Dec 31, 2013

Best Cocktails in Rome

If you can't make it to Venice for a Bellini or a Spritz, and Milan is too far to travel for a perfect Negroni, Rome can bring relief. Here's my shortlist of a few haunts where the best cocktails are masterfully mixed in the Eternal City.

Continue Reading ➔

Dec 21, 2013

Fritto di Paranza ~ Fried Whitebait Recipe

We Italians are great fans of fried fish, and little else will bring smiles quicker around the dinner table than a fritto di paranza, a fry of assorted small fish, whose name is inspired by the typical wooden fishing boats used in southern Italy.



In many families, Christmas Eve dinner revolves around a menu of fresh fish. Before placing the babe statuette in the crèche manger, my family and I will be enjoying crisp fritto di paranza, along with other festive foods.

The requirements for awesome fritto di paranza are using absolutely freshly caught wild fish, and good frying skills.
Some confuse this recipe with Frittura Mista, which also may include calamari, shrimp, prawns, cuttlefish, squid and other assorted mollusks and crustaceans. But traditional fritto di paranza is made with 2-inch long (from head to tail) fish, which have been simply rolled in flour, deep fried, and then served with lemon wedges and a raw onion. You smash the onion, and eat crunchy bits of it with the fried pesciolini – heads and all (unless they're a little larger than 3 inches, in which case you may want to remove the heads). Purists frown on cleaning the fish, claiming the intestines provide a slightly sharper flavor. I prefer my paranza fish cleaned, but when the heads are small they're pleasingly crunchy, and the tails serve as perfect handles.

The best choice for paranza is shimmery-skinned pesce azzurro, and in particular, a local variety of whitebait called Latterini – small silvery-white fish. Latterini generally designate other varieties of small newborn fish, but only latterini can be bought without infringing the law, since these are a particular species whose adults never grow beyond their 2-3 inch size, while as far as the other kinds of newborn catch – like immature herring, sprat, sardines, mackerel, and bass – their marketing is illegal.

Common Neapolitan paranza may include, according to season and availability, small codfish, red mullet, little sole fish (in Naples called fricassuàr) and other small species like anchovies, and rock goby.

Fritto di paranza has one more mandatory clause, and that is it must be eaten absolutely piping hot. The Neapolitan expression frijenno magnanno, refers to exactly that, and it translates "frying and eating," implying the fritto should be eaten as it is being fried.

Here's what you'll need to make fritto di paranza to serve 4:

1 kg (2.2 lbs) of assorted tiny, 2-inch sized whitebait
2 cups flour for dredging
Abundant olive oil for frying
2 pinches of sea salt
Several lemons, cut into wedges
1 large white onion, peeled

Wash, clean out and pat the fish dry.

Coat thoroughly with flour, making sure each little fish is well covered. In batches, fry the whitebait for about 3-4 minutes, until crisp and lightly golden. Remove from the bubbling oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towels. Repeat until all the fish are fried.

Season with salt and serve with the lemon wedges and the raw onion shreds.

Keep crusty home-style bread, and one or more chilled bottles of Vermentino in an ice bucket, within close reach.

Image © fingerforkknife.com

Dec 9, 2013

The best cornetti in Rome

A lot has changed in terms of choice and quality since I last wrote about where to find the best cornetti in Rome, so I think it's time to update and revise that obsolete list to include some new key listings.

Every time I go on a diet (this happens quite frequently) the one food I miss the most in my weight-loss regime is the highly fatty cornetti.

Cornetti is the Italian word (but not equivalent) of croissants. They are crescent shaped, flaky, chock full of butter and sugar, and are Italy's favorite breakfast food, best enjoyed dunked in cappuccino. Yes, dunked! Ignore the judging stares of those next to you at the cafe counter.

Another popular way of enjoying cornetti is at night, after hours, consumed as a powerful sugar-boost. In my 2009 post on "cornetti" I mentioned a few helpful tricks on how to find the goods at night. This is in fact a particularly Roman thing, venturing out for a bagful of cornetti after dinner, or to recoup post steamy night dancing, or simply because we are gluttons.

Unlike croissants, which are exquisitely French, cornetti is a term that widely includes a plethora of typical Italian pastry staples, baked in a variety of shapes, sizes and containing many different fillings. Fried donuts, Danish rolls, brioches, whole wheat with honey, marmalade, or custard-filled, maritozzi slathered with whipped cream – these all belong to the baked realm of cornetti.

Every corner cafe serves cornetti in the morning. Whether delivered fresh, dusted with powdered sugar, or glazed from the wholesale baker in wide shallow boxes, or microwaved in back; bad cornetti pumped with processed crap and margarine are sold virtually everywhere. The good places, that actually bake their own artisan products were – until quite recently – a rare exception. Fortunately for me (and my nutritionist's bank account) there is an ever growing number of new places where some very good cornetti can be scored.

Here is my revised list of favorite cornetti dealers in Rome.

Coromandel - Via Monte Giordano, 60 - Tel. 06 68802461 - Open Tues–Sun 8.30am - 11.30pm
Ornella is unbeatable. This elegant bistro's baker daily produces croissants, cakes, pan brioche (which she the slices for the breakfast's French Toast) and other bakery goods. The friendly girls in aprons pouring the caffè, classy Parisian-style ambiance, terrific specials and smiling host Katia do the rest. A definite must.

Panificio Bonci - Via Trionfale 36 - Tel. 06 39734457 - Open Mon-Sat 7am to 10 pm; Sun 8am-3pm
He's done it again. Gabriele Bonci, the guru of yeast base starters and mastermind behind Pizzarium (Rome's number one quality pizza al taglio) has put together stone milled flours, French butter and alot of love, and given us cornetto fetishists the 80-gram (3 oz) cornetto of our dreams.

Bar Benaco - Via Benaco 13 - Tel. 06 8548636
I don't know what it is that makes the teensy (and expensive) cornetti baked here so special. All I know is one is never enough, despite their steep price. Flaky, buttery, not too sweet... these all-Italian cornetti are some of my all time favorites. The rest of the offer – coffee beverages – is less impressive.

Panella - Via Merulana 54 - Tel. 06 4872651 - Open Mon-Fri 8am-midnight; Sun 8.30am-4pm
Best known for its bread products, and probably the best pizza with zucchini flowers on the planet, Panella also bakes one mean cornetto. Technically perfect, the cornetti however cannot counter the staff's downright rude demeanor. The best option is getting a bag to go, and enjoying them at home with a freshly brewed cuppa.

Pasticceria Regoli - Via dello Statuto 60 - Tel. 06 4872812
This traditional bakery has been baking all sorts of pastry delights since 1916, and the house special is not properly a cornetto, rather the all-Roman maritozzo, a fragrant oblong brioche slit open and smeared full of freshly whipped cream. It doesnìt get much more Roman than that.

Cristalli di Zucchero - Via di San Teodoro 88 - Tel. 06 69920945 - Open Mon-Sun 12.30pm-3pm
This is a routine stop before (and sometimes after, too) hitting the Mercato di Campagna Amica near the Circus Maximus. Nice cornetti baked to perfection with natural starters and no chemicals or additives, as well as other sinful bakery goods. And for those who appreciate, even macarons.

