Feb 27, 2013


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
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

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

Feb 5, 2013

World Nutella Day 2013!

If I had to choose between a piece of warm focaccia stuffed with homestyle salami, and a slice of cake, I'd probably go for the pork. That is if Nutella isn't part of the equation, because otherwise I'd seriously have a hard time deciding.

Today I'll be keeping my savory preferences to myself, and instead be a part of the celebrations in honor of the world-known hazelnut-chocolate spread because it's World Nutella Day.

Yes! A holiday that consecrates Nutella, founded six years ago by the genius minds of Sara from Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle from Bleeding Espresso. There's even an Unofficial Guide to Nutella, and you can get your copy or gift one on Amazon. What better occasion than today?

So, how do I celebrate World Nutella Day? Hosts Michelle and Sara suggest getting creative and eating lots of it, but also making recipes using Nutella, eating Nutella with a big spoon. Waxing poetic about Nutella. Even offering Nutella as a sacrifice.

Personally, I'll be baking. And for me this is a huge effort. I'm more of an improviser, so following precise instructions, being careful with measurements – which baking requires – is a not my thing. But on Feb 5th – World Nutella Day – I go by the book.

Remember the Nutella Pseudo Mousse recipe I submitted for my first ever World Nutella Day? Well think cupcakes frosted with THAT. My blood sugar spiked just thinking about it.

Ingredients for the easy-peasy cupcakes
1 cup Nutella
2 eggs
150gr (about 10 tbsp) all-purpose flour

Ingredients for the frosting
250gr (1 1/4 cups) whipping cream
2 tsp confectioner's sugar, sifted
3 tbsp Nutella

Preheat oven to 350°F

Whisk all the cupcake ingredients together until fluffy and completely blended.
Divvy up the blend evenly into muffin tins.
Pop in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.

In the meantime prepare the frosting.
Whip the cream with the confectioner's sugar until quite firm.
Add the Nutella to the whipped cream, blending it softly with a wooden spoon in round, repetitive, loving motions. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Cool cupcakes on an elevated rack, once completely cool, slather with the refrigerated Nutella mousse frosting. Decorate with sprinkles or chocolate chips.

Makes 8 cupcakes. You pour the milk while I set the table.

How do you indulge your Nutella?

Feb 4, 2013

Where to eat: the updated list

Many of you like to stop by here at Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino for recipes, or to hear the latest news on the sweet (and sometimes bittersweet) life in Italy. Some like to keep up with my freelance writing, and therefore are familiar with my column "In Cucina" I pen for The American Magazine in Italia, or my lifestyle correspondent-work for The Travel Belles, or the pieces I've done for other online press. In most of these, I like to share lists. I love lists, I'm a list maniac, I think I suffer from an acute form of list-fetish.

Over the years I have also shared lists of favorite restaurants and places to eat in Rome on this blog as well. And I've collected all these lists, divided by topic on a where to eat page. It has its own tab at the top of this blog, under the masthead.

If you trust my opinion, or are simply looking for a personal list of tried and tested, say– vegetarian restaurants, or gluten-free kitchens, or simply an inspirational index of favorite pastry shops, pizza joints, gelaterias, cafes and such, you can head over to the mother of all lists, and click on the various listed links to be redirected to the specific article.

If you have any suggestions for future lists you'd like to see here, please leave them in the comment box below, and I will take all requests into serious consideration. You know me and lists.