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Rome: short trip, medium report

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Just finishing 3 days in Rome as part of a voyage to Sicily and Corsica. Minimal reservations and maximum flexibility were our guideposts. Afternoon respites/naps were a must as escapes from the impressive heat and humidity.

Food goals:

Breakfasts: minimize the carbs. (I love carbs. They don't love me.). So, sliced turkey and the egg whites from the hotel's buffet spread. Nutella? No grazie.

Lunch: all out effort, including pasta and wine.

Dinner: informal with wine bars and pizza playing a major role.

Resulting hits and misses:

Pizza:

Hit: La Pratolina, charming local place in Prati. Features "Pinsa" rather than pizza. I don't understand the difference but different flour is supposed to be better for me. Pristine ingredients, excellent fresh salads. Reasonable prices and zero tourists. Appetizer, salad, bottle of wine and two oval shaped pizzas were €36 all in. Relaxed, friendly and repeatable.

Miss: Palatium Enoteca. Lazio government's stylish wine bar featuring food and wine of the local region. Small pizza option was a tortured attempt to deconstruct pizza into a vertically stacked combo of sausage and chicory under a pizza dough topper. Strange. Difficult to eat. Not appetizing.

Bread:

Hit: Roscioli. Focaccia and chewy and crusty brown bread. Delicious in all regards.
Miss: everywhere else. White, soft, tasteless and devoid of crust and crumbs.

Pasta:

Hit: simple spaghetti with tomato and basil at Hotel de Russie. I know, I know. This is an overpriced, over self-impressed hotel catering to rich Romans and rich tourists. Fresh lunch pasta served without pretension overlooking the magnificent gardens erased all doubts about this place. Excellent, friendly service.

Miss: ok. Shoot me now. I didn't enjoy the carbonara at Roscioli. Heresy, I admit. But, my tastes have evolved and I can't take the heavy cheese, cream and salty pancetta combination. Further admission: I was seriously disappointed in the Jamon Iberico Pata Negra at Roscioli as well. This delicacy is so hard to find in the US. Indeed, I've only had it before at Harrod's food halls and l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon -- fabulous. This version was rough cut and almost impossible to cut or chew. The flavor was rich but much too chewy to enjoy.

Wine:

Hit: Trebbiano d'Abbruzzo, Valentini, 2007. Chowhound inspired choice at Roscioli. Textured, complex and utterly delicious.

Miss: Watery Pinot Grigio served commonly everywhere.

Wine bars:

Hit: Antica Enoteca. I admit, I sat at the long wooden bar three times to escape the heat and sample some of the 15 whites and 15 reds available by the glass. A €6 Gavi di Gavi and a €10 Barolo were major hits. Friendly, unpretentious and welcoming near the Spanish Steps.

Miss: Palatium Enoteca. See above. Uninteresting wines. Dumbed down English menu (1/3 the size of the local version) and wine list offered to non-Italian speakers. Stylish but not interesting.

Food shopping: Eataly! I loved the contentious Chowhound posts on Eataly before this trip and just had to check it out. We wandered on foot towards Eataly from the Aventino after terrific, quiet visits to Santa Sabina (our favorite church in Rome), Knights of Malta peephole and San Anselmo. As the weather got hotter, the graffiti grew thicker and our confusion expanded to the point of discouragement. We poked and probed past the Pyramid, around the train station and at last through the underground tunnels of the station, abandoned and a bit scary, towards Eataly. At last, we found the elusive "uscita" and emerged.

We loved it. Clean, elegant design featuring the regional products of all parts of Italy. The fish counter was a highlight of freshness. Likewise, the bread station was much better than we found elsewhere. We had lunch at the pop up restaurant sponsored this month by Chef Anna Dente of San Cesario. Fun and delicious, though a bit confusing. You pick your table then order at the register. The friendly staff then brings your food to you. Although we were the only English speakers, the locals seemed more confused by this system than we were. Coffee and dessert? Back to the register. No matter. The atmosphere was welcoming and a true celebration of all foods Italian. If I lived in Rome, I would drive (not walk) there often.

Arrivederci Roma!

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  1. great report hope you keep it up - and so glad somebody else finds Santa Sabina special. Its a shame roscioli butchered your pata negra - youd think the'd offer it in the same gossamer slices as other salumi.

    1. Thanks!

      M.

