NO=FI Recordings, his bands Hiromisha Rocks Around and Trouble Vs Glue, and his part in curating the scene defining “Borgata Boredom” compilation - the Italian primacy of noise. Alongside this he co-owns DalVerme, a one-of-a-kind art and music bar who set out to do craft beers and brilliantly tweaked old school cocktails… combined with a prolific underground club.
Terence Teh: Can you introduce the story of DalVerme, when did you open?
Toni Cutrone: Around two-years-ago, it was myself and good friends Andrea Marziano and Marzia Bonacci. We never understood why you would always find shitty drinks when attending a concert or being in an art gallery or even a wild party. The perfect club must be a A-class when it comes to beverages. In case you don’t like the show, at least you’ve got to be able to drink good drinks!
TT: Were there a lot of challenges in opening up?
Toni Cutrone: Yes, definitely, it’s the Italian bureaucracy. We felt as if we were part of a Kafka story.
TT: So in Rome, does beer always goes hand in hand with food?
Toni Cutrone: Not always. You can hang out in a beautiful alley in Trastevere or Pigneto with a pint of good beer in your hand and you will be happy! There are a few places that are doing a great job in terms of the food and beer combination by evolving the old school way of thinking that in Italy, it can only pizza and beer. That’s definitely a part of it - but it’s not solely this, and there are people in Rome who are helping change this preconception.
TT: People like Bonci (the chef and infamous pizza king of Rome)?
Toni Cutrone: Bonci’s pizza and bread is A+. Just check out his Pizzarium for proof, but for me, some of his other fried creations can be a bit pretentious. Personally, I prefer it when the food is a bit more simple.
TT: Like the older Roman food traditions?
Toni Cutrone: My favourite is cucina povera (popular, rural, lower class food). The Pecorino Romano (a Roman sheep’s cheese) is the base for different kinds of pasta I really love: the gricia, the amatriciana and the carbonara. All variations based on pecorino and guanciale (lard from the pig’s cheek) and black pepper! Simple and great. I also love offal cooked the Roman way. Trippa first, then pajata (steer’s small intestine) and coratella (mixed offal from lamb, rabbit and chicken, mostly the heart, liver, lung).
TT: Back to the beer, can you tell us more about your craft beer obsession?
Toni Cutrone: It’s because there are so many Italian micro breweries doing a great job. Rome is currently one of the best cities in the world to get a good beer. The likes of Birrificio Italiano, Del Borgo, Del Ducato, Elav, Emiliano, Toccalmatto, Montegioco, loverBeer and many others are local craft beer highlights of Italy. And then bars such as Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fa, Bir & Fud, 4:20, Birra+, Blind Pig and of course DalVerme support both local beers but are also places where you can find amazing European, US and Japanese beers.
TT: At DalVerme you’ve done shows with The Fooders too, who are they?
Toni Cutrone: They’re a crew of creative chefs mixing art, music, design and performance with food. Great people and good friends. We’ve worked together few times on events at DalVerme and is always awesome. Definitely check them out!
TT: What have some of your other favourite music and art shows been at DalVerme?
Toni Cutrone: There’s been way too many! This season alone - that started in October - we’ve just hit our 105th show, so it’s hard to say! I love both the more well known bands like Sightings, Japanther, K.K. Null, Ronin and many others besides the great local guys from the Borgata Boredom crew including Maximillian I, Bobsleigh Baby, Trans Upper Egypt, Hiroshima Rocks Around, Capputtini I Lignu….
by Terence Teh