Angolo Russo - Corso Sempione 13 - Tel. 06 86800686
This bakery is open all day and sells a ridiculous variety of sweets, pastries and baked goods. There's a deal if you purchase cornetti between 2 and 8 pm: 10 pieces go for a mere €4.

Pasticceria Romoli - Viale Eritrea 140 - Tel. 06 86324845 - Open Tues-Sun 6am until late
This bar-pasticceria (cafe and bakery) proverbially provides the northern suburbs with very good cornetti and similar baked goods, with a variety of fillings which may include classics like pastry cream, chocolate and jam; or the more exotic coconut cream, pistachio spread or fresh berries, apple and cinnamon, and other seasonal fruit fillings.

Palombini - Piazzale Adenauer 12 - Tel. 06 5911700 - Open daily 7am to midnight
I hardly make it to EUR – one of Rome's most modern and unique Fascist architecture neighborhoods – but when I do, Palombini is always a must: they roast their own coffee beans for espresso, and bake some of the best "cornetti alla crema" I have ever tasted.

Il Cornettone - Via Oderisi da Gubbio 215/219 - Tel. 06 5587922 - Open Thurs-Tues 7am-10pm
This is a crowded, noisy cornetto dealer. Cleanliness is not a priority, and the dangerous-looking people smoking out front make you think twice before venturing inside. The only one reason I've included this place in my list is the giant cornetto. A whole 80 centimeters (roughly 32 inches) of custom-filled flakyness.

Cornetteria Cinque 5 Stelle - Via di Tor Vergata 424 - Tel. 06 72633035
This bakery is open 24/7 and churns out 50,000 cornetti a day, plus the usual krapfen, classic pastries, cakes, mini pizzas and other savory treats for those of the less sweet persuasion.

Zozzone a Centocelle - Via dei Ginepri 16 - no phone
As one of the inner city's most popular late night hangouts, this bakery is always crowded, and impossible to park by. Blame their evening production of cornetti and brioches filled with Nutella and whipped cream. Stop drooling and read on.

Caffe Giuliani - Via Volturno 58/60 - Tel. 06 4455443
I learned of the artisan croissants, cornetti and other flaky goods baked fresh daily in this place when I was still working in the film business. We were shooting a very long and difficult scene for the movie The American (the scene never made it in the movie, ending up on the cutting room floor) and in between set-ups I perked up with numerous cornetti and espressos.

Addendums and suggestions. The first is by friend Katie Parla:
Pasticceria De Bellis - Piazza del Paradiso 56/57 - Tel. 06 68805072
I visited the bakery for the first time yesterday, and I confirm Katie's vote: in addition to the awesome deserts and pastries, the cornetti are truly stellar as well.

On the same day, I stopped by Antico Forno Roscioli, on Via dei Chiavari 34, and – besided tucking into some of their artisan panettone – I also sunk my teeth in one of their cornetti. Did not regret it at all.

My latest obsession is Le Levain in Trastevere, just off Piazza San Cosimato. All-French boulangerie bakes baguettes and all manner of cakes and desserts. But the croissants and pain-au-chocolat are what draw me the most. As if I needed another reason for wanting to live in Trastevere...

Opening photo ©instagram.com/boncipane

Nov 30, 2013

How to enjoy Italian coffee like a local

Italians are regimented about their caffè. Neapolitans won't drink espresso other than on their turf, deeming anything else served outside their city as vile and toxic Espresso brewers throughout the country perform absurd propitiatory rituals to ensure their post-prandial Joe is just right. Some never wash the stovetop moka pot to conserve flavor in the hardware parts. Others add a grain of rock salt in the water boiler. All will tell you never, ever to pat down the coffee powder in the filter. Cappuccino fundamentalists insist on not drinking any after 11 a.m., and especially after meals, when caffè rules.

Beyond the simple espresso comes a whole universe of choices. The number of ways Italians enjoy the concentrated beverage brewed by forcing very hot water under high pressure through coffea Arabica beans that have been ground to a fine powder is at once finite and endless. Here's an alphabetical shortlist of common espresso-based bar beverages.

Affogato translates to "drowned." This is a shot of brewed espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla gelato commonly served as a dessert in restaurants, though some fancy bars and cafes with magnanimous baristas will sometimes dish it out over the counter...

Continue Reading ➔

Oct 26, 2013

Ribollita

There are two major categories of Italian hearty soups, or zuppe: those based on legumes of some sort, beans, chick peas, lentils, or whatever, added with grains or pasta, like farro or barley; and those that are based on green vegetables –– minestroni, in short.

In sight of the upcoming monumental holiday menus, a warm bowl of healthy minestra works wonders on the overworked digestive system. Plus dinosaur kale is starting to appear on market stalls, so Ribollita makes its yearly debut on my dinner table. Finalmente.


Probably the most representative of Tuscany's zuppa tradition, Ribollita honorably competes with co-regional adversaries Pappa al Pomodoro and Zuppa di Farro for the title of the world's best hearty Italian minestra. Ribollita was the soup typical of Tuscan farmers, and represented the feast of the harvest. Today it is a classic cuisine delicacy, often mis-interpreted and served at white tablecloth restaurants in bowls the size of a thimble. Heresy. Ribollita spells abundance! And thrift! End of rant.

After a first slow stewing, the vegetable-loaded ribollita is left to rest and re-boiled (hence the name, ri-bollita) the next day.

Cavolo Nero––the main ingredient of this twice-cooked bread and vegetable minestrone––is black leaf kale. Some English-speakers call it with its original name cavolo nero, while others refer to it as 'dinosaur kale' or 'laciniate kale' or 'Tuscan kale'.
If you live in the southern hemisphere and it's not exactly cavolo nero season now, here's a trick: adding a sprig of fresh thyme in the preparation magically lends the soup a cavolo nero-flavor. I swear.

There are many variations and family copyrighted recipes for Ribollita. My version is inspired by a combination of the one shared by Artusi, and the version of a Florentine housekeeper that taught my mom this recipe years ago.

500 gr (3 1/2 cups) cannellini beans*
1 leek, trimmed of all green parts and thinly sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 large (or 2 medium) celery ribs, diced
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp tomato sauce
500 gr (2 cups) kale (essential!)
4 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 zucchini, diced
1/2 large Savoy cabbage
250 gr (1 cup) Swiss chard
4 slices of day-old (or stale) homestyle bread, roughly torn apart
1 tsp salt and generous lashings of cracked black pepper
(A sprig of fresh thyme in substitution of kale)
*If the beans are dried, soak them in water for at least 24 hours; if fresh or canned, simply rinse after removing them from their pods or cans.
You'll be making this dish the day before serving your Ribollita, so be sure to budget time wisely.
Rinse the beans and boil them in salted water for 40 minutes. Set them aside soaking in their cooking water.

Sauté the leek-carrot-celery holy trinity mirepoix with olive oil, in a heavy bottomed pot. When the leek is translucent, add the tomato sauce. Puree half the beans in the blender with their cooking water and add them to the sauce base.

Stir in all the vegetables, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 1 hour.

Fold in the rest of the saved beans and the bread, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Keep simmering for 5 more minutes.

