Rome Report (long)
4 days in beautiful Roma. 2 foodies kids, 1 wife. Here it goes...
We love our pizza in nyc and I wasn't sure what to expect from the Roman "Matzoh pizza". Well, we absolutely loved it. The Margherita and the Diavola (like sopressata back home) especially were vary tasty, the "Remo" not so much however. Mushrooms, sausage and eggplant sounded much better than it tasted. I suppose stick to the basics here as I have read somewhere as well.
Le Mani in Pasta
Sort of a strange dinner here. Upon entering at the tourist time of 7:30 it didn't take long to realize our waiter was somewhat arrogant. Fairly large menu + 10 or so specials made ordering a bit tough. I ordered one of the specials, spaghetti with calamaretti but the waiter said it was for 2 people, meaning we needed to order 2 of those. On the special board there was just the name and the price for each dish. Unless I missed the fact that every special on the board must be ordered for 2, I didn't see it mentioned anywhere. Anyway, this particular pasta was just ok and ordering 2 of those turned out to be a mistake. The little squids were slightly fishy and didnt seem very fresh. I also ordered a Carbonara and when I asked for another pasta reco the waiter said he'll bring me something special, which I normally love to hear. Antipasti assortment first course was good, the ham in particular. I commented to the waiter how I love the ham and he just gave me a smirk and a quick leave. At this point I realized I'm far from Da Roberto in Montisi who would tell me what this pigs cousins had for breakfast this morning.
After the calamaretti, I get the "surprise" pasta and its another Cacio e pepe "a specialty of Roma" he says (we had it for lunch and I'm fairly familar with Roman cuisine but here I'm just another dumb tourist I suppose). This one was with tagliolini as opposed to tonarelli earlier, but enjoyable nonetheless. My 11 year old girl made this comment that made us shiver: "at lunch time I felt the flavors of the pepper but this one is just plain spicy". She was right. So after finishing the second pasta, he comes back and asks me if I still want the carbonara. I said yes and appreciated that he asked but at the same time things were dragging a little.
At this point I notice the locals starting to come in. This is a very popular place with many withouy resvs turned away. Tourists upstairs, locals downstairs and one special local in a strange setup in the attic. What saved the meal was the seafood assortment secondi. Fantastic hefty Langoustines, squid (the good kind this time) lightly breaded and grilled to perfection, and a nice whole white fish. But wait a minute you ask. What happened to the carbonara? Never got it. So 2 Cacio e pepe and 0 carbonaras so far and my left arm is starting to shake. Desserts of choc cake and tiramisu were ok. A strange bill of missing dishes, a "carbonara" and an extra water bottle. Although I had enough reasons to complain I opted to leave it alone. The correct bill we calculated later would have been larger in fact anyway. Strange but fine meal overall.
An excellent meal with some hiccups. Inside it felt like sitting in a trendy restaurant in Soho in NYC. If you are looking for that trattoria with locals feel you won't get it here I dont think. We sat at the back of the room and I don't think I would like sitting in the front right by the product counter. If you are a couple most likely that's where you would wound up I think as the bigger tables were all in the back or downstairs. The starters were some of the best of the entire trip. A plate of paper thin Mortadella from bologna with Parmesan like eating mortadella for the very first time. And it came with this delicious crispy flat bread. Burrata dish was even better. Good burrata but what made the dish was the delicious peppery sun dried cherry tomatoes I couldn't get enough of.
Then the hiccup. We get the 2 primis and 2 secondis at the exact same time. Perhaps I should have clarified and not assume things but up until now with 11 days in I didn't need to specify and the the waiters on occasion would clarify that they would bring the pastas first and figure out that we are all sharing everything. When she noticed my surprise the waitress here was apologetic and said that she didnt know. Considering we were 4 people and it was 4 dishes its understandable. Very nice Gnocchi amatriciana but our first carbonara of the trip was a little off for our taste buds. We love our pastas and love them al dente but this was a little too al dente for us. I assume this is normal perhaps here but with 11 pasta filled days in, 2 caico e pepes the previous day, and some nice carbonaras in the US, this was not quite what I expected.
Austrian Simmental Entrecôte was the steak of the trip. Perfectly bloody and more flavor than all the Bisteccas we had in Florence and Lucca
Absolutely loved the Meatballs with smoky ricotta. Nice tiramisu and choc fondue with fruits to cap a great but the most expensive dinner of the trip (160). I was a little surprised to see 3 euros for the bread on the bill.
Cesare al Casaletto. For the price probably our best meal in Rome
But somewhat of a sluggish start. When we showed up (with resvs) the waiter turns to someone to ask where should he sit us, and she points unashamed to the table right where we are standing between the kitchen entrance and main dining room. When I said that I would like to sit elsewhere pointing to all the nice empty table away, the waiter said all the tables outside are reserved. I reminded him that I reserved a table 2 weeks ago and he eventually sat us in a much better and quiet spot. There were a couple of empty tables when we left but whatever. I do understand the reasoning for sitting the tourists as such in a popular place like this I suppose but I wouldnt do it. With that said we got wonderful service and no issues the rest of the way. Within an hour the place got filled with locals. One of the only tourist free dinners of the entire trip. The menu surprisingly has an English translation which wasnt needed as I came prepared.
