DC and I returned from our 2 week jaunt to Italy a few weeks ago (half of it spent in Rome), and I've been meaning to thank all who pointed us in the right direction on food, as well as an erstwhile expat tourguide who was awesome....Forewarned...we had about 7 different carbonaras on this 6 day stay in Rome! Thank you!
We arrived around 9 on a foggy Friday night, and were extremely excited to discover that our Monti apartment was literally right around the corner from Taverna Romana, which had been recommended to us by an Italian food writer. Our first night in Rome, dinner right near by, a stroll by the Forum, we had romantic plans. As we approached the corner restaurant, an Italian gentleman standing out front informed us that there was a short wait, but that it was well worth it, as he dined there regularly. When we attempted to step inside to check in and put our name on a list, the waiter quickly shooed us back outside. 10 minutes or so later, he popped his head out the door and barked "10 minutes!" Okay, no problem, we'll wait. We were seated shortly there after, and then proceeded to wait and wait and wait. As we waited, we watched the room; those who were known were welcomed warmly with kisses; the tourists were ignored. Occasionally the waiter would arrive and bark at us again. Very off-putting. Finally we were able to put in an order, for our first carbonara, a spaghetti cacio e peppe a secondi to share and a contorni of roast potatoes. Then we waited some more. About 30 minutes after we sat, a clearly-known-to-the-owners group of ladies came in and were seated next to us. They only ordered secondi and contorni and their food arrived just before our primi, about an hour after we had been in. They had a couple of salads, an entree and the potatoes. Our plates were then tossed at us. Literally. Carbonara was tasty and the spaghetti was good as well, but at this point we were getting bummed out by the treatment. We finally get our secondi, a so-so veal with peas, and the same waiter tosses down a limp looking bowl of lettuce with one tomato slice. "No potatoes" he snaps. Clearly our neighbors had gotten our potatoes. We left feeling pretty disappointed and fearful that this was what Rome was going to be like, just plain mean to tourists. We scrapped the walk and went back blue.
The next day we had a simple lunch at the buffet at Urbana 47, which was great, and the waiter was delightful, helping us plot our our tour on the map, and going over our itinerary with us. The spinach and potato soup was rich and comforting and a simple broccoli quiche was perfection. Our faith in Rome was restored, and remained so for the rest of the trip. For dessert we grabbed a braised beef cheek sandwich from Tricolore, across the street.
That night our expat host took us to Settembrini in the Prati and we indulged in the chef's whim tasting menu. Boy, did we get spoiled. The boys loved the Automne mushroom salad, for me the highlight was the coffee fettucini with white figs and cauliflower. Also perfection was the tasting of pork for the five senses, which included umami: a savory bowl of Udon noodles. Every course was amazingly paired with gorgeous wines, or in the case of one course, a dark French beer, called Coreff. We were introduced to Emidio Pepe's Trebbiano, which we ended up purchasing to bring home. Funky, and wonderful.
Sunday dawned rainy, so our host took us off to Testaccio for a day of more food and drink. On the way to La Torricella, we stopped at Pizzeria 00100, where he introduced us to Trappizini sandwiches. If you haven't had one of these: GO THERE! Little triangles of warm, fresh pizza dough are split like pita breads and filled with traditional roman dishes, like tongue in green sauce, meatballs (SOOO YUMMY) tripe, or my favorite Coda Alla Vaccinara (braised oxtail.) This last sandwich ranks #3 in the top 5 things we ate all week. We went back later in the week, after a market tour, for another one. After that lovely appetizer, it was time for some seafood. La Torricella was loud, old school, filled with large parties, (we spotted only one other 3 top, and a lonely solo diner) and fabulous. Our host wanted us to try the baby octopus in chili oil, a plate of sauteed sardines was irresistable, and our boisterous waiter strongly recommended the spaghetti with vongole. Since everyone around us was eating just that, how could we resist? We rounded our the afternoon with beers at Open Balladin, and wine at Cul de Sac.
