our Quick Rome eating report 2012
Havent had a chance to provide some data points from our just completed Rome visit - 5 days were too short to more than make a dent in either visiting or eating in this amazing city.
Our arrival on Friday Sept 28 was a little later than expected - I had planned to head over to L'Asino d'Oro, but their failure to reply to my email, a couple of discouraging reports and the late arrival scotched that plan - we headed instead to Il Bocconcino, a slowfood rec on Via Ostilia just around the corner from our apartment . We had a very competent and tasty lunch - mine fresh tonnarelli cacio e pepe, and animelle (sweetbreads) with peas and prosciutto. Both dishes werewell prepared and very tasty, as was my husband's roasted sea bass, surprisingly large. Cant remember his first. We drank the house white which was acceptable, Meal stacked up well against other experiences, sorry we werent able to return for another visit,.
Dinner, like all dinners on succeeding days, was bread cheese salumi and fruit and veg from the local supermarket - very good quality, very nice sheep cheeses. We bought some good wine from a very nice enoteca on Via Ostilia (I think recommended by Katie Parla) - friendly attentive owner (I believe) wished we had got back to taste other wines.
Next day Sat featured a long wander down by the Circus Maximus to visit the Farmerrs Market - there was also a huge food fair on in the Circus. Lots of good products in both places but saw nothing compelling to buy (except what looked like Senise or similar peppers in a calabrian booth - I was really sorry afterwards that I did not exert myself to buy some. After a visit to the Capitoline museums and a ramble into the center, we were able to snare a table at Armando al Pantheon for lunch and they came through for us excellently. with a fine spaghetti alla gricia and trippa alla romana for me and good biggish lambchops for husband. He also had farro soup which he really enjoyed but which for me was marred by strong truffle flavor/I think truffle oil. We were seated at 2 so they were running out of cicoria and other vegetables - the mixed veg plate I had was very ordinary. Wine was a Sogno red (merlot I think) from Terracina, delicious. But overall the food quality was very good and the service and atmosphere excellent. I continue to highly recommend for their continued solid performance and excellent welcome.
Sunday started with a long walk through Monti and visit to the National Museum collections at Palazzo Massimo. returned to Monti for lunch at Urbana 47, very nice stylish place, modern decor, open kitchen, serious about what they are doing reminded me a little bit of Frannys and Brooklyn Larder, in my home nabe - my farro salad with tomatoes, beans and hardboiled eggs was very carefully made, with good ingredients and husband enjoyed his small plates brunch which included ribollita, a sauteed veal dish served over spinach, and a smallish slice of tart, probably another item I am blanking on. I thought his dishes were good but not extraordinary We would go DDutch back, for sure.
not about food - forget about visiting the Vermeer exibition - it only has about 6 vermeers (mostly from NY and DC and only 1 of top quality, surrounded by a large group of works by Dutch contemporaries. Exhibition space in the former vatican stables on the Quirinal is very nice though.
to be completed. .
Warms my heart to hear your continued recommendation of Armando al Pantheon as solid. Looking forward to more ...
Some addenda to the above post before I move on:
We started our meal at IL BOCCONCINO with some very nice crostini – cicoria, burrata and anchovies, really a good combo – we followed up with the inspiration later at home when I cooked some cicoria and we layered on some bland creamy cheese – really brought it to life.
The enoteca we visited in Celio was BIBENDA, recommended by Katie Parla – we purchased a nice Lagrein from Alto Adige there and were sorry not to be able to go back enjoy their evening hospitality.
My husband’s meal at URBANA 47 was the 20euro brunch, and in addition to the dishes mentioned above it included a burrata or mozzarella ball and some Lazio prosciutto. It was not a large meal but was a good price.
