Rome Report, in Chapter Form
I will be doing this report in fits and spurts, as I want to get it going, but don't have big blocks of time available.
Our first night in Rome, we were exhausted from the long trip and flight delays. We let our innkeeper lead us by the hand (literally), a block or two away to a small, homey place that he recommended, Trattoria ai Villini at Via Marcantonio, 48. This is a basic, family-run spot, with minimal decor, and inviting aromas. Everyone else who entered was greeted with cries of recognition, kisses and hugs. We were not among tourists.
We ordered simply, and minimally, starting with a prosciutto and mozzarella antipasto. Mr. Nightshade had the Rigatoni alla Carbonara, I had the Tonarelli alla Grica. Mr. NS, who is a dab hand at Carbonara, declared this better than his own, but couldn't say why. I think the ingredients are all just a notch above what we can get, and that is what makes the difference. Both dishes were very good, and the vino rosso della casa was more than drinkable. Our dinner, with wine, was just under 30€. We hadn't yet gotten into the swing of multi-course Italian dinners, and we were nearly ready for bed.
Except we needed to stop for gelato. On our way home was Gelateria dei Gracchi, which was well worth our sleepy stop. Between the two of us, we enjoyed the chocolate, the hazelnut, and the pistachio flavors that night. At the end of our trip, after trying a few different gelati in Rome and Florence, this spot remained my favorite. Excellent rich flavors and perfect texture.
More to come...
On another day, after spending the early afternoon in the Borghese Gallery, we walked to Trattoria Cadorna for an afternoon bite, and to rest our weary feet. Upon the recommendation of Ms. Minchilli, we ordered the Antipasto Cadorna, which was exactly what we needed. The burrata was excellent, and the veal meatballs were extremely flavorful. I'd come back for a full plate of those meatballs. And I never would have thought that something called "fried dough," which comes with a tomato-basil sauce, could be so addictively tasty. I had an excellent glass of the house red, from Montepulciano. Mr. Nightshade had a Trentatre Ambrata, which he deemed the best brew he had on the trip.
I was unsure about the appropriateness of ordering just an antipasto, so I asked in my limited Italian, and was told it was OK. Eventually, I did see others doing the same, or just sitting for a drink. The place was quite empty, so we were not using up valuable table space. However, this was the only place on our trip that placed a service charge on the bill, ten percent. I didn't see the charge on the menu, but I wasn't looking for it. I do resent this charge if it is only applied to non-Italians, otherwise, it doesn't seem outrageous.
Via Cadorna, 12, Roma 00100, IT
As we were staying in the Prati district, we found the Mercato Piazza dell'Unita was well worth a visit. Unlike the tourist-heavy (but still wonderful) central market in Florence (the only other open market we visited), we found shoppers here were all Romans buying their daily groceries, at least in the early morning hours when we were there. I loved just looking at the varieties of meat, fish, and produce. And even without a kitchen, there are many things to munch on: breads, cured meats, cheeses, olives, etc. What I wouldn't do to have a market like this near me!
As I was missing the October cookbook of the month (The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia Romagna), jen kalb suggested I participate in spirit by dining at Colline Emiliane. We are happy we did so, and thank jen for the recommendation. We shared a Caprese salad with a mozzarella superior to any we had tasted thus far. We also shared the Mortadella di Bologna. I had the Tortelli di Zucca, and Mr. Nightshade had the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese. You will see a lot of pasta in our meals, as we like to make it at home, and wanted to experience as many examples as possible. More often than not, our meals stop here, as we just could not fit in another course. Both of our pastas were delicious. Mr. NS declared his the best Bolognese he had tasted, and I was very pleased with my squash ravioli. But the highlight, in a sense, came with dessert. Mr. NS has a precious memory of his Italian grandmother rising from her deathbed to make her beloved grandson a lemon-meringue tart. When the woman at Colline Emiliane took us to the dessert display to select our last course, he chose the lemon meringue tart. She was delighted, telling us that she had baked it. This tart rivaled Mr. NS's memory of his grandmother's tart, which is no small thing. We liked this place a lot. It was cozy and comfortable, and they were extremely nice to us. Plus, they do an Italian grandma lemon tart.