Turn off the stove, go to sleep and wish your Ribollita goodnight.
The next day re-boil the soup for 10 minutes and let it rest off the stove for an additional 15 minutes before serving in deep bowls, each containing a garlic-rubbed slice of bruschetta, a drizzle of raw extra virgin olive oil, and several more turns of the pepper mill.

The wine you should pour with Ribollita should be preferably three things: Tuscan, red and intense. I would go with the earthy Cecchi Bonizio, a marvelous blend of Merlot from Tuscany's coastal Maremma zone, and select Sangiovese grapes from the hills of Chianti Classico, loaded with lots of wild berries, spice and complexity, perfect with the round, full and rich mouthfuls of warm, comforting vegetables.

Buon appetito.



Sep 30, 2013

Grape and Olive Harvests in Italy

Sangiovese grapes I harvested at Cecchi Winery
Participating in an Italian harvest, whether it's grapes or olives, is an uplifting experience.

Italy's Autumnal harvest season is one big celebration, beginning in mid-September with the picking of white wine grapes, booming in October with the harvest of the red varieties, and peaking in November, that magical month of olive picking and olive oil production.

Harvests are entertaining because they're not exclusive to local farmers or even the estate's winemakers.

Travelers and enthusiast come from all over to help out. It's a fascinating and convivial experience that shows off the ancient winemaking and olive pressing process, while emphasizing the importance of teamwork. As a bonus, participants get to taste local wine and eat hearty food.  Continue Reading ➔

Sep 20, 2013

Frozen Campari and Raspberry

It started perfect, but I can't say the vacation ended on a high note.



The empty city streets after the holiday exodus; sandy feet and suntanned shoulders; the joys of rustic country living in a beautiful Renaissance villa; my Dad's impromptu visit; the romantic whistling train, the lull of mid-afternoon poolside naps whose tempo was kept by cicada song... all vanished when my entire family was taken ill with a dreadful gastrointestinal virus caught during the last week of our stay in the Tuscan idyll.

We adults all bounced back quickly, having only shed a few timely pounds. Unfortunately my little boy of 7 years and only 30 kilos, had a harder time. He struggled with vomit and other nether end liquid loss for eighteen never-ending days. These were dotted with rushed emergency room visits, intravenous drips, risk of dehydration, many many sleepless nights and copious electrolyte intake. The poor child just could not keep anything solid down. My nerves drawn very thin, I managed to keep my head only thanks to the advice of friends and family, and their reassuring words of parenting wisdom.

We are now out of the tunnel. In order to regain some color on our cheeks we stole to the beach on the weekend, and a wholesome diet of white fish, boiled carrots and potatoes – assisted by lots of seaside splashing and beach activities – brought appetite and energy back to my boy's frail and weakened organism. He lost a total of 4 kilos (that's 8.8 lbs) which on a child is monumental.

The little guy started school two weeks ago and seems to have finally regained all his natural stamina. I can finally breathe.

In a crazy attempt to cling on the last shreds of summer – rain is drizzling down my window panes as I type this – and in order to nullify the down-pointed end of our disastrous vacation, I'm celebrating my child's overall success by posting a super summery treat. It involves booze and raspberries, both much needed and effective rescue remedies for us caregivers and single moms in distress.


Frozen Campari and Raspberry
1 kg (5 cups) wild raspberries
200 gr (1 cup) sugar
50 ml (1/4 cup) water
5 tablespoons straight Campari
The zest from 1 orange, freshly grated
Sea or Kosher salt

In a blender combine the raspberries, sugar, water and the Campari, blitzing on medium speed until the raspberries are completely pureed, this should take no more than 1 minute.

Pour the resulting puree through a fine mesh strainer into a mixing bowl, pressing with a spoon to separate the juice from the seeds.

Stir in a teaspoon of orange zest, then add a pinch of salt.

If you have a gelato machine, you can do this easily, following the manufacturer's instructions. I did it by hand. Yes, but don't panic. All you do is transfer the puree to the freezer, placed in a shallow tray, and stir with a wire whisk every 30 minutes for two hours. This prevents crystallization.

Move the slushy mixture to a deeper air tight container, like Tupperware or a loaf tin covered with foil, and allow it to freeze overnight. If you leave it in the shallow tray there's the risk it can harden and become a big popsicle. What you want instead is a soft, granita sludge-like consistency.

Scoop out and serve your frozen delight in individual bowls garnished with an orange wedge and a straw. Or eat straight out of the freezer with a large spoon.



Aug 31, 2013

Looking forward to Fall

It's the end of summer, or so says the calendar.

After the hot and quiet slumber of the Italian August, normality gradually returns (most schools reopen the second week of the month). Sandy towels are washed and stowed; brown shoulders tucked under cotton blouses; and back-to-school checklists become the norm.

But September doesn't just mean catching up on unpaid bills and getting back to the office humdrum, at least not to me. Finding novel places and writing up new and exciting Rome restaurants has become my profession, and it’s safe to say I’m looking forward to going back to work.

Here are a few interesting newly opened Rome eateries we should keep under close observation in the coming season.

Continue Reading ➔

Aug 23, 2013

Cozze fritte – Fried mussels


Eating piping hot fried mussels from a paper cone, while strolling down the street. You can't make this stuff up, it actually happens in the summer in Taranto, and in other parts of Apulia, the heel of the boot. We are talking street food to the nth degree which employs fresh, local ingredients and pure regional knowledge, applied to daily life.

The fantastically crunchy on the outside, marine salty, sexy and velvety aromatic on the inside cozze fritte are true morsels of foodporn. Not the photographic, shallow depth of field foodie kind: I’m talking about the actual hands on, hard-core, triple-X, foodgasm-inducing mangia; the kind that will have you reminiscing for days, giving you sensual memory-triggered butterflies and shivers.

What was that about shellfish not being aphrodisiac? I dare you to try these, and resists the temptation. You'll look back on oysters like a second grader regards his training wheels.

1 egg + 1 egg white
100 g (3 oz) flour, sifted
500 g (1.1 lb) medium-large mussels (summer’s the right season for these, so get them while you can, northern hemisphere friends!)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 leek, the white part only and minced
A sprig of fresh thyme, finely chopped
The juice of 1 lemon
1 glass of dry, white wine
180 ml (6 fl oz) lager (don’t use light beer)
Extra virgin olive oil for marinade, plus more for frying
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, beat and season the egg with a pinch of salt. Beat the egg white separately until peaks form.

Sift the flour and add it with the minced leek, fluffy egg white and the beer to the egg, mixing well. This is your batter. Cover it up with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Wash, brush and clean your mussels, carefully removing the byssus and barnacles from the valves, rinsing them in a salt-water solution, and then draining them well.

Steam the mussels in a large covered pan with chopped shallots, thyme, freshly ground black pepper and the wine, simmering over a vivacious flame to make the valves open, about 4-5 minutes. Discard any that fail to open.

When cool enough to manage with your bare hands, remove the mussels from their shells and marinade them in a bowl with lemon juice, 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large enough frying pan.

When the oil is hot but not smoking, fish your mussels out of the marinade with a slotted spoon and dunk them in the chilled leek-flavored batter.
Plunge them immediately in the boiling hot oil and fry in small batches for a few minutes, or until golden and crisp. The temperature shock from the chilled, airy batter hitting the scalding oil guarantees the best results.

