I’m only reporting on my first few meals, so I can try to keep up with this (especially for you @JenKalb as you trip plan).
Visiting Rome with my cousin who has never been here before. After flying overnight and through Paris all day, we went for an early dinner at Armando al Pantheon. This is probably my favorite trattoria in Rome, and I planned it as an ideal introduction to my cousin of the excellent food and welcoming vibe that to me are hallmarks of the Roman holiday.
I am glad to say that the meal was exquisite, and is the one we are comparing all bites to as we are eating our way through Rome. We shared the eggplant parmesan and the bruschetta with stracciatella and anchovies w/pistachios. Of the latter, it is an incredible dish, and if you think you don’t like anchovies but think you could if they didn’t just taste fishy or salty, you might consider trying this dish. My cousin is still asking me why we can’t get anchovies like this at home. I don’t have a good answer, but it is an almost perfect illustration of what they do so well here. Such a simple dish, but every element makes you want to sing. Truly. We then split a serviceable carbonara (my cousin oohed and ahed, but I am waiting for him to try the one at Roscioli later in the week) and they had the oxtail as the only special (and it is v. special), so we had that and the roasted potatoes. (Again, I don’t know how they make the roast potatoes here. They are not particularly crispy, but they are essence of potato with a little crisp here and there, just wonderful.) We shared the sublime “Torta Antica Roma,” and my cousin is still talking about trying to figure out how to make that! (I should add here that his father, who had taken courses with Marcella Hazan, moved the family to Albuquerque to open an Italian restaurant there with his mom; kids went too and grew up in this “Italian” kitchen, so coming to Rome for the first time is truly a kind of culinary pilgrimage for him.)
We slept it off, explored some of the city the next day and ended up at Colline Emiliane where I had never been. Not Roman, of course, but I must say, we were wooed by the warm welcome of our no-nonsense waitress, the wonderful wine, and the food, yum! The menu offers an assorted appetizer for two and then lots of different ham and other salumi. Perhaps this will give you a taste of my cousin’s and my simpatico dining approach. We asked our waitress what was in this assorted appetizer and she said a little bit of everything you see and some other things. He and I just looked at each other and said “yes.” This plate was overflowing (sorry I took no pictures!) and came with some items not on the menu (a mortadella mousse was a favorite of both of us), and the meats were all incredible. And I asked the passing waiter what the little bit of ham-looking remnant was on my plate, and he took one look and said it was the Copa, from the shoulder apparently. It was especially delicious, methinks.
For primi course, we shared the tagliatelle alla bolognese and a special ravioli with cheese, spinach and sausage in a butter sauce of some kind. Don’t know if I could choose which one I liked more. I think my cousin and I would answer “yes” to this question too. Particularly, we appreciated that they plated them separately and served them one after the other, so we tucked in for a seriously long meal, enjoying every mouthful. Because, well, we were not finished. We split the milk-braised veal with mashed potatoes. I had never had veal cooked this way (well, hard to find veal of any kind anymore, and I definitely put aside my feelings for this one), and it was delicious. Soft and saucy, perfect with those potatoes (again amazing potatoes). We split a special dessert (our waitress had put one aside for us), can’t recall exactly what was in this except that it was a creamy moussy dessert with rum and the walnut caramel cake that we just added to the order because it appealed to us, maybe like something we might see on a Thanksgiving table. Think pecan pie on steroids. Fantastic. Real caramel, not whatever the glop is you often get in pecan pie…I am still swooning over these desserts, and as I have mentioned elsewhere, dessert is not something I generally hold out for.
Last night, a friend of my cousin’s joined us for what to me was a disappointing meal at Tavernaccia da Bruno. Usually a favorite, I was just not happy with this meal, and will not return. The lardo with honey bruschetta was tasteless; the ham was cut too thickly; worst of all, the rather small portion of suckling pig was on the dry side with limpid, not crackling, skin. Ick. One high note was the tagliatelle with a white wild boar sauce. It was delicious. We had glasses from three very delicious wines (white, red and dessert) suggested by our very wonderful waiter. The welcome here is honest and sincere, but I am afraid that the cooking is not what it used to be.
For Sunday lunch today, we were at Trattoria da Cesare di Casaletto. It was a beautiful day, after a rainy one yesterday, so we took the tram8 (currently the bus8, as they are renovating the track) out to the end of the line. We sat on the covered terrace, starting early, and the whole place was teeming inside and out by the time we left. Older couples, whole Italian families with assorted babies and other children. So much joy, and we loved the experience. We had a mix of fritura: totani, stuffed squash blossoms, fried gnocchi cacio e pepe and bruschetta pomodoro to start. N.B. we got a half order of the gnocchi, and I thought it might be overkill. We ate every bite. We did not have a secondi, however, after all that. My cousin ate the spaghetti vongole, which I did not try, but he enjoyed, and I had the always wonderful tonarelli gricia. All was delicious, and the service was again friendly. We had a very wonderful bottle of white. I know my cousin took a picture. I will circle back with wines we have drunk, if anyone wants to know. I am a novice here; I know if I like something (and if I really don’t), but I never know what I am looking at in a wine list and depend on the mostly excellent advice I have gotten from waiters and sommeliers. Suffice it to say, this place still rocks, and I would go back in a heartbeat.
We are heading to meet my cousin’s friend for a late pizza at Emma’s which is right around the corner virtually from our great Airbnb. Might be the best place I have stayed from that site in a while.
P.S. I just noticed I did take some pictures at Colline Emiliane: the veal and the two desserts. And for some reason, I cannot load them here…will try next time.