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Two weeks in Rome (lots of short takes)


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Two weeks in Rome (lots of short takes)

steve h. | Mar 31, 2011 06:02 PM

Deb and I have been spending a couple of weeks in Rome every March for a few years now. Recently, we've been renting the same flat on the Via Giulia (near the Piazza Farnese and Campo de' Fiori).

Here are some thoughts/comments:

• Rome in mid-March is a lot sunnier and warmer than Connecticut (65 degrees and sunny daytime vs. 40 degrees in Connecticut going down to 20 degrees at night).

• March is still "low season" so tourists and students on holiday, while plentiful, have not completely overrun the famous attractions and restaurants.

• Pizza is very subjective. In Rome, I prefer Baffetto and Pizzeria La Montecarlo. Of the two, Montecarlo is far more accessible. Many intrepid travelers extol the Neapolitan-inspired pizzas at Da Vittorio in Trastevere but I take issue: the pizzas there are neither in the style of Naples nor Rome. Thus, they are confused and uninteresting compared to the pure Roman examples.

• Ice Cream is every bit as subjective as pizza, maybe even more so. My "goto" gelateria is Frigidarium on the Via del Governo Vecchio (near Piazza Navona). It's small, the craftspeople are passionate about their work and are thrilled to share their thoughts. The ice cream is delicious. Giolitti, considered by some to be the (oldest) best in Rome, is worth a visit for its history and architecture. Go once just to say you've been there.

• Roscioli, near the Campo, is a bakery that makes its own salumi, sells high-end specialty foods and stocks great cheeses. They also carry a fabulous wine selection. They open for lunch sometime around 12:30 and supper maybe around 7:30 p.m.. The place gets SLAMMED by walk-ins and those smart enough to make dinner reservations. There's a reason: the burrata is the best I've found in the city. Deb says the carbonara has no competition. The wine selection is very good.

• Picnics are a standard part of our stay in Rome. Beer, porchetta panino from Aristocampo and a Fathers' Day bigne di S. Giuseppe (Il Fornaio) filled our canvas bag as we hiked to the Villa Borghese. The grounds are beautiful. All-in-all, a wonderful way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon..

• The 116 bus is your friend. It's small, battery powered and can slip through the tiny streets near the Campo. It's a fascinating ride equal to the 6 bus in Hong Kong and the J-Church in San Francisco. We sometimes plot lunch/drink/supper destinations on its route.

• Ditirambo, near the Campo, makes a killer cacio e pepe. I believe they use a little goat cheese in the recipe so it's not traditional. Rather, it's arguably the best in town when the kitchen is right. Daniele runs the front of the house. He knows his foods and wines. Ditirambo is on the tourist track but is still one of my favorite mid-priced restaurants. They do a deconstructed mille foglie with zabaglione (sp?) that's really good. Their grappa selection is outstanding. Wine selection is moderate in price and very well thought out. I like this place a lot. Reservations are a good idea. Not fancy.

• Al Bric is a landing beacon for cheese and wine lovers. Pastas are house-made and are quite good but the main attraction here is the wine. Ask for assistance, perhaps build a meal around your wine selection. The ambience is quiet and pleasant.

• Next to Al Bric is Taverna Lucifero, a tiny, crowded little store-front of a place that packs a huge wallop. Their prosciutto and melted cheese app is a fine way to start a meal. Follow that with the steak tartar and you are onto something. Prosecco (on the house) to start, grappa (gratis) and espresso to finish. This is not fine dining. Rather, it's a fun and satisfying alternative to the same-old. Go after 9 p.m.. Highly recommended,

• Palazzo Barberini holds a measure of interest. More interesting is the nearby Colline Emiliane (classica cucina Bolognese). This, in my humble opinion, is a very interesting, mid-priced restaurant that is perfect for a two-hour luncheon sit-down after a morning of high-impact tourism. We only scratched the surface with cheese, pastas and wine. We need to return to aggressively pursue the meat selections. The restaurant appears to be a favorite with professionals in expensive suits (barristers?), creative types in well-tailored tweeds and club women. Interestingly, it retains an informal atmosphere. We will return.

• We like shopping on the economy. Markets like the ones at Campo de' Fiori and Testaccio are important. Finding a good butcher, baker, cheese monger, etc. goes without saying. Bottom line? Shop early, shop often. Don't settle for crap food. Sundays require home-cooked meals.

• The Abbey Theatre has Guinness and March Madness. Great place for a pint and some late-night basketball. Scholars Lounge will dial-up any game/golf match you're interested in.

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