Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Love Affair With Roma

On The Way To Morocco We Stopped In Rome
I haven't been to Roma for over eight years, but have reminisced over the food and wine since. While planning a buying trip to Morocco with my daughter Ryan, we found a great flight via Alitalia and jumped at the chance for a 3-day stopover in Rome. We had one plan: to eat and drink ourselves silly before embarking on a more rugged adventure in Morocco.

We found what turned out to be a rather dumpy, but magnificently located apartment (via Airbnb) just at the top of the Spanish Steps. Upon our arrival and equipped with suggestions from friends and TimeOut Rome, Ryan and I immediately set out to find lunch, deciding on Gino alle vicolo Rosini, a little trattoria well-known to the parliamentary crowd. We found it with little trouble and arrived well before opening time and found ourselves on a little stroll around the neighborhood before venturing back at one o'clock. We got lost and ended up walking into the Pantheon. That’s the beautiful thing about Rome, around every corner lies an ancient ruin or palace, so getting lost is fun.

By the time we ended up back at Gino’s they were packed and had a two-hour wait. Instead, we made reservations for the following day and went off to another recommended trattoria right by the Pantheon, Armando al Pantheon. Also, too crowded, we made a reservation at Armando for the following day. Starving and frustrated at our poor luck, we finally ended up at a little pizzeria near Piazza Navona – all Italian clientele with decent pizza and great wine by the carafe.

Finally satiated, we realized better planning was necessary for the rest of our stay. We went to all the restaurants where we wanted to eat and made reservations. Apparently, when in Rome before Christmas, one must reserve to eat out and these places weren’t even fancy places, but small cozy trattorias serving amazing food, house wines, and easygoing service. By the end of our third day, we realized that our sightseeing consisted of walking around looking for restaurants to eat at and cafes for espresso. That was just fine with us since we’d accomplished our goal: eating bowls of supremely al-dente pasta, roasted meats, and carafes of great Lazio whites and reds.

Our Favorites in Rome (be sure to book ahead for both lunch or dinner):

LUNCH  We were the only tourists in these places.

Gino in vicolo Rosini – near Parliament building
Filled with parliamentary workers, talking heads, and local regulars. We witnessed one old lady stuff a roll with cheese, wrap it up in a cloth napkin, and stuff it into her purse – she was a regular whose table had been reserved all afternoon!
What we ate:
* Artichokes alla Romana (marinated in olive oil and parsley, a Roman classic to die for)
* Spinach Ravioli in simple red sauce
* Tonnarelli (typical Roman pasta) with bitter greens
* Rabbit stewed in white wine – so yummy!
* Puntarelle (salad of winter chicory dressed in anchovy sauce) – also to die for!
* Poached Pear in red wine

Armando al Pantheon – just off the Pantheon
What we ate:
* Artichokes alla Romana
* Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola
* Oxtail alla Romana

Giolotti – near Gino in Vicolo Rosini
* Famous for Felato. We had the quintessential flavors – nocciola (hazelnut), pistachio, dark chocolate.

Hosteria Romana – just behind Piazza Barberini – we ate here twice!
Lovely servers, great graffitied walls, good reds and whites by the carafe.
What we ate:
* Mixed Antipasti
* Artichokes alla Romana
* Tonnarelli Cacio and Pepe (ate this twice, a Roman classic, great!)
* Roasted Pig: amazingly crispy skin, fall-off the bone meat
* Roasted Lamb: fall-off the bone meat, yum!

Matricianella near Parliament as well
Knowledgeable server, great affordable wine list.      
What we ate:
* Artichokes all Romana and alla Giudia (fried as a whole blossom-amazing!)
* Rigatoni with Oxtail: really, the Romans know al-dente….soooo different than American al-dente, which seems mushy in comparison.
* Polppetine (meatballs) with shaved black truffles and arugula
* Ricotta Cake – a Roman Jewish classic
* Server suggested a great bottle of white: Grechetto (from the Orvieto growing region in Lazio – province of Rome)

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