      1. Great detailed report, lovely. So glad you liked pratolina, it was a favorite when we lived in the area for the thick style pizza (that is the difference). I would never dream of eating pizza at palatium, wasn't even aware it existed. They are known for their locally sourced and traditional dishes. The "focaccia" at roscioli is actually pizza bianca, and the dark bread you mention is lariano - is the only bread i buy here, we love it! And i understand not liking carbonara at roscioli (or anywhere, for that matter) but just one clarification, as it is my pet peeve: there is no cream in carbonara, not in general amd definitely not at roscioli. And the meat is guanciale, not pancetta. But glad you had at least an excellent wine there. But why did you order PG elsewhere? There are some very good examples out there, but it is usually a very light style (watery?) wine, as it comes from northern italy. Also bummed you found the wine list at palatium uninteresting, there are so many gems to be discovered in this all-local list. It is definitely not good if the english list is smaller than the original list, will check it out and confront them.

        3 Replies
        1. re: vinoroma

          Vinoroma: thanks much for the reply. To clarify my comments a bit on Palatium, it was the food menu in English that was 1/3 of the Italian version which we didn't notice till later when more locals arrived. As to the wine list, we were only offered a plastic covered one page list of wines by the glass in English. We didn't know about the more complete list until we later saw other patrons scouring the much more extensive offerings from the more formal wine list. Too late for us to reconsider our selections.

          1. re: cortez

            Thanks for clarifying - it looks like it was bad/in-apt service that caused the situation, wi which i would whole heartedly agree. It is such a great place with such potential but service is just like at a roman government office.

            1. re: vinoroma

              I haven't been to Palatium in quite a while -- not since they've had an English menu. I recall that the Italian menu was extremely long (anzi, verbose), pumped up with info about the sources of the foods, but little description of the dishes. I doubt all that was translated for the English version, which would make the English much shorter and anyone reading it should be grateful to be spared the extra. However, I have no faith at all that the remaining English was correctly translated. Your characterization of the service as like a Roman govt office is exactly right, and I'd be very surprised if the English menu was accurate. I suspect that the OP's "pizza" was so called only in English and that in the original it may have been "tiella di Gaeta," which has a top crust made of pizza or bread dough and which can't be translated, only described. They always used to have one with seafood on the antipasto menu, and it may be (I say MAY because all this is conjecture) they now have a different one. It was good, but would not have been if you were expecting pizza. No excuse for the missing wine list: they exist to showcase the region's wines and foods, for crying out loud.

        2. Thanks so much for taking the time to report back in. And love your organized approach to reporting!

          Happy to hear you loved Eataly as much as I did (and hope this won't spark another barrage of comments!). I love the fish counter too.

          I've had similar experiences at Roscioli when ordering salumi. In fact, my horrible experience there is one of the main reasons I rarely steer people there. I was there for lunch, with a major food importer visiting from the States. Since it was his treat, we way over ordered, so we could taste as much as possible. This included a plate of various lards, as well as a plate of different prosciutti. Of the 8 types of cured meats we got, 5 were rancid. And then a similar experience with a cheese plate - cheeses that had been left too long and had gone down the amonia alley. It was really a shame, since the food otherwise is excellent. But they just either have not enough turn over in their stock, or else are not monitering it correctly.

          www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com

          4 Replies
          1. re: minchilli

            If there is one place in rome that doesn't have turn-over problems for its cheese & salumi, it is roscioli. I would agree with op's comment that his pata negra was cut too thick - not that i was with him, but there are two different guys who handle the hand-cutting of hams and one of them is not very apt at it.

            1. re: vinoroma

              The place has its moments. roscioli can be wonderful on one day, not so much on another. it's always a crap shoot: good roscioli or not? rhyme or reason doesn't seem to enter into the equation. My good dining experiences exceed the negatives but the inconsistencies have been documented and casual visitors need to be aware. Let the record show I like buying my cheeses there.

            2. re: minchilli

              Minchilli, This is just outrageous to me. I'm just curious, did you tell them? what happened?

              1. re: ambra

                I didn't make a big thing about it, since , as Steve h. points out, it's always a crap shoot there. And in fact, I was there yesterday, and two out of the four cheeses we had were completely ammoniated. Which is due to the fact that they store there cheese in tightly wrapped celophane, which encourages the cheeses to turn. The other two cheeses were good though. The service was, as always, border line surly. Pierluigi is friendly, but Alessandro always seems mad, and not the kind of guy you want to engage in a discussion about the quality of cheese.

            3. Many thanks for the insight, brevity, and wit.