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A month in Rome - Week 1 trip report

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PixieM Sep 5, 2013 04:00 AM

Well my lovely chowhounds, I have just come to the end of my first week here in Rome. It was initially so overwhelming, I can't imagine how people can visit in a few short days and not leave absolutely reeling!

I am settled nicely in my neighbourhood of Monti and I apologise in advance if this and subsequent posts is very Monti-centric, but there is so much good food around here! But we are trying to get out and about too....my husband was only here for 3 days but he will be back again in about 10. In between I am going to stick fairly closely to the 'hood though.

So.....the first couple of nights (when I was alone) were a washout, food wise because the places I had tentatively book marked were still closed. So I made some fairly ordinary local choices, which weren't disastrous but don't need to be written about here.

Night 3 was Antico Arco. We were a bit surprised to find it located out of the main hub of Trastevere....up on the hill.....we would have liked to have a bit of wander around afterwards but we wouldn't have known how to navigate down without getting lost (we had no data on our phones at that point, this is now solved.)

AA was nice. The space itself is lovely and modern. We were greeted, seated and treated with the utmost of kindness and respect. We were ably assisted to choose a great wine - a 2004 Barolo, worth every bit of the 60 euros it cost. The meal was not as good as I was anticipating though. The carbonara was gluggy and a bit light on the porky bits. The shaved truffle was almost tasteless. The other pasta was IMO much more successful - ravioli filled with fish in a very intense reduced matriciana sauce. Very tasty. Mains were lamb and beef, cooked very similarly and a bit boring. Spinach side was OK. We couldn't fit in dessert. Bill was 186 euros.

Night 4 was Roscioli. Booking at 9.30pm. It was buzzing when we got there but we were seated quickly and without fuss. Again, the service was excellent and very helpful. We were directed to a lovely lambrusco that was an absolute bargain at 18 euros. It changed my mind about this style of wine! Once again, the carbonara failed to impress me. I have now decided that this is probably just ME. I don't like the style. Back home, I commit the heinous crime of adding a bit of cream to mine and this is what I am missing here I think. I thought that maybe the way they used eggs would deliver creaminess, but not so, at least so far. The other pasta we had was more successful, smallish shapes (sorry I can't remember what they were called) with pesto and - quite strangely but it worked - pieces of fried calamari. Mains were fantastic - lamb chops and polpette (melted in the mouth, how do they do it???) and excellent side of spinach. Passed on dessert once again. 103 euros. Have booked to go back in 10 days time and will probably go there at least 3 times this trip.

Night 5 was Flavio al Velavedotto. I approached this one with some caution, as there seems to be a lot of mixed opinions, but it was Sunday night and our options were relatively limited. Well, we loved it! Nice outdoor seating on a beautiful warm night. Once again, excellent service despite our limited Italian! We were pasta-ed out by this stage so decided to have a plate of prosciutto (delicious) and split a caccio e pepe. Well, what a revelation that was...I wasn't expecting to like it because of my aversion to carbonara, but it was creamy, and bitey and the pasta was fresh and cooked perfectly to my taste (a dente, but not too much). I could have scoffed the whole bowl. For mains we had cod fritters - the batter was exceptionally light, the fish tasted very fresh. Also chicken cacciatore - lovely big pieces of nicely braised chicken. With some fried zucchini with mint. The insalata misto was average. No dessert. Oh, and another bottle of that lovely lambrusco. 81 euros.

Night 6 - I was by myself again and in need of a bit of spice so I hit up Sitar in the main drag of Monti. It was surprisingly edible, but it just felt - weird!

Night 7 - Taverna dei Imperiali - by myself but they made me feel extremely welcome. I had booked and that was a good idea. It was jumping on a Wednesday night. Lots of (foodie) tourist and locals too, a nice mix. I had the burrata ravioli with pesto, which was very nice, although the pasta was probably a bit thicker than I usually like it. And the grilled octopus warm salad special - this was divine. Plus a glass of prosecco and a nice glass of (recommended) red - 37 euros.

Other observations: I have had excellent coffee in Monti....I ate at Forno Campo de' Fiori for lunch twice - their paninis are spectacular. I have popped into Volpetti for picnic provisions (expensive but nice) and wandered around Roscioli deli (up near Termini) but it was so crowded and a bit intimidating with no italian so I am going to try again at a quieter time, because their take home food looked delicious.

Sorry for the length but there's a lot to write about!! I love this city :))

  1. minchilli Sep 6, 2013 10:26 AM

    Thanks so much for the great report. It seems like you are getting out of Monti too. Report back on what you think of l'Asino d'oro, and if you ended up trying their gnocchi. He does it well.

    www.ElizabethMinchilliInRome.com

    1. b
      barberinibee Sep 5, 2013 05:01 PM

      pixie,

      For what it is worth, I have never liked carbonara in Italy, but maybe I should say I have only had it in Italy (Rome), where it never had cream.

      I gave it a couple of tries, but I just don't like the dish, especially when compared to other pasta dishes available in Rome. I could say I just don't get why it is popular -- I actually prefer bacon, eggs and rye toast -- but I could say the same about all burgers, oatmeal, Neapolitan pizza, catfish and barbecue.

      But generally I have enjoyed eating pasta dishes in Roman eateries, including gnocchi, both potato and semolina. So don't give up!

