We arrived home on Sunday evening and have been slowly getting back into the swing of things after a whirlwind two weeks in Italy. As you can probably tell if you’ve been reading for the past couple of weeks, our days were pretty full (In fact, I got to check off 33 places in my copy of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. I should be finished in no time!). Since I was posting from a cell phone while I was away, I tried to kept things short since the tiny keyboard and I are not really friends. But, I have a lot more to say, especially about the most important element of this trip: the food!
So, here we go, starting with our five days in Rome.
As I mentioned previously, this was my second visit to Rome and while I was excited for the opportunity to see all of the sights again, what I was most looking forward to as we stepped off the plane was the pizza.
I’ve heard many theories about why the pizza in Italy is so amazing. Some people say it’s the water and flour that are used for the dough. Others swear that it’s the bricks that are used to construct the ovens. One thing that I noticed is that the tomatoes in Italy are not very acidic, so that makes for a very mild tasting sauce that doesn’t overpower the other flavors of the dough, the buffalo mozzarella and the toppings.
Whatever the reason, it really must be something that you can only find “over there” because I’ve yet to have any other pizza that even comes close to what I’ve had in Rome, where it’s wafer-thin, crispy and cooked in a wood burning oven. And, since it is sometimes larger than the plate it’s served on, it definitely requires a knife and fork.
Pictured below are two of the classic combinations—the Margherita and the Capricciosa, which translates roughly to “everything in the house” and thus features a pretty random assortment of toppings.
Oh wait. There was one other thing I was looking forward to as I stepped off the plane: gelato.
You know how there’s at least one Starbucks on every block in Philly? Well, that’s kind of how it is with the gelato shops in Italy. And, everyone seems to be eating it—locals and tourists alike—at all hours of the day.
Giolitti, located near the Pantheon, has been around since 1900 making it the oldest ice cream store in Rome. If you go, chances are it will be packed with people and they won’t be organized into any kind of orderly line. So, make sure to pay at the little desk when you first walk in the door, jostle for your place in front of the cases and decide on your flavor combination from the seemingly endless options so you’ll be ready to place your order as soon as one of the servers behind the counter catches your eye. Resist the urge to turn around and head to the place two doors down. Giolitti is one of the best places anywhere to get your gelato fix, if you ask me. The gelato is smooth and creamy, but not too dense or too sweet.
As much as I would have loved to eat pizza and gelato for the duration of the trip, we did venture to other places. The Trastevere neighborhood seemed to be quite the restaurant hotspot and we had two of my favorite dinners of the trip there.
L’Invincible is a wine bar that features simple dishes that make the most of fresh, seasonal ingredients. First course options included triangles of buffalo mozzarella lightly fried and stacked together, for more sophisticated, grown-up version of grilled cheese sandwich. Another highlight was the creamed pea appetizer, topped with a poached egg and fresh ricotta cheese. I also really enjoyed the Bucatini All’Amatriciana, a classic dish featuring thick spaghetti, topped with a spicy tomato sauce that gets a bit of heartiness from bits of pork that are simmered in the sauce. Even the bread was homemade and included interesting flavors such as apricot and chestnut. and the service was very friendly.
Antico Arco offers more contemporary takes on traditional dishes. My favorite dish was the lasagna. Instead of traditional lasagna noodles the layers were comprised of thin slices of potato, layered with asparagus and guinea fowl and topped with a bechamel sauce. I had never had guinea fowl before, but it was rich and flavorful in a way that reminded me of braised short ribs. I also tried the amber jack filet, which is a fish that is kind of a cross between halibut (in texture and flavor) and tuna (in that it is a darker meat). It was paired with a flavorful fennel sauce and accompanied by thinly sliced zucchini that was simply dressed in olive oil and sauce. Chester really enjoyed the pea soup, which included rings of tender squid and the lamb tenderloin wrapped in a crunchy, herb crust. A rich chocolate soufflé cake with vanilla ice cream and a light ricotta mousse with dark cherry sauce were the perfect desserts to finish the meal with.
Of course, food is not the only reason to visit Rome, and there are enough museums, churches and ancient sites to keep you busy for several weeks. You can find some ideas about things to see and do in the Eternal City here, here and here.
I’m slowly working my way though the photos I took on the trip, and here are some of my favorites from Rome.