Park briefly on a paper towel and serve hot-hot-hot with a curry or ginger–flavored mayo dip. Conversely, the bottle of sparkling Frenciacorta Satén must be cold-cold-cold.



Images courtesy of buttalapasta.it - corrierecucina

Jul 18, 2013

Ravioli Capresi

This past April I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the island of Capri during the off-season. When I gladly accepted the invitation of friends who offered accommodation, I did it with an agenda in mind.


I'm always eager to learn about traditional local cuisine, which is usually prepared using the produce and specialties grown and made on the premises. This is especially true when you're on an island. I had heard about ravioli capresi once before, but I had no idea what they were.


So I brought my Home Cooked crew with me and decided to conduct a little filmed research on the ancient and traditional island recipes of Capri, taught directly by the locals, on their turf.


So I found out that perfectly round pasta pockets filled with caciotta cheese, eggs and marjoram are Capri's signature dish. The ravioli are prepared according to an ancient recipe, handed down from generation to generation. Signora Assunta is the housekeeper of the Villa where I stayed, and she offered to let me watch as she created dinner with her hands, using just a few simple ingredients.
Here are her secrets.

For the ravioli dough:
500 gr (1.1 lbs) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
500 ml (2 cups) boiling water

For the ravioli filling:
300 gr (1 1/3 cups) caciotta type cheese, grated
4 eggs
200 gr (1 cup) Parmigiano cheese, grated
Fresh marjoram

For the ravioli sauce:
Fresh tomato sauce
Parmigiano cheese, grated
Fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil

Let's begin with the ravioli dough.
Place the flour in a mound on a flat, dry surface. I use my mother's wooden olive wood board; some prefer marble. Make a crater in the middle and pour the olive oil and hot water into it. Knead to obtain a compact, firm dough.

Break the eggs in a bowl and add the caciotta, Parmigiano cheese and the marjoram leaves. Work together with a fork, and refrigerate.

On your floured work surface, cut your ball of dough into 4 sections. Use a rolling pin to roll out the first quarter of the dough into a thin sheet, about 3mm (roughly 1/8 of an inch).

On half the sheet, place teaspoonfuls of the eggy cheese mixture, spacing the balls about 6 cms apart. Take the other half of the sheet and cover the first half. Proceed to separate the ravioli, cutting around each ball with either a ravioli cutter or a glass, with a diameter of roughly 2 inches.

Repeat this procedure with each of the remaining quarters of the dough.

Once you have finished making all your ravioli, place them on a kitchen towel without overlapping them.

Cook the ravioli in boiling water until they float to the surface.

Serve dressed with a simple fresh tomato sauce, a generous dusting of grated Parmigiano cheese, and a few fresh basil leaves. Uncork the chilled Falanghina and prepare to serve seconds.


Last image by lavandainterrazza

Jul 3, 2013

Best Gelato in Rome

fatamorgana-trastevere_roma_4

Not to be mistaken with fattier (and colder) ice cream, you can find gelato artigianale — artisan gelato made using strictly non-industrial guidelines — in gelato parlors, which in recent years have acquired fine dining status. They include ingredient pedigrees, unusual flavor combos, and savory haute cuisine savory variations. They also get social media coverage worthy of prime minister sex scandals.

The number of new and top-notch gelaterie seems to increase with each passing summer, making your choices seemingly boundless.
Needless to say, I'm an avid gelato consumer. I also love lists. Here are my Rome favorites.

Jun 27, 2013

Best cucina romana in Rome

da-teo_roma_0

Roma  home to cucina romana — has plenty of places where folks can score a decent plate of typical local pasta. But finding the best places is an exact science. After extensive research (including card-carrying access to the plus-size kingdom) I've prepared a detailed list of city's signature pasta dishes as well as some of the spots that serve the best of the best. 
Continue Reading ➔

Jun 4, 2013

Hot Cities Hot Chefs on TV

I was recently invited to guest appear on a new TV show called Hot Chefs, Hot Cities, the production called me as cucina romana consultant for the episode shot in Rome.


I spent the day with Ishai Golan, the host, famous for his popular show Street Food Around the World, which airs on NatGeoAdventure Channel, eating great food at one of my favorite restaurants and chatting with the fun crew. I don't know when the show will air, but Ishai contacted me and said the rough cut is great.



I can't wait to see it!

May 30, 2013

Homemade pasta, is it really worth it?

In my recent article published on Plum Deluxe, I share my thoughts on this subject, analyzing the pros and cons.


I'm a single mom, working three jobs, and trying to keep my child healthy by serving the best possible food, and swearing by traditional methods. On the other hand, there are really only 24 hours in a day, and sometimes it's not that easy to whip up homemade pappardelle on a school night.

Continue Reading ➔

Apr 27, 2013

Pasta con le fave ~ Pasta with fava beans

I love this season, it brings with it sunshine, allergies and all my favorite vegetables.
Every Wednesday, my CSA delivers a box with bushels of asparagus, artichokes, crisp heads of lollo lettuce, romanesco broccoli, striped zucchini topped with precious blossoms, free range chicken and eggs, cheese and fruit all hailing from nearby organic Lazio farms. In each box also comes a handful of recipes employing the ingredients of that week.

With the 2 kilos of fava beans that came in this week's haul, I celebrated the national holiday of April 25th, commemorating Italy's liberation from Nazi occupation in 1945. The patriotic fava beans are a common way to end a typical Roman spring meal, provided these be paired with sharp pecorino romano cheese. A match made in heaven.



With the leftover fava beans in my basket, I can either make Vignarola – a versatile miscellany of tender artichokes, fava beans, peas, romaine lettuce hearts, spring onions, lavish amounts of black pepper, and, yes, guanciale (I can actually see the smiles fading from your vegetarian faces) – or a pasta recipe I recently learned while shooting a web series in Capri... But that's another story.

Pasta con le Fave
Ingredients for 4 

1 kg fresh fava beans (some call them broad beans), shelled and peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 peperoncino hot pepper (according to taste)
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
50 gr (1/4 cup) breadcrumbs, toasted
100 gr (1/2 cup) pecorino cheese, grated
400 gr (14 oz) pappardelle type pasta

Film-coat a large skillet with olive oil and lightly sauté the garlic with the bay leaf and the hot pepper.

In a separate small saucepan, do the same with the onion, sauteing it until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Boil the shelled and peeled fava beans in plenty unsalted water. Once tender, fish out the fava beans and save the water, you'll be boiling your pasta in it. Finish cooking the fava beans in the skillet and add the onions, adjust seasoning with a pinch of salt, while stirring with a wooden spoon until all flavors are well blended.



Cook the pasta al dente in the fava water, and drain 2 minutes before the time it says on the box. Toss in the skillet with the fava beans, simmer with a ladle of cooking water, blending over a vivacious flame. 

Finish with two handfuls of toasted breadcrumbs, a thread of olive oil, and a generous dusting of grated pecorino cheese. Serve immediately, washed down with a sincere Frascati.
Buon appetito.



Top image ©E.Baldwin - bottom ©foodwolf.com


Apr 6, 2013

Abruzzo, 4 years later

My prayers and heartfelt compassion go out to the population of Abruzzo, both victims and survivors of the April 6th 2009 earthquake, on this third anniversary of the disaster that ravaged the region. 

