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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...

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  1. 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.

    Trattoria Cadorna
    Via Cadorna, 12, Roma 00100, IT

    1. 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!

      1. 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…

        Colline Emiliane
        Via degli Avignonesi, 22, Rome, Lazio 00187, IT

        1. 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.

          1. 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!

            La Gensola
            Piazza della Gensola, 15, Rome, Lazio 00153, IT

            3 Replies
            1. re: L.Nightshade

              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.

              1. re: zerlina

                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!

              2. re: L.Nightshade

                Fumetto is generally fish stock, but settembrinis version is called "sea air" - they let some algae sit in water overnight, then foam it up. It smells of the sea, but is not made of fish.

              3. I can't omit from my notes a mention of the spot where we took our coffee each morning: Ottaviani on Via Paoli Emilio. Although signage indicated pizza, and tavola calda, we only took our morning coffee and pastry there. We were warned by our innkeeper that they might be a bit gruff, but that coffee was good and they were secretly nice people. This was certainly borne out by our experience. The first day we were met with scowls at the counter, but good coffee. By the third day Elio was waving us to a table and bringing us our order on a tray. Even the frowning proprietor Giorgio cracked a bit of a smile when I improved my pronunciation of a word he had earlier corrected. By our last day there were hugs and bids of "buon viaggio!" And again, the coffee and pastries were lovely. I know that one can get good coffee every few steps in Rome, but I came to feel quite at home in this place.
                I am truly ruined by Italian coffee, how can I ever go back to Starbucks?

                1. Finally, I come to the end of my report for Rome, and I will conclude with the jewel of our eating experiences. This will be a bit lengthy as I want to record each item we ate.

                  We had returned to Rome for one night after a week in cooking school in Chiaveretto, and a week in Florence. After reading about it in Elizabthe Minchilli's Eat Rome app, I chose Settembrini for dinner on our last night in Italy. With an eye on our early trip to the airport the next morning, I made a reservation for 8pm. Of course, we were the first diners in the room. And a very nice room it is. Simple, with large canning jars along a ledge, filled with dried goods and an occasional lamp, and a wall of wines behind the bar. The lighting was too low to photograph any dishes, so I will just do my (woefully inadequate) best to describe them. We ordered the tasting menu, the one where you don't know what you are getting, as the chef chooses each course. There was no printed menu, so my words will come from our servers' verbal descriptions. Our server apologized that the sommelier would be a bit late, as she generously kept our glasses full of (what I assume was) prosecco. When the sommelier arrived, we let him choose our wines for each course.

                  Dinner started with a shot glass of fresh tomato juice with a light float of olive oil, accompanied by Tuscan bread.
                  Our first plate - eggplant puree, zucchini cream, and squid. The eggplant might have been smoked, as I detected that faint aroma. Artistically plated and delicious.
                  The second plate - the raw fish course, contained three items. The first, the server translated as "little tuna," which was a small piece of very tender tuna accompanied by jellies of an alcoholic nature. The second was a swirl of udon with a prawn atop. The third was a pyramid of sea bass sashimi atop chopped pineapple. This was a beautiful plate, with compelling flavors.
                  The third plate - red mullet on green seaweed, roasted tomatoes, and sea urchin, with mullet salt. Never quite figured out what was meant by mullet salt. But it definitely worked.
                  The fourth plate - minestrone with chickpeas and red prawns. A comforting soup taken to the next level.
                  The fifth plate - sea bass, burrata, and roasted tomatoes. A surprising and tasty combination.
                  The sixth plate - duck breast with pomegranate jelly and salad. Well, I'm getting a bit weary of saying beautiful and delicious, but there you have it.
                  The seventh plate - green apple raviolo with vanilla cream and green apple marmellata. Lovely. With a hint of lemon.
                  And the little finish of a shot glass with chocolate cream, and Tuscan bread seemed to bring the meal full circle.

                  I know a lot of the menu sounds pretty fusion, and I guess it was, but it also seemed very Italian.
                  Our bill for two was 210 Euros. We had a different, wonderful, wine with each course, knowledgeably chosen and described by the sommelier. All of the dishes were lovingly plated, and we marveled at each and every bite of the meal. We can't wait to return.

                  Via Luigi Settembrini, 25, Rome, Lazio , IT

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                    Amazing report! Thank you so much for checking back in. It sounds like you had a perfect trip. This report will be a big help to future chowhounders.


                    1. re: minchilli

                      Thank you Elizabeth for your kind comment! We are so grateful for your recommendation of Settembrini. And although we couldn't hit as many places as we wanted, we greatly enjoyed using your apps in both Rome and Florence!

                      Via Luigi Settembrini, 25, Rome, Lazio , IT

                  2. Thank you for this great report L.Nightshade!
                    I'd say it is a "little book" with pictures too ;)
                    Excellent selection of places and I'm happy you enjoyed Roman food so much.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tavoleromane

                      Thank you tavoleromane, what a nice comment!