On with the report:
Monday we followed a morning of church visiting (including S. Lorenzo and S.Agnese/S. Costanza outside the walls) with a late lunch at GRANO in the Centro – my planned trip out to Cesari al Casaletto just turned out to be too much trouble after a busy morning. This was our first visit to Grano which has a nice outdoor space on a small piazza – they gave us an English menu without asking, which has some amusing confusions – for example in one dish a fish-sauced pasta, the fish, gallinella al mare, was translated simply moorhen, suggesting it was a bird- sauced pasta. We felt we received newbie service, slightly reluctant but correct, I guess that’s par for the course in the center but it makes places like Armandos all the more precious.. The menu is definitely southern Italian inflected, together with a few refined riffs on Roman favorites – The codfish croquettes were served with a red pepper sauce, likely made from dried southern sweet peppers, very delicate and good. We shared a risotto which was the correct texture, a competent and tasty twist on cacio e pepe. Our mains were a tender and fresh tasting calamari alle erbe and a fried coda alla vaccinara “hamburger” napped in a dark sauce, not the typical simple tomato sauce. The shredded meat was fullflavored and adequately juicy, and the juxtaposition of the stewed meat with the fried surface was pleasing (I guess there are other similar dishes going around in Rome these days). The wine was an Aglianico di Vulture 2008 Syntesi from Paternoster (Basilicata) – we were slightly disappointed because it was cloudy with sediment – probably should have asked them to decant or give us another bottle. However it was still tasty and we did not pursue. Overall, very good food here – I think they would unbend with repeat visits. Price was a little higher than our other meals 85 euros (22 for the wine) AND NOTE THERE WAS NO SERVICE CHARGE APPLIED AS REPORTED EARLIER THIS YEAR.
Our last day in Rome, Tuesday, was spent wandering around the southern part within the walls, the Caelian, Aventine, Testaccio and back to the Capitoline.
We visited VOLPETTI and managed to get out of there with just 2 jars of Sardinian honey (I regretted not visiting sooner, since it would have improved our apartment eating) , stopped by the enoteca/gastronomica on the N side of the old market square, where we found a bottle of centerbe. For the second time we visited the PASSI panificio outside of the Christmas season and noted that they did not have the pangiallo and panpepato we had enjoyed on earlier visits – hope they have not stopped making altogether - and then walked to the new Testaccio market which was quite nice and bought some annurce apples, strawberries and muscat grapes from a cheerful vendor. I looked for the older ladies selling herbs but could not find???
We then wandered around the Tescaccio hill to FLAVIO AL VELAVEVODETTO for a very enjoyable relaxed lunch, our final Rome restaurant meal. Really liked this place, I think it is going to join the list of Rome classics, like ARMANDOs, that offer a real welcome, good food and a good price. This time Jim had the gricia (rigatoni) and the tripe, I had their specialty ravioli and (I couln’t resist) the coda. Both the gricia and tripe were very good, though I think in both cases I preferred the Armando’s version slightly. Also to note, Flavio’s cooks the rigatoni to a rather hard consistency. The ravioli was truly memorable, with a ricotta and spinach filling in a light tomato sauce, with some lovely ricotta on top, but the best part was the inclusion of tiny bits of a whole bouquet of fresh herbs in the saucing – so light flavors of rosemary, marjoram or oregano, mint and I think sage appeared and disappeared during the eating. It was subtle and just lovely and an inspiration I intend to follow up on at home. The coda was IT, a big old dish of tender almost falling off the bone oxtails in a flavorful tomato sauce which I really didn’t have a lot of appetite for at that stage (pasta servings at Flavio are LARGE), but made a good effort. Definitely preferred to the more refined dish the prior day. As contorno we had a dish of escarole with olives and pine nuts. I thought this was a little much, and the olive taste overwhelming (sometimes I think Romans can fry greens to death!) but it should be noted we did eat our vegetables.
I like the wine service at Flavio’s where we can browse the selection as well as being offered recommendations by the friendly host. We wound up with a wine called Sessanta/Quaranta, I think from Frascati, at any rate from the Castelli Romani, a 60-40 blend of syrah and traditional varieties and very tasty and well priced.
Last but not least, we had a couple of very nice coffees next to the Stazione Termini at PARANA, thanks to Katie for the recommendation of this place.
In the end, just barely scratched the surface of Rome eating (no gelato, no pastry, no pizza, no ethnic meals, no suburban excursions, in fact no dinners out) but but it felt right this time – we will be back again.