We didn't think we'd have room for dinner, but we had made reservations earlier that day at Taverna de Fori Imperiale, and thank heavens we didn't bail on it. Imagine our surprise when we walked in to discover that the gentleman who had taken our reservation that afternoon was actually the Chef! The service here was absolutely charming, and we put aside our menus and just listened to the waiter, with his almost sing-song delivery. "If you like the artichoke, we have the Romana and the Jewish." If you like the pasta, we have the gnocchi...." We ordered the special carbonara with peas and artichokes...not our favorite, but the gnocchi was HEAVENLY, so light and fluffy and perfect. We chatted up our waitress quite a bit, she was sporting a very cool knife and fork tattoo, and they topped off our crazy day of food and drink, by offering us digestivo on the house....
Monday, we strayed from our pre-planned list and had a truly terrible tourist pizza. Shame on us. Should have gone back to Cul de Sac :( But we more than made up for it at dinner at Perilli! LOVE LOVE LOVE this place! Totally old-school, waiters in tuxes, no music, greatness! We had an 8 o'clock reservation and arrived at 10-of to find the place dark and locked up tight! Uh oh. So we toddled of to a local enoteca across from the market, and when we checked back 30 minutes later, it was open. We were the 2nd table there, although it would fill up completely by the time we left. Here we had the #1 dish of the whole trip. THE Carbonara. Perfection perfection perfection. Done with rigatoni, which was a surprise. We also had a fresh fettucine with artichokes, although looking around the room, realized we should have had the artichokes alla Romana. Fettucine was delicious and quickly devoured. After the trappizini from Sunday, I was all about the Coda Alla Vaccinara, and it did not disappoint. DC had osso bucco and enjoyed as well. Oh yes, and we also discovered that we are OBSESSED with punterella. It hit every table after this meal!
Tuesday we tried to go to the Vatican, but were foiled by the strike. After much going in circles in busses, we ended up at lunch at La Carbonara. Despite the name, their carbonara was not our favorite; it was good, but couldn't compare to Perilli's. Their grilled bread, another story all together! Due to the strike and the rain, Tuesday was pretty much a bust. We were wet, wet, wet, so decided to take a risk and stray once more from our list. We went to a little seafood place, Osteria de Corte del Grillo, right around the corner from our flat, which we had spotted earlier thanks to their amazing display of fish and prawns on ice. YAY! What a great choice! We had sooo much fun here, and the food was amazing. The maitre d', Mariano was great, sort of quintessentially Italian, and a lot of fun. We started with 2 raw langoustines (were expecting more of a carpaccio, but they came in the shell) then moved on to a fish ravioli in an INTENSELY colored saffron sauce, and a SPECTACULAR fettucine of languoustine with tomato and chili. #2 dish (if you're following along!) Next up was a filet of John Dory, simply sauteed over zucchini and topped with sliver almonds. It was fabulous.
Wednesday we went back to 00100 for lunch, then off to the Vatican. After the Vatican we hit up Pizzarium, which had been highly recommended. It did not disappoint! Simple tomato-mozz was my favorite, although it was a hard call between the cauliflower mozz and the potato pizzas! We had a late dinner that night at Roscioli, and it was another gorgeous meal. We started with a plate of mixed salamis and a Red Tuna antipasti. Next up, the Carbonara. This one with spaghetti, and more intensely flavored than Perillis. Delicious, but couldn't top it. I did love the fact that they had 3 different kinds of pepper in it, and farm-sourced not only the guanciale, but the eggs as well. Another pasta with pink shrimp and crispy leeks was not as memorable. We ended the meal with their meatballs topped with shaved, smoked-mozzerella, a subtle and elegant touch. And of course punterella, with an extra spritz of vinegar from a stainless steel atomizer. I wish you could find this veg in America.
Our final day, we split up for lunch. I went back to Pizzarium, while shopping around the Vatican, DC hit up Tricolore again. That night, we met our friend for one last round of feasting at an enoteca near the pantheon, Galeotta (maybe?) We feasted on salmon wrapped around goat cheese, marinated artichokes, and a stinky goat cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves over a bottle of sparkling Franciacorta. Since it was Thursday, we wanted gnocchi again, but everyplace our friend thought of was already reserved. We ended up at Augusterello in the meat-packing district. Gnocchi and Amatriciana pastas were a let down, but the sweetbreads were tasty, as were the involtini of beef. We did like the atmosphere, which felt like an old warehouse, with cavernous ceilings. Once again, we were the only small party, and were definitely surrounded by locals.
So that was our trip. Rome is a great city, and we had a blast. If you made it this far...thanks for sticking it out!