I wanted to report back quickly on my 4 nights in Rome during the first week of May. I received so many good ideas and recs from CH that I felt I needed to give back a little. I got a little long-winded, but it was all so good I had to let it all out :-)
My first night in town, I went back to Armando al Pantheon. I had been there before and enjoyed both the food and how I was treated as a solo woman. I was not disappointed again.
My appetizer was the special bruscetta of the night: a mix of fava beans, artichoke, peas, and pancetta. It was a refreshing change from the usual bruscetta I've sampled.
I fully expected to have pasta cacio e pepe. But, one the nightly specials was gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. I couldn't pass that up. The gnocchi was just, well, gummy-chewy enough, the way I like 'em. The sauce was definitely gorgonzola, but wasn't heavy and sticky like a usual cheese sauce. It was probably medium thickness, where it had movement on the plate. I could have eaten a second plate of it, if I had the room in my stomach.
I kept seeing the artichokes going by my table. I decided I had enough room to get one of them. I am glad I did! With the olive oil surrounding it, the artichoke just melted in my mouth. I'm usually a "eat the end of the leaves" kind of artichoke eater, but this preparation could make me think of going through the effort once in awhile to pare it down to the choke only!
I knew I wanted to have another one of Armando's tortas for dessert. I really enjoyed the last one I had because it wasn't a sweet dessert. This one was just as good. A nice little torta with some raspberry jam in between the layers. I so love that Italians have this option of things not sick-sweet for dessert. I went back to the hotel sated and happy.
I also want to comment on how I was treated as a solo diner. I was welcomed warmly. I never felt like I was being ignored. Anytime I had a question about the food or preparation, I received a full response. I did not feel like I was treated like "another tourist", but a welcome guest. For me, how I'm treated when I am traveling alone is just as important as the food.
I did a stop at Pizzarium for some pizza and suppli before I did a night tour of the Vatican Museum. If you didn't know about the place, you would probably just walk by it. Man, it was a tiny hole-in-the-wall, complete with some graffiti on the outside wall. But, oh my, the food. I had a classic suppli, my first. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was yummy. A deep-fried rice "cigar" filled with cheese and pomodoro sauce (yes, the sauce was inside). I wanted more, but I also wanted pizza. It took awhile to decide from among the varieties which one I wanted. It ran the gamut from the familiar to the bizarre (I never thought of heaps of meat or potatoes on a pizza) I took the arugula and fresh ricotta slice. Some of the best pizza I've had anywhere, anytime. I know the owner wants to keep it small, but I wish he could put more than one bench outside. I really wanted to sit due to the several hours of standing I had coming up at the Vatican.
I had dinner Saturday night at Roscioli. Again, I wasn't expecting what I found. Roscioli is a deli/wine store by day and restaurant by night, it seems. My table was downstairs in the wine cellar. There were 4 other tables downstairs with mine. I did not feel crowded in the space. I had decided to go whole-chinghale and order from the Segundi section also that night. My server made sure to take good care of me. I'm sure that these guys get tired of all the tourists, but he was engaging and very helpful. When we discussed wine, we talked about what I like, not by type of wine (ie, chianti, chardonnay), but by tastes and body. I like a good full-body red. He ended up bringing me a glass of Tenuta Saint Antonio Amarone. Now, I was surprised by that pick, but, da%m, it was good. All in all, I ended up drinking 3 glasses of it (I bought by the glass).
I was brought a little amuse bouche of fresh tomato puree. It was very bright tasting. I couldn't decide on an appetizer, so we talked. I would have loved the burrata, but it would be just too much. In the end, he said he could bring me 2 balls of bufala mozzarella. Yes! When it came, he had added a heathy handful of dried tomatoes in oil. It was perfect for what I wanted. Those tomatoes were probably some of the sweetest tasting I've ever had.
For my pasta course, I decided to try the Amatriciana. Oh my. It sure looks like a plain basic pasta, but it definitely was not plain. The pasta, like large rigatoni, were cooked just right, enough body and chew left in them. Just a light layer of sauce, not a smothering that we in the US are used to seeing. Lots of great cheese on top. And, my new favorite meat - crispy guanciale. I never had it before, but, wow. Not a ton of it, but just enough to add to the flavor of the dish. I'm ruined for using pancetta now, though. The dish looks pretty dull and plain, but looks aren't everything. Again, I was sad when I hit the bottom of the bowl. But, more things to come.
For my meat course, I chose the Roman meatballs with polenta. Definitely something I would never order, but they just called to me. Very fresh tasting tomato sauce topped with more good shredded cheese (I assume pecorino romano - I forgot). My server told me they used 5 different kinds of meat in the meatballs. Now, when I took my first bite, something very familiar in the flavor came to me, but I couldn't place it. It had to do with the spices. A few more bites and it hit me - it reminded me of the Lebanon bologna I ate as a kid in Pennsylvania! Kind of a spicy, but with a sweet end note. I was too full to finish the plate, but I was happy I had ordered them.
I ended the night with their version of tiramisu and a glass of moscato recommended by my server. The tiramisu was surprisingly light so it was easy to eat. It wasn't like a usual tiramisu with the layers of cake/ladyfingers, but more like a layering of puddings and mousses. My server at the end brought me a small dish with 2 amaretti cookies and a dark chocolate dipping sauce. A very nice way to end a wonderful dinner. Again, I felt like I was taken care of quite well. The servers were all very friendly and not brusque, as I've seen in some reviews. And, the wine cellar did NOT feel like a dungeon, but like, guess what, a wine cellar. I did not miss being upstairs.
The one total surprise was the gelato I had as i wandered from the Colosseum back to the Pantheon area. I was feeling a little hot and tired around the Argentina tram stop area. I saw a tiny storefront with a sign "Artigianale Gelato Corona" , so I popped in. Some usual flavors, but my eyes went straight to the limone e basilco tub. It just looked refreshing. My eyes did not deceive me! I think that may be my new favorite gelato flavor!!!