      2 Replies
      1. re: barberinibee
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        PixieM Sep 6, 2013 04:54 AM

        Glad to hear that I am not the only 'weird' one in regards to carbonara, barberinibee! Although I missed gnocchi day yesterday (I am still a bit all over the place with my days)I am going to have gnocchi tonight....maybe at L'Asino D'Oro? But pizza might be nice too....sigh....so many choices!!

        1. re: PixieM
          b
          barberinibee Sep 6, 2013 06:19 AM

          What's the temp down there? If I could get Roman pizza where I am, I would be thrilled, as it is still definitely summer here, too hot to enjoy cooking. I am heading to a seafront restaurant tonight to avoid my own kitchen!

          I could make a pretty long list of popular or iconic dishes in Italy that I was surprised to discover I don't care for. Fortunately, there are always several other specialties in each town and region that I am wild for (like Roman pizza!) I feel fairly certain you could find native born Romans who always give carbonara a pass.

      2. l
        lisaonthecape Sep 5, 2013 02:35 PM

        Love your report. While you're in Monti on your own, you might want to pop into Al Vino Al Vino on Via dei Serpenti. Nice wines, cheeses and cured meats. I ate there a couple of times when I was in Rome before my husband arrived and found it a comfy spot for solo dining.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lisaonthecape
          p
          PixieM Sep 6, 2013 04:52 AM

          I've been to Al Vino with my husband and yes, it does look like it would be accommodating for the single gal! I will def go back there before he returns. Their prosecco at 4 euros a glass was a steal....we also liked Tre Scalini...and I am going to try Barrique in the coming week too. I popped into Cavour 313 for a drink but, while they were nice, it felt a bit weird on my own. And I didn't want to eat and I think the Italians think you are a bit strange if you drink without eating?

        2. Steve R Sep 5, 2013 12:36 PM

          Nice report. Glad you're one of those who believes in posting about your experiences :-)

          At any rate, we spent 2 of our 3 recent dinners in Rome at Flavio al V. this past trip (Perilli was the 3rd, but then closed for vacation -- I assume that you know to get there and get the pajata, right?). At any rate, both meals there were very nice and we thought it was great that we were to go to the wine shelves and pick out (with as much assistance as we wished... or not) what we wanted, with prices clearly marked. We found a very nice Aglianico that I'd highly recommend at the price point (low 20s I think). And I thought the carbonara there was quite good (my wife's cacio e pepe was better though). I also had an interesting main of "fried meatballs", which were a tasty combo. of chicken & beef (tasted better than it sounds) & a good app. of zucchini flowers stuffed with a mixture of cheese and anchovies. If you ever get back there...

          By the way, there was a place in Campo di Fiore that caught our eye, but we didnt get the chance to go. I think it was called Taverna Lucifero... looked like a place to try. Very near Ditirambo, another place to take a look at. Have fun.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Steve R
            p
            PixieM Sep 5, 2013 12:44 PM

            Pajata??

            1. re: PixieM
              Steve R Sep 5, 2013 12:49 PM

              Hope Katie P. doesnt mind this link:

              http://www.parlafood.com/la-pajata/

              In my opinion (having done a one man Testaccio restaurant survey on this dish), Perilli does it best. No muss, no fuss, just plain traditional home cooking.

              1. re: Steve R
                p
                PixieM Sep 5, 2013 12:55 PM

                Oh. Ok. While I really like the idea of top to tail eating, this is probably just a step too far for me! Appreciate the information though :)

            2. re: Steve R
              b
              barberinibee Sep 5, 2013 04:50 PM

              If I am not mistaken, the eatery Taverna Lucifero advertises itself as being a specialist in fondue (whatever that might mean in Rome). Just so people know.

              https://www.facebook.com/pages/Taverna-Lucifero/167627516596990

              http://www.tavernalucifero.it/

              1. re: barberinibee
                steve h. Sep 6, 2013 03:23 PM

                There is fondue at Taverna Lucifero but it's more than that. Chef will chat with you, talk a bit about the pasta and meats and together you'll work out a meal. He knows his wines, too. I like this tiny place a lot. Chef has a serious pedigree.

                Cantina Lucifero, same family, is nearby. The old man runs this place and it serves as a solid place for wine and nibbles. The steak tartare, in my opinion, is the best in Rome.

                Katie Parla has written about both locations that are off the Campo de' Fiori. I've been going to both for years.

            3. m
              Maximilien Sep 5, 2013 10:14 AM

              Nice reports,

              Could you tell us about the "fairly ordinary local choices" ?

              People often ask about where local eat, and it would be fun to know some of them.

              Max.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Maximilien
                p
                PixieM Sep 5, 2013 12:43 PM

                Hi Max
                My poor choices were definitely not where locals eat, given the proximity of Monti to the colosseum, they were touristico joints that just happened to be close by.
                Cheers Linda

              2. jen kalb Sep 5, 2013 07:30 AM

                I htink you are doing this the right way, PixieM -rather than waiting til the end. Very enjoyable!

                1. p
                  PixieM Sep 5, 2013 06:19 AM

                  Also it's Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, my mistake. And the BEST gelato at Fatamorgana 2 in Monti, closely followed by del Teatro near Piazza Navone. I don't normally eat icecream at all, and I have had a small cup most days!

                  1. vanderb Sep 5, 2013 04:47 AM

                    Great report, so far, I look forward to reading about your continued adventures.

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