Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Rome — Empire of Delicious

They say that it is impossible to get a bad meal in Italy. I have, in the past, found this to be more or less truth. It seems as true as ever now.

Our impossibly good first meal we put together ourselves with odds and ends from the Carrefour market — a bottle of grassy green olive oil, some bufala mozzarella, a heavenly soft salumi and a nearly perfect San Marzano tomato, paired with a crusty whole wheat bread and a fine $2.99 bottle of Montepulciano.
Salumi, bread, tomato, bufala mozzarella and olive oil and vino rosso in our flat

Salumi, bread, tomato, bufala mozzarella and olive oil and vino rosso in our flat

We attempted to have a bad meal at a dirty looking casual pizza joint our first night in Rome. The salad came, and it appeared of the sort you might choke down at your neighborhood pizzeria called Little Tony’s or Rocco’s back home — lettuce, tomato wedges, black olives, pickled vegetables, artichoke hearts, oil and vinegar. Except that here, the lettuce was exceptionally flavorful, the tomatoes perfectly ripe, the black olives briny and toothsome, each pickled mushroom and celery and pepper cured I’m sure in a vat in the back of that very restaurant.

“This is the best pizza ever!” my son Flynn, a noted pizza critic, declared on his first bite.
It is a strange thing to be jarred suddenly awake in the middle of the night, look around, and remember: “Oh yeah, I’m in Rome.”
The thing that jarred me awake at 1 a.m. was the boisterous Italian chatter coming from the Osteria downstairs, where people were still dining into the early morning. They take their food seriously here.
Every third or fourth turn down this or that cobbled alleyway in our Trastevere neighborhood brings the appearance of another small cheese, salumi or other gourmet food store. And with the nearly 1-to-1 strength of the dollar against the euro, it is impossible not to fill my suitcase with prizes to take home — dried porcini mushrooms, salt-cured bottarga mullet roe, colatura fish extract, Knorr porcini bouillon cubes. I wish I could take everything home — the grassy mozzarella di bufala, the prosciutto, the soft salumi, the delicious vinos rosso for $2.99 a bottle. The whole city, in fact.
When it comes time for dinner, there is an embarrassment of riches. Every little trattoria, osteria, pizzeria and ristorante in our neighborhood receives five stars on TripAdvisor for its authentic, delicious Roman food. The first we try is called Da Anzo al 29, recommended by both TripAdvisor and our AirBnB hostess, about 50 yards from our flat. The first night we walked past, there was a crowd gathered outside the place before it opened, which we took as a good portent.
The most Roman dish of them all — cacio e pepi

The most Roman dish of them all — cacio e pepi

We didn’t make a reservation, and watched as pushy Romans who seemed to know the owner came after us and got seated first. But soon we too were sitting with our litro carafe of vino rosso di casa, ordering local Roman specialties.
With artichokes out of season, we were unable to try the famous dish, carciofi all Giudia — “Jewish-style” fried artichokes. We opted instead for fiore di zucca — fried squash blossoms, filled with mozzarella and anchovy, alongside some fresh sheep ricotta drizzled with honey. Then the main dishes began to come: two classic Roman pastas, cacio e pepe (literally “cheese and pepper”), a fresh chewy noodle with pepper and pecorino Romano; and amatriciana, a rigatoni with tomato sauce and spears of guanciale jowl bacon; and a nightly special of spaghetti with tomatoes and sardines.
Trippa al Romana

Trippa al Romana

Although I am not generally a fan of tripe, and gag every time I think it would be a good idea to order menudo on a hungover Sunday morning back home, something compelled me to give the trippa al Romana a try — one of the most classic Roman dishes of all. I was glad I did.
In the spirit of “When in Rome…”, even my wife — an avowed adversary of boingy-textured foods — ventured to try it. And made a gaggy face. But I found the dish subtle and delicious, the heartiness of the tripe and tomato sauce lightened by the freshness of mint.
Besides the space, a distinct advantage of choosing to stay in an AirBnB rather than a hotel is the kitchen. And with the plentitude of extraordinary produce and ingredients available, I was excited to get into the kitchen.
Dinner in

Dinner in

After the papal shocker of fortuitously catching Il Papa himself giving a mass on St. Peter’s Square (“Look, he just stood up!”), we returned to Trastevere for a cold beer, a nap and a dinner in.
I would prepare for the evening’s meal two beautiful fresh pastas I purchased at the Carrefour — a Piedmontese ravioli di carni which I tossed with butter and sage, topped with fried sage leaves; and an egg fettuccine with a slow-simmered ragu made with local chianina beef, prosciutto San Danielle, Roman tomatoes and sangiovese. Pan-grilled treviso radicchio topped with crumbled parmesan reggiano would serve the role of vegetable, untouched by the hands of children.
There was no point in bothering to make a dessert. Besides being in possession of the best watermelon we’d ever tasted, it was a warm night — our second to last in Rome — we needed a walk, and there was a new gelateria to be tested around every corner.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 23:26:45

    WOW! That all looked great. I don’t remember ever having a good meal in Italy.


  2. Michelle
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 00:52:47

    How do you say jealous in Italian? 😉


  3. Amanda
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 14:06:22

    Everything looked and sounded amazing! (Except the Tripe) Not a fan of that sort of thing either I must admit. But good for you for giving it a go! Rome, wine, pasta, what more could one ask for? I’m jealous too! What a wonderful place!


    • scolgin
      Jul 01, 2016 @ 14:20:32

      It is extraordinary, Amanda. I was last here when I was 11 y.o., and mostly what I remember about that trip was getting our car broken into and my parents fighting. 🙃 I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in Venice and Florence, and wasn’t expecting to be as enchanted by Rome. But the beauty, romance, history, food, sweet pace, warm people have me utterly charmed. My new favorite city.


  4. pal-O
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 18:24:01

    I can see Leslie’s face wrinkled up at the tripe now!


  5. Okng.H
    Oct 17, 2016 @ 18:38:13

    Nice one


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