I thank you for your patience, there are still a few more to come…
Via degli Avignonesi, 22, Rome, Lazio 00187, IT
After a day of blister-inducing walking around the city, we chose to have dinner around the corner from our lodging at Su e Giu, on Via Tacito. This is another small family-run place, with nine tables, five on the ground floor and four on a little mezzanine. Daniele is the waiter, and he speaks his own version of imaginative and enthusiastic English. Mama is at the register and in the front, and his 76 year old Papa is madly turning plates out of the kitchen. We were seated next to a group of fashionable, youngish Romans, whose table groaned with the many courses they ordered. I don't know how they do it.
I think we skipped an antipasto here and went straight for the first course, but I don't remember for sure. Mr. NS had Spaghetti with Clams and White Wine, I had the Gnocchi with Zucchini Flowers. Both specials, not on the menu. Daniele announced it was the end of season for the flowers, and he faintly encouraged the same dish with porcini, but I had to get in some squash blossoms. Both of our pasta dishes were straightforward and delicious. Mr. NS had a second course of Bollito, with which he was quite pleased.
The food is good here, and it was so convenient to our "home." I would be happy to go back again if only for the cozy atmosphere, and the delightful family.
Acting upon many Chowhound recommendations, we took a lunch at La Gensola. We were unfashionably early at 1pm, lone diners until the place began to fill up at around 2pm. Sadly, Mr. NS wanted to stick with beer. So knowing I would be eating something fishy, I ordered a glass of white wine, which was, of course, lovely. Our waiter brought us tasty, fried chickpea dough to munch on while we awaited our order.
We shared two antipasti:
Paté di Alici Fresche con Crostini di Pane alla Bottarga di Muggine. We loved the taste of the fresh anchovy paté, and this was my first taste of bottarga, which I'd been wanting to try for a while. Very, very good, does anyone know where I can buy decent bottarga outside of Sardinia?
Seppie Scottate con Guanciale e Capperi. Mr. Nightshade and I differed on our impression of this dish (our only culinary difference during the trip). He thought the guanciale and capers overwhelmed the cuttlefish, I thought it was a synergistic combination. In fact, I want to try to replicate the dish.
Unsurprisingly, we went with pasta for our main dish. Mr. NS had Linguine con Gamberi, Melanzane, e Provola di Bufalo Affumicata, which received rave reviews. He thought this was the best he'd tasted yet. (Notice a pattern here? Whatever was in front of us seemed to be the best food we had eaten.)
I had the Ravioli di Spigola, con Fumetto e Salvia. Now, I don't actually know what fumetto is. It sounds smoky, but my computer programs all translate it as comic strips! Anyway, absolutely fantastic. I make all kinds of ravioli, would never have thought of bass, but will try it now. It was quite salty, and I learned from the waiter that this dish also contained bottarga. I was in luck on this day.
All in all a fabulous meal, perfect to my taste.
It was a bright room on a sunny day, so my pasta photos actually came out. But I was so eager to try the beautiful antipasti, I completely forgot to snap either of them!
Piazza della Gensola, 15, Rome, Lazio 00153, IT
Fumetto is primarily defined as concentrated fish stock, fumet de poisson in French. But looking at the photo, it might also be the second definition given by my Italian dictionary of food terms that applies: finely ground cornmeal.
Thank you for a lovely report, all chapters of it. Your experience at Ottaviani is very typically Roman and one that many visitors miss out on by not returning and establishing a relationship.
Of course you are right, I did not even make the obvious association between fumetto and fumet. The ravioli were sitting in a small pool of fish stock. I think the particulate matter you are referring to in the photo is grated bottarga on the ravioli, and a scant bit of cheese around the plate. Thank you zerlina, and thanks again for your prior assistance!