The brave, frustrated, strong and noble Abruzzesi are not forgotten. Not forgotten.




Mar 30, 2013

Italian Easter menu

Will you be traveling during the Easter/Passover holidays? I will not. I'll be spending the two-day Spring festivity stuffing my face with traditional Pasqua foods. I say two days, because the day after Easter – Pasquetta – is as much of a holiday as Pasqua is.

It's all about eating oneself into a stupor, as a celebratory ritual, which in some southern Italian homes may begin with the head of the family, or the eldest member of the group, blessing the table, foods and its invited guests. In our home this is done by solemnly dipping an olive twig (saved on Palm Sunday) in some holy water (collected earlier at morning Mass) and splashing everyone with a prayer, and a word of hope.

If you're looking to cook your own Italian-inspired food fest, here are a few ideas for a typical Easter menu.


The classic Easter meal always starts with Corallina salami, golden and savory cheese bread and hard boiled eggs, ritually painted together on Good Friday. Casatiello is another Easter specialty, a rustic bread made with lard, and studded with an assortment of pork cracklings, salami, pancetta and provolone cheese – and which differs from similar "tortano" thanks to the symbolic addition of eggs that cook whole in their shells nestled within the dough.

A typical primo (starter) could be the world's easiest baked pasta dish ever, my unfailing angel hair timballo, whose condiment of choice could be the appropriate Vignarola, a flavorful medley of Spring vegetables and legumes like fava beans, peas and artichokes, sautéed together with chunks of crisp guanciale. Another Easter pasta tradition is making Lasagna, and in the south of Italy this means a complex production involving hard-boiled eggs, rich tomato sauce, ricotta, pork meatballs or crumbled sausage.

The Italian Easter meal cannot be complete without some kind of roasted ovine meat. This year, we will be having both, lamb AND capretto, duly accompanied by roasted potatoes and other side dishes, which may include seasonal delights, or savory vegetable pies, like Pizza di Scarola, braised artichokes "alla Romana", and a delightful specialty of Puglia, Fave e Cicoria (sautéed chicory and fava bean purée).


The meal usually ends with a slice of freshly baked Pastiera – a pie made of wheat, ricotta and orange blossom water; and colomba, a cake whose dough is similar to Panettone, and whose dove-shaped crust is studded with almonds and pearl sugar sprinkles. Copious amounts of wine obviously complement the meal.

A steaming cup of freshly brewed espresso, and a glass of Amaro to be sipped slowly, prepare both body and mind for a restorative nap, and... plans for the following day's Pasquetta meal.

 
Buona Pasqua!

Mar 17, 2013

Popular Italian Desserts

antica-pasticceria-cuori-di-sfogliatella_napoli_6
Many Italian desserts sound delicious, but few know all of them by name. So, here's a handy guide to some of the more common Italian meal-ending treats, with a few tips on where to find them at their best in Rome.
CONTINUE READING ➔

Mar 11, 2013

Spaghetti Cozze e Gamberetti | Prawn and Mussel Magic

Eating pasta dressed with an opulent tomato sauce that's been simmering with good olive oil, garlic and fresh seafood is my prize.
Rome these days is damp with rain, and burdened with a confused, muggy climate that's trying as hell to believe it's spring, but is not quite there yet. On days like these, and especially on weekends, when I'm supposed to relax, sleep in late and spend time with family, I get unsettlingly snappy. Could it be the unfolded laundry, sitting there staring at me? Or the clutter that crowds our tiny apartment? Some of the blame could go to the unpaid bills, school tuition fees, and parking tickets I'm hoping will one day magically disappear.

I may be spoiled, but it's getting harder and harder for me to stay balanced working 50 hours a week, while being a good mother, commute on the bus, come home and keep the household clean and the family budget in order, find time to freelance write, blog and respond to unread emails. And not bark my disapproval of raised toilet seats and unmade beds with an incredibly disciplined and loving 7 year old.

So today I made it a point to take it easy, and broke the rules. I stayed in bed till late. While the rain was preparing to take center stage, I laughed and cuddled with my sweet child until we were both tickled silly. I let him play with videogames and watch TV in his pj's way more than decently acceptable. I drank cappuccino after 11. And for lunch, I cooked with my mother (who is recovering beautifully from foot surgery).

Cooking with mamma is a panacea. A universal remedy against foul mood and depression. She is very territorial in her kitchen, doesn't trust others with delicate tasks, and will always pretend like she's not checking on us or tweaking our work when we help her out with chores. But spending time with my mom in the kitchen is always an education, both culinary and emotional. Since she can't be on her feet much these days, I'm appointed to far more stove-side action, and this is a big change for both of us, in her realm. She is actually letting me in on some of her secrets too.

Today we made a sauce for spaghetti that was a further prize on this treat-yo-self-day. Rich, flavorsome, rewarding. The procedure of making it, and the pleasure in every unhurried mouthful distended my high-strung nerves, cushioned my worries, and softened my brittle psyche, predisposing a more mellow attitude towards life's daily curve balls.

If you're having a bad day, or a bad weekend, or even attempting to make it through a bad month, try making spaghetti with prawn and mussel sauce. It may just work miracles for you, too.

Ingredients for 4:
10-12 fresh mussels, rinsed several times, and byssus* removed
15 fresh baby prawns, shelled (do not discard the heads, keep them aside)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
400 gr (14 oz) canned tomatoes, roughly chopped
400 gr (14 oz) Spaghetti
Salt to taste

* the byssus is the mass of strong, silky filaments (byssal thread) by which certain bivalve mollusks, like mussels, attach themselves to rocks and other fixed surfaces. These hang stubbornly to the shell, but can be removed by yanking sharply toward the hinge of the mussel. If you tug towards the opening of the shell, you could kill the mussel. Remove the byssal threads of each mussel and discard.

Preparation:
In a large skillet, warm the olive oil and sautée the garlic until golden. Add the canned tomatoes and a small pinch of salt. Let the sauce simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Warm the mussels in a separate pan covered with a lid for 3 minutes, or until they all open and release a little juice. Discard any that fail to open, drain the juice, shell the good ones, and put them aside.

In a small saucepan (thank God for dishwashers) obtain a flavor boost for your sauce by cooking the prawn heads with a tablespoon of the tomato sauce that's cooking on the other burner. When this "fumet" comes to a boil, remove from the stove and, using a wire whip, crush the heads to extract as much tasty juice as you can without overdoing it. Filter this heavenly creation and pour into your tomato sauce, which should be bubbling away joyfully.

Stir and simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Add the shelled prawns, continue cooking for 1 minute, then add the mussels, and remove from heat.

Boil the spaghetti in plenty of salted water, and remember to set aside a mug of starchy pasta-cooking water for later. Return the sauce to the flame, and drain the spaghetti 3 minutes before the box says. The pasta should be almost al dente.

Toss the drained pasta into the simmering sauce and complete the cooking, by shaking the pan, and adding some pasta cooking water to combine flavors, keep moist and blend into a creamy sauce, that will stick to the pasta beautifully.

Serve hot, sprinkled with optional chili pepper flakes. The chilled bottle(s) of Chardonnay should be in close proximity.

Feb 27, 2013

Stracciatella

Such a funny word, stracciatella. A noun that means 'torn to little shreds' [strah·tcha·tell·ah] can be one of three things: a variety of egg-drop soup, a gelato flavor and a type of cheese.

