Trip report--Rome Nov. 28-Dec.3
Though I don't have time to go into much detail, I feel indebted to the board and want to share a few high- and lowlights of my recent trip to Rome. I flew from Barcelona, where I currently live, to meet my erstwhile college roommate (who lives in Germany) in Rome for a long weekend. We are both in our forties, and left our kids with their fathers for the weekend. For context, I speak rudimentary Italian supplemented by a great deal of Italianized Spanish.
My friend, College Roommate, is a vegetarian, so the first night we went to Margutta Vegetariana for a reunion dinner. In short, we were disappointed. The space was cosy and a welcome respite from the driving rain outside, and the waiter friendly, but the food was underwhelming. We split the zucchini blossoms stuffed with ricotta for an appetizer and found it salty (and I love salt) and not tasty. The College Roommate ordered a pasta with tomato and ricotta salata and I a pasta dish with cauliflower, currents, and pine nuts. Neither dish was particularly good. I wouldn't go back.
On most of the rest of our trip, we bought things to go and ate them outdoors or made food at home. On more than one occassion, we had very good pizza at Roscioli Forno (Via dei Chiavari, 34) near Campo dei Fiori. I particularly liked the kind with no cheese, just potatoes and rosemary. Not sure if that would be considered a form of pizza bianca. I also bought some of the chicory as a side dish to complement the pizza but didn't like the way they prepared it very much. Getting food to go from here was very economical (about 5-8 euros/per person) and it's a short walk to the Ponte Sisto, a pedestrian-only bridge over the Tevere River where you can lean on the rail and eat.
I also went into a deli on the corner of Campo dei Fiori. Everyone was Italian in the deli and I didn't know what to order. So I watched for at least five minutes and finally ended up asking for a panino with fresh ricotta and whichever meat the man attending to me recommended. He put some lovely meat on my sandwich, though I don't know what it was called. Many times, I found that standing back to watch how the Italians did it, helped me figure out how to proceed and, I think, prompted better service. No one was ever rude to us.
For supper, we bought fresh vegetables at the Campo dei Fiori market that we prepared with pasta and cheese in our little kitchenette--oyster mushrooms, spinach, arugula, pecorino, pasta, artichokes already prepped at the market. It was easy to eat well. I would liked to have eaten out more, but I also like to cook, and with such great ingredients it was not hard to make an excellent meal and save a lot of money on mediocre, overpriced food in the Centro Storico. I will have to go back again when I have more time to travel around the city good restaurants a little father off the tourist track.
The only other dinner out we had was at Obika, the "mozarella bar." We had planned to eat at Armando al Pantheon but missed the fact that it is closed Saturday night. We were tired and hungy and ended up at Obika's with muted expectation. Actually, we were very positively surprised. We ordered the spinach salad with raisins and pine nuts and six different kinds of mozarrella for two. There wasn't enough spinach salad for our taste, to complement the cheese so we ordered another. With that adjustment, we thought it was very good. The mozarella was superb with very clear differences between each variety. I especially liked the smoked mozarella and the one I believe was called straciatella.
Every morning, of course, we had coffee and a cornetto con mermelada (jam-filled croissant). The first morning, I went to Tazza D'Oro where I found the coffee good. The following morning, and every morning after that I went to Ciampino--Piazza S. Lorenzo in Lucina, 29 (thank you, thank you Sid Cundiff) for a heavenly cappuccino. There were plenty of tourists in Tazza D'Oro but we didn't see or hear any others at Ciampino.
At least, at these two places, the procedure seems to be that you go to the cash register first, tell them what you want, and pay; then you take the receipt up to the coffee bar and hand it to the barristas. Most people seemed to add a small tip up front at the same time (20 euro cents) which we did as well. The cappuccini at Ciampino were simply sublime and the cornetti good. Most Romans, including the many Carabinieri from the nearby headquarters, pop in, order and slam down their coffee (machiatti, ristretti, etc) in 5 minutes or less. Fortunately, it wasn't so busy and so we felt that we could linger for 10-15 minutes. The staff spoke no English with us, there were no signs in English, but you don't really have to speak much Italian to get by in a coffee bar and we were treated with respect and consideration despite the fact that it is a fast-paced environment.
Thank you again to the many people who shared their experiences or expertise and helped me on my first trip to Rome.
Raquel of California
its great that you reported back - and such a useful report!
also glad you liked the coffee bar in S. Lorenzo in Lucina - I have fond memories of breakfasting there on our first visits to Rome, 1978 and 1980, since our hotel offered, the first time no breakfast and the second time a terrible breakfast (instant espresso-powdered skim milk) Its a great bar, and like Armando, Il Forno, etc demonstrates something very stable at the base of Roman food culture - thanks again.