We order 3 courses but not too much food after the amazing late lunch we had. Apps of fried stuff including a very interesting and very generous fried gnocchi on a bed of light cream. Terrific, although the kids declare they prefer regular gnocchi. Tough to argue but this was unique and tasty nonetheless. Surprisingly excellent fresh succulent mussels here. Just wasnt expecting. But the first course star was perhaps the meatballs with pesto. Not your avg meatballs. Like an airy slow cooked delicious brisket meatball.
The pastas were good but again not our favorite course. Testament to the other courses here really. You select a pasta type and the classic preparation. I wanted another carbonara and Cacio but the wife said lets try something else so I opted for a Gricia with Tonarelli and Bucatini Amatriciana which was more satisfying. I realized I prefer all the classics over the Gricia overall.
Another and perhaps the biggest winner was the last course of oxtail stew. Chunky, falling of the bone juicy, tomatoee, packed with flavor meat. I took pictures of just about every dish on the entire trip but I forgot to take a picture of this one (last dish of teh trip) since we were so engaged telling the kids the story of Maximus (gladiator).
We skip dessert and leave very satisfied. For the price the best dinner in Rome (70 something. 100 euros less than Roscioli).
I Sette Consoli in Orvieto - On the way to Rome. A very forgettable lunch, well except for the bland risotto. That was memorable. A nice garden but it wasnt comfortable in the heat. They lost their michelin star a year ago.
La Campana. Did not disappoint. Pleasant Caprese, surprisingly good Calamari fritti (youngest requested). Fried zucchini flowers with cheese with an unexpected hint of anchovies - Very good. More fresh anchovies with pecorino and tagliolini. Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe, perfectly cooked Tonnarelli. But the best dish was a special of Fettuccine agli ovoli. Dont believe I had ovoli mushrooms before. Nice a delicate.
This is one of those traditional proud places seems like. Rich history dating back to the 16th century. Current family owns it for the last 60 years. Supposedly a very popular spot with locals except in the summer months with people lining outside. At least thats what the waiter said
00100 pizza it was.. well.. Interesting. Katie Parla's NYT piece was proudly displayed on the door among other things. The Genovese Suppli was really good, but the "Greenwich" - Feh! Not sure if it was purposely or not but they forgot to pour the port on the slice "oops sorry we forgot" but even the port couldn't save it. Burnt crust (not in a good way) and fairly flavorless. I passed on the Trapizzino. I wasn't in the mood for it and already had it in nyc.
Roscioli bakery - Nice pizzas (tomato cheese) and a good apple strudel. The big advantage of having dinner resvs at Roscioli is to be able to use their bathrooms during the day.
Il Forno campo. Really enjoyed the pizza bianca here and another with tomatoes.
Ciuri Ciuri - This was probably our favorite sweets stop. Fantastic cannoli (and I dont like cannoli) and good ice cream, but my favorite thing here was the Gelsi Neri Granita. Is this blackberry? Tastes reminiscent to white berries I've had in Israel except this is black. Not too sweet and very refreshing.
Il Sorpasso. Longest 10 minute walk but the reward was large. A top meal in rome nominee for us with every single dish ever so nicely executed. The place was packed with locals but I had rezzies. Mozzarella ball - heavenly. Hard Cheese with pear and honey - a revelation. Supposedly a hard to find Umbrian cheese. Gorgeous selection of cuts including very nice speck and ultra tasty salami.
Strozzapreti (obviously invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while watching a priest being strangled) with monkfish and fresh tomato sauce - couldn't get enough of this one. Fettuccine with pesto, zucchini flowers and sunflower seeds. Perhaps the single best pesto sauce I ever ate. Orecchiette (mike Tyson's favorite pasta) with meat. Perfectly al dented, tender meat. We eat this dish a lot back home but never like this. The pastas here were on a separate menu of the day. Truly exceptional stuff.
Many thanks to all the posters here. Vinoroma, Katie and her fantastic Rome app, Elizabeth and her fantastic Florence app. We had an amazing 12 day trip in Tuscany and Rome, but now shifting focus for possible Piemonte/ER combo fall of 2014.
I will have plenty of pictures and posts about Roma in...
re: Il Duomo
Consoli wasnt too bad. Its just that after a streak of some incredible meals we had in Tuscany this one fell short in comparison. Zucchini flowers were nice, an ok grilled octopus, Paccheri with shrimp got boring quickly, cheese ravioli basic. Very bland risotto. One highlight was the pork ravioli. By far the most flavorful dish.
Thanks so much for your report! So much detail is always helpful.
I've been hearing very strange things from Mani in Pasta for a while. Inflated bills, pushing lobster everything, etc. I'm not a big fan of the place anyway (It's just too crowded and the food is just ok) but the blatant bad treatment of tourists pushes it over the edge for me.
Elizabeth, I actually read what you mentioned before about Le Mani and initially crossed it off my list. Should have left crossed I suppose. Since we stayed 4 nights in Testavere I was determined to eat there at least once, but picking one place turned out be more challenging than I imagined.
Le Mani still owes me a Carbonara and I got the bill to prove it!
I just posted pictures and a full report on Roscioli if anyone is interested... http://eatingwithziggy.com/
Really enjoyed this one and the rest of the meals in Rome