The stracciatella gelato is a delicious and exotic version of chocolate chip ice cream, but this is gelato we're talking about, so creamy and not chunky and made with a white fior di latte (milk) base and minuscule dark chocolate shavings. Hence the name.

The stracciatella cheese is the sinful stuffing for burrata typical of Puglia. It is made with torn pieces of mozzarella and mixed with heavy cream. The outer shell is a pouch made of solid mozzarella, while the inside contains both the creamy stracciatella, which give burrata's unique pulpy texture. Cutting through a fresh new burrata and the witnessing the soft shredded pulp oozing out, is a truly mystic experience.


The stracciatella soup is a cucina romana recipe, but this comfort food is made made all over Lazio, which is the region of which Rome is the capital.

The recipe is super easy and brings the magical healing powers of chicken soup to a whole new level.
I once nursed a broken heart on a strict diet of stracciatella (in all three incarnations). Worked wonders.

2 eggs
100 gr (1/2 cup) Parmigiano, grated
1 lt (1 quart) meat stock
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt
Lemon zest

Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork, add the grated cheese, a pinch of ground nutmeg and a pinch of salt, and whisk to blend.

Bring the beef stock to a rolling boil. Using a whisk, create a vortex in the broth by swirling in the same direction. Be careful, boiling hot brodo is a bitch.

Carefully pour the eggy mixture in one slim stream into the eye of the whirlpool and keep swirling to break up the stracciatella, reduce the heat to maintain it at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes, as you keep stirring and shredding as the egg cooks in the broth.

Serve sprinkled with a touch of lemon zest.

Have you uncorked the bottle of Colli Lanuvini?

Feb 24, 2013

Japanese food in Rome

Though sushi is now available at most neighborhood supermarket — usually displayed between the pre-boiled spinach and the vacuum packed slices of pink Parma ham, and maki and wasabi have become highly popular — there's still no telling just what you're getting.


I recently had an informal chat with a Rome sushi chef, who gave me a better idea what to look out for. As I nibbled on perfectly carved slivers of unaghi and warm pods of salted edamame, he explained that the Japanese define their cuisine as Sappari: clean, orderly, light.

After a number of basic tips, most focused on sushi and sashimi, my chef reminded me that eating these traditional recipes is a ritual before being a pleasure, which leads me to where you can "enjoy" that ritual in Rome.

Continue Reading ➔


Photo by Andrea Di Lorenzo

Feb 19, 2013

On the Radio

If you'd like to hear me interviewed live on public Italian radio in a live episode of the intelligent food and wine appreciation show called Decanter, hosted by two very hot Italian men who love eating, drinking and rock music, you can download the podcast recorded live on January 29th.


Feb 13, 2013

Wine bars and enoteche in Rome

After publishing my comprehensive lists of where to eat in Rome a reader commented asking for an index of restaurants that focus on great wine, or ones that own a quality wine list. Enotecas, which are wine bars and sometimes only wine sellers, often serve cold and hot food to go with their mescita of wine by the glass. Some of these have turned into veritable restaurants, which tend to design their menu around the bottles.

Here is my list of favorite places to eat among enoteche, wine bars and restaurants with great wine lists, in alphabetical order. I may expand this, so stay tuned for updates.

Al Vino Al Vino - As far as wine bars and enoteche in Rome, this is the perfect place to grab a glass of wine and some tasty snacks after say, a Forum/Colosseum/Palatine trek. The list of wines by the glass changes daily, and the cooked food is to die for, especially the house caponata, droolworthy meatballs, and eggplant parmigiana. There's always something going on at Giacomo's wine bar, like tastings, photo and art exhibits, plus newspapers and magazines for lazy browsing between drinks. Via dei Serpenti, 19 (Monti) - Open daily 11:00am-2:30pm/6:00pm-1:00am

Beppe e i Suoi Formaggi - Beppe from Piemonte, makes cheese. And butter. And owns sheep in Sardinia. Has a terrible temper, and won't let you take photos in his shop. But when you sit at one of the tables in the back, drop your shoulders, beaming at the delights in your plate – and glistening ruby red in your glass of Nebbiolo – nothing else matters. Shelves display French dairy products, foie gras and other Piemonte-border-of-Gaul regional specialties, like hazelnuts, awesome tajarin pasta, jam, honeys and marmalades, olive oils, salumi, rare breads made with autochthonous grains, and a cheese vault that covers an entire wall. At mealtime, the rotating daily specials always include cold cuts and cheese for lunch, and hot dishes in the evening, the likes of Fondue, soups, important meat stews, et al. Via Santa Maria Del Pianto 9/a - Open Tues-Sat 8:30am-10:30pm/Sun 9:00am-3:30pm

Photo © Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi

La Barrique - This ia a welcoming wine bar that serves hot food and wine (also by the glass) at any time of day and night. Nice aperitivo scene, lovely value lunch, and downright delicious dinner of specials like lemony pasta with prawns; beef tartare; cured pork; oysters, plus awesome steak, fillet and other grilled meats. It's great to stop by here even for just a slice of dessert after the theater. Meals are paired with wines by the glass from either small producers or more famous bottles from Italy, France, Germany and Slovenia. There is also an interesting Champagne list. Lunch is around €15, dinner, about €30, wines excluded. Via del Boschetto 41b (Monti) Open Mon-Sat 12noon-1:00am

Buccone - At the end of the 19th century this was once a horse-drawn carriage depot, and in the late 1940's at the end of WWII, it became an informal trattoria. The present ownership has managed this impressive location since 1969. The walls are lined floor to (high) ceilings with racks upon racks of wine bottles, and the food is homey and local, like porchetta from Ariccia, nice salumi platters, and gnocchi on Thursdays, according to Roman tradition. Via di Ripetta 19/20 (Piazza del Popolo) - Open Sat-Mon 10:00am-3:00pm/7:00pm-11:00pm

Casa Bleve - The Bleve family of wine merchant's wine list is impressive and so is the fabulous lunch buffet and evening gourmet dinner. In the elegant vaulted setting, only a few feet below your table, in the wine cellar sits a 1st century BC wall. Guests at midday can enjoy light appetizers, like pineapple and ham wraps, Alpine cheese samplers, zucchini blossoms stuffed with ricotta, or premium mozzarella di bufala with salumi or tomatoes, varies pasta dishes, or steak tartare, assembled at the table by the expert servers. Via di Teatro Valle, 48/49 (Pantheon) Open Tues-Sat 10:30am-3:00pm/7:30-11:00pm

Cavour 313 - One of Rome's oldest wine bars with food, Cavour 313 opens in the morning to sell wine, and at noon it starts serving lunch. Walk through the sales counter and sit at the rustic booths suspended between overhead shelves and a deep wine cellar below. There are two wine lists, based on whether you'll be buying bottles to go, or staying for a meal. The choice is among 1000 labels, with a handsome rotation of wines by the glass. The mealtime menus feature a wide variety of salumi, rare cheeses, cured meats, homemade desserts and cooked regional specialties. Via Cavour 313 (Colosseum) - Open daily 10:00am-2:45pm/7:30-0:30am

Photo © Cavour 313

Cesare al Casaletto - Properly established as Rome's best trattoria, Cesare al Casaletto is a place where you can find authentic cucina romana, good prices and a stellar wine list. Start your meal with the house mixed fritti, light, tasty fried goods like crisp zucchini flowers, supplì and cod fillets, that come served in paper cones. Starters musts: pillowy gnocchi blessed with cacio e pepe (Pecorino cheese and cracked black pepper), or classics like carbonara, amatriciana and pasta dressed with the sauce of stewed oxtail, quintessential cucina romana complete meal dish. Don't forego the polpette di bollito, the house specialty: shredded veal that's been shaped into a ball and breaded before frying. But it's the wine list that wins the gold: besides the great ever-changing wines that grace shelves, cold storage and printed wine list, Cesare focuses on very good quality natural wines. Via del Casaletto, 45 (Portuense) - Open Thurs-Tues 12noon-3:00pm/7:30-11:30pm

Cul de Sac - One of Rome's oldest wine bars, CdS has been serving hot meals and remarkable wines since 1977. It boasts a wine list of 1500-plus items, great choice of cheeses, terrines and patés. I come of the potato and cod brandade, the crostini sampler, the onion soup, red lentil dahl, awesome topik, babaghannush, or the pizzoccheri from Valtellina. Lovely outdoor seating in summer and good looking staff complete the winning offer. Piazza Pasquino, 73 (Piazza Navona) - Open daily 12noon-2:00am

Cybo - A fine and well-assorted wine list of renowned Italian, French and new world wines pairs with the modern seafood cuisine at the Cybo restaurant and cocktail bar, in the heart of the centro storico, at a stone's throw from Piazza Navona. Various appetizers include prawns fried in batter with curry and creamed Tropea onions; gnocchetti with shrimp, asparagus and porcini; and entrées like wild salmon fillet with orange sauce and spinach. Via di Tor Millina 27 - Open daily 10:00am-2:00am


Enoteca al Parlamento Achilli - Over 6,000 wine labels grace the shelves and cellar of this ancient wine merchant. One of Rome's finest Krug Ambassadors, Achilli is proud of its world-famous collection of Cognac and Armagnac, with vintages as old as 1800. Here wine lovers and neophytes can choose from an astonishing variety of Italian, European and new world wines, as well as purchase 80 year-old balsamic vinegars, prized marmalades and rare chocolates. In the restaurant section, all this and more pairs with the haute cuisine gourmet offer, like the antipasto composed of a bufala popsicle with anchovy foam and fried croutons; a foie gras variation: escalope, terrine and cream; Champagne risotto with prawns and green apple; and the delightful crisp sesame feta, culatello and smoked eggplant composition. Check out the online store on the Achilli website for international/local shipments. Via dei Prefetti 15 (Spanish Steps) - Open Mon-Sat 9:30am-11:30pm

Photo © Barbara Santoro

Enoteca Ferrara - At the corner of bohemian and chic, this Trastevere establishment that pretends to be a humble wine bar develops on several floors of an ex 13th century convent. There's an enoteca – deemed among the best in Rome according to certified wine experts – a cafe, a wine shop, an informal "osteria" (serving typical cucina romana), and a gourmet restaurant, which cooks up interesting dishes like fried anchovies with a leek and Pecorino flan, or meatballs with tomato sauce and "muset" (ground pork snout cased as a boiled sausage), and rotates 25 wines offered by the glass, and owns 1600 labels in the impressive "carta dei vini". Prices are through the roof. Piazza Trilussa 41, Via del Moro 1/a (Ponte Sisto) - Open Mon-Wed 7:30-11:30pm/Thurs-Sun 1:00-3:00pm, 7:30-11:30pm

Terre e Domus - Restaurant/wine bar that offers the food, products and wines of the Province of Rome, featuring a rotation of about 100 choice producers and foods with DOP, IGP, DOC and IGT appellation. These include wines, spumante, grappas, beers, dessert wines – all paired with seafood or meat and poultry, classic Roman dishes, cold cuts and cheeses, jams and marmalades. The offer also includes produce, breads, desserts and biscotti, artisan honeys, and extra virgin olive oil: all local, hailing from the Province of Rome. Free Wi-Fi available but hardly ever works. Foro Traiano 82/84 (Piazza Venezia) - Open Tues-Sat 11:30am-11:30pm/Sun-Mon 11:30am-5:00pm

La Gatta Mangiona – If you're craving pizza but don't want to give up on the vino, this is where you want to be. The pizzas are not only among the best pies in Rome – employing lievito madre natural starters for the dough, prepared by able "pizzaioli" and baked in a wood-fired oven – but the wine list single handedly outshines many so-called gourmet restaurants. Prime Italian bottles share space with excellent French, Slovenian, German and Austrian wines, as well as a handsome selection of Champagnes and fortified wines. There's more besides the awesome pizza: crisp fried starters, pasta dishes and superb entrées. Via F. Ozanam 30 (Monteverde) - Open Tues-Sun 8:00pm-midnight

Photo © Andrea Di Lorenzo

Gibbo's - Keep an eye out for this relatively unknown restaurant. The lighting needs improving, and the decor deceptively brings 1972 east Berlin to mind, but the food and wine are ambrosial. Menu items vary daily, but can include risotto with porcini mushrooms and local Lazio cheese aged in hay; giant prawns rolled in a net of kataifi on avocado mousse and apple balsamic reduction; and stunning desserts like pears cooked in wine with sultanas, pine nuts and cinnamon, served with crumble and custard. Via Castelnuovo di Porto 4 (Ponte Milvio) - Open Mon-Sat 6:00pm-2:00am

Il Goccetto - With a 800+ choice of Italian and (mostly) French wines by the glass, this neighborhood enoteca is the perfect place to taste excellent wines at a good price, great salumi samplers, plus dishes like room temperature bufala, smoked salmon involtini, grilled artichokes, frittatas and a rotation of rare cheeses platters. The place doesn't accept reservations, so while you wait for one of the 12 tables to clear, you can hang around the bar or bring your drinks outside, seated on someone's motorino. Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 14 (Navona) Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm/6:30pm-midnight

NEF - Nuova Enoteca Frascati, in the heart of Lazio's Castelli wine-land, this Frascati institution serves excellent seafood and local specialties to go with the impressive wines of the underground cave-cellar, where frequent events and tastings take place. NEF also offers 'Wine Bank' services thanks to which wine-lovers and connoisseurs can reserve a cell of the grotto for their wine collection, complete with name tags and wine descriptions. On the ever-changing menu, delicious primi piatti may include spaghetti with clams and mullet roe; or dressed with mussels and guanciale; while entrées shine in dishes like porchetta made with gilt-head sea bream (rolled with herbs and spices and spit roasted); or the house special "old school" a complete meal dish made with homestyle bread, grilled calamari, mozzarella, shaved parmesan, tomatoes and served with lemon-scented potatoes. Via A. Diaz 42 Frascati - Open Tues-Sun 12noon-3:00pm/7:00-11:00pm


Palatium Enoteca Regionale del Lazio - This minimalist enoteca specializes in wines and food from the Lazio region, of which Rome is the capital. You can have a glass at the bar, or sit in the adjoining room and also enjoy a light lunch of fettuccine with tomato-less rabbit ragù, or pork roast with caramelized apples. Via Frattina, 94 (Spanish Steps) - Open daily 12:30pm-3:00pm/7:30pm-10:30pm
Closed! :(

Remigio - This is a fabulous Champagne bar in the Tuscolana suburb, where it's common to bump into wine makers and producers sitting glassy eyed while they make love to a heap of Belon du Belon oysters resting on crushed ice. The place is aptly named after Saint Remi, the patron saint of Reims, Champagne world capital. Opened by the same owners as La Barrique, which is a guarantee of quality, at Remigio you'll find a wine list that carries lovely French wines and Champagnes by small vintners, many of which are natural or classified as bio-dynamic; alongside an attractive selection of German rieslings, and innovative Italian productions. Price/quality ratio is good and the food focuses on small, artisan producers of the finest salumi, cheeses, meat, seafood and desserts. I come for the stellar croque monsieur sandwich, the Scottish salmon, and the duck and pistachio terrine, to go with my bubbly. Via S. Maria Ausiliatrice 15 (Tuscolano) - Open Mon-Sat 6:00pm 'til late.

Photo © Remigio

Roscioli - This is one of my favorite places, it never fails. A deli that at mealtime turns into an A-list restaurant, with tables pushed up against the cheese counter, pricey Pata Negra legs jutting above the diners' heads, and a list of remarkable Italian and foreign wines, awesome cheeses, bread and coldcuts, as well as stellar cuisine, perhaps the best carbonara on earth and delightful burrata, local and Spanish cured pork, and Cecina de Leon (ridiculously good cured beef). The experienced sommelier staff is always there to answer questions, suggest pairings, or hold fun English language tastings for all levels of wine lovers. Via dei Giubbonari, 21 (Campo de' Fiori) - Open Tues-Sat 9:00am-1:00am

Salotto Culinario - This is a restaurant whose innovative cuisine by charming chef Dino De Bellis pairs very well with the small yet cleverly thought out wine list. Here you can find delightful homemade gnocchi alla genovese enriched with Fiocco della Tuscia (an Italian delicacy reminiscent of Camembert); cod fillets served with roots: lampascioni, creamed Jerusalem artichokes and turnips; lamb "cacio e ove" an Abruzzo recipe involving egg, pecorino and thyme. All dishes are geared to pair with the Italian regional bottles, or French Champagnes in the wine list. Vegans and celiacs can go with the ad hoc special menus. Via Tuscolana 1199 (Romanina) - Open Mon-Sat 12noon-3:00pm/7:30-11:30pm

Photo © Andrea Di Lorenzo

Sesto Girone - This newly inaugurated enoteca stocks over 500 types of wine, focusing on all Italian regions, an interesting selection of natural and bio-dynamic wines and microbrewery craft beers. Although this is more a store than an actual eatery, at aperitivo o'clock, patrons and shoppers can stop for raw fish carpaccio aperitif, nibble from platters of salumi and cheese to pair with very good French bubbles. Via Salaria 91 (Villa Albani) - Open 9:00am-7:30pm Closed Thursday afternoon and Sunday.

Photo © Andrea Di Lorenzo

Trimani - Historic venue that's been selling wine since 1821, Trimani occupies an entire block on Via Goito with Rome's vastest assortment of 6000 among wines – Italian and not – spumante, Franciacorta, Champagnes, liqueurs e spirits, beers and soft drinks, plus edible delicacies and custom designed gift baskets. The food served at the tables is good and the atmosphere is charming in the restaurant section, but the prices for meals à la carte are way too expensive, so your best bet is a fabulous glass of wine and a light snack before heading somewhere else for dinner. Via Cernaia 37B (Termini) - Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-3:00pm/5:30pm-12:00am

Uve e Forme - The 300+ bottle wine list by the counter, where patrons can savor the delicious samples of vegetarian dishes, specialty cheeses, sustainably sourced organic and biodynamic produce, and fine vintage wines, is chalked on an old control-tower air traffic board. The staff is very kind and the food is delightful, with several vegetarian options, homemade bread and desserts. DOn't miss the savory butternut squash and crisp guanciale flan, the orecchiette with Sicilian broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and smoked ricotta, or the kale, farro and potato soup. Frequent wine tastings and verticals on the calendar. Via Padova 6/8 (northern suburbs) - Open Mon-Fri 12:00noon-midnight/Sat 4pm-midnight

Photo @ Eleonora Baldwin

Vino e Camino - Good seafood selection, interesting flavor combos and a good wine list: this is what makes both the Bracciano and Rome branches of Vino e Camino a success. I come for the Cinta senese sausages cooked in the wood-fired oven; the hearty chestnut, leek and smoked ham soup, the typical Apulia broadbean purée with wild chicory, the farro cooked with pumpkin and parmesan, or the orecchiette with clams, asparagus and pecorino cheese, and some of the best fresh pasta with cacio e pepe sauce north of Flavio al Velavevodetto. All desserts are homemade, but foregoing the zuccotto with coffee cream would be a grave mistake. Wine list is not huge, but well structured and wisely stocked. Piazza dell'Oro 6 (Castel Sant'Angelo) - Open Mon-Sat 7:30-11:30pm

Feb 11, 2013

Tutti De Sica

If you're in Rome between February 8 and April 28, I suggest you take a walk to the Ara Pacis Museum and spend a few hours at the Tutti De Sica exhibit. It's an affectionate collection of photos, personal belongings, clippings, film posters, objects, costumes, movie clips and television appearances of the life of one of Italy's film icons: Vittorio De Sica.


The show is the fruit of the work of 10+ years of laborious digging through archives, blowing up aged photos, and constructing a loving tribute to one of the greatest directors and actors of Italian and international cinema of the twentieth century

I was lucky enough to know him in the last years of his life, and he was a fantastic nonno.

It was very touching to see the detail and love that was put in the 360° lifespan exhibit. Nonno's grey pied-de-poule overcoat hanging at the entrance, hearing his voice playing through the crackling 78" vynil player; walking past a vanity with the wigs and makeup he wore in his early theater-days; the photos of his beginnings, and first film debuts as an actor first and director later; clippings of my mother's announced birth; the famous Oscar-winning bicycle, and next to it the 1946 Academy Award for Ladri di Biciclette, a film that changed the history of cinema.


The show is this and much much more, and through it's articulate visual timeline, it taught me a lot about the public figure, the filmmaker, the screenwriter. The man and grandfather I had down pat, it was the immense cultural heritage figure I sort of took for granted before seeing it all lovingly exhibited in the lower floor of the Augustan Altar of Peace built in 13 BCE and commissioned to celebrate the Pax Romana, the era of peace ushered by Emperor Augustus's military victories.

Stroll through the rooms, smile at the images of him gambling with a 6 year-old. Let Sophia's perfume waft from her vintage costumes. Fall in love with a black and white photo of my grandfather napping between takes, sheathed in a raincoat.


Tutti De Sica
Opening hours
8 February to 28 April 2013
Tuesday-Sunday: 9:00 - 19:00
Last admission 1 hour before closing time

Tickets
Adults: €11 Rome residents: €10 Concessions: €9
Information Tel. +39 060608 (daily 9.00 am – 9.00 pm)
Buy online www.omniticket.it
Additional booking fee: €1

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