Monday, May 25, 2015

Da Lucia

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via di Villa Pamphili, May 24, 2015—
THIS HAS ALWAYS BEEN one of my favorite restaurants in Rome, and I wanted it to be better than it was this time. I was worried when we approached, at 9:30 pm, and saw dozens of diners at tables out in the street. Inside, the dining rooms were also full, but for the table reserved for our party of six. Still, it's a wonderful room, and good simple menu, and good honest cooking and serving, and we enjoyed ourselves.

We did order too much. Three platters of anchovies; three plates of pasta (alla gricia; caccio e pepe), two orders of long-braised chicory, two of vignarola, which I'll explain later.

Then we went on to secondi of our choice. Mine was the veal spezzatini you see above: a simple dish I've had here once or twice before, just chunks of veal, cooked in the manner of the French blanquette de veau, served with peas, such a standby in this part of the world.

IMG 0634Speaking of peas: Vignarola is a vegetable dish involving artichoke, peas, favas, and onion. There's a recipe here, if you read Italian; I think I'll make it when we get home, if there are still fave on the market.

And, oh, those anchovies… we do love anchovies, all six of us at the table…

Poggio d'Oro (Toscana), 2014 (like most Tuscan wines, not to my taste); rosso della casa in carafe (better)
•Trattoria da Lucia, Vicolo del Mattonato 2, Roma; 06 580 3601
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Neither trattoria nor restaurant

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Via Villa Pamphily, May 23, 2015—
ALMOST TWO O'CLOCK Saturday afternoon: where to eat today? The first two or three places we phoned were full, of course, what with wedding parties, graduations, and whatnot.

So we did a little websurfing and my contessa came up with this place, a ten-minute walk from our apartment. And here I feasted:
Saltimbocca di Capasanta con la sua Mayonese, Patata fondente, Rapa rossa e Chips di Fiore di Zucca

Tagliolini all'Uovo con Ragú bianco di Piccione con Cipollotto Asparagi e Lamponi

Il Controfiletto di Scottona marchigiana con Lardo e Radicchio brasato
which is to say,
Sea scallops with mayonnaise, puréed potato, beetroot, and fried zucchini blossom
Egg noodles in white pigeon ragout with onion, asparagus, and raspberry

Grilled heifer steak with lardo and braised radicchio
or, basically, surf and turf.

This was a very rich meal for me — in the last few years I have not been able to eat rich foods as easily as in younger days — but I shouldered my way into the meal and did myself credit, I think.

The scallops were of course not really saltimbocche but managed to look like them, which was the point; and the preparation was both rich and delicate, very nicely balanced, with potatoes slightly tasting of white truffle.

The tagliolini were perfectly cooked, the onion and asparagus chopped and softened in olive oil along with chunks of previously cooked (I think) pigeon. The raspberries were puréed and drizzled over the completed preparation, garnished with what looked like very young purslane.

The steak, oh my, that was quite delicious, cooked perfectly to order, salted but innocent of further flavoring — well, maybe a little olive oil — and the braised radicchio a fine complement, slightly bitter, neither tender nor tough, a vegetable that can stand up to a beefsteak.

The service was friendly and knowledgeable, and the cooks quick, deft, and gifted. I would go back here any day of the week.

white, then red
•L'Osteria di Monteverde, Pietro Cartoni, 163, Roma; 06 5327 3887
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Back to Perilli

Via Viale Pamphily, Rome, May 23, 2015—
WE HADN'T KNOWN YESTERDAY when we decided to lunch at Perilli that tonight's dinner had already been reserved there — a family affair in honor of our granddaughter's graduation from the American University in Rome. There were six of us at table, three generations; we arrived a little late, about quarter of ten; and we were welcomed with very friendly hospitality.

I ate simply: an artichoke alla romana , a plate of spaghetti carbonara; another of fave with guanciale; zabaglione for dessert. Others ventured further into the menu; we were all more than content.

The artichoke was delicious, and I asked the waiter about its flavor. C'e cotto con timo ? Is it cooked with thyme? No, signore; mentuccia. In a flash he was back with a small saucer on which lay a spray of catmint and a small bowl of chopped ordinary mint. Considerable discussion ensued. It's a nepeta, says Wikipedia, who kindly provided this photo; and it's selvaggio , wild, said our waiter — another roadside botanical contributing to the rich and locally specific Italian kitchen, like the silex that flavored a memorable risotto four years ago.

We were too much immersed in family and in celebration for me to think of taking photographs; I'll refer you to yesterday's — which as it happens shows the precise table we occupied well into the night.

white and red in carafe
•Perilli a Testaccio, Via Marmorata, 39, Roma; 06 575 5100
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rome! Perilli!

Viale Villa Pamphily, Rome, May 21, 2015—
ARRIVED HERE about ten, unloaded rental car, and returned it — that's a story, but not for an eating blog — and found ourselves at the improbable Piramide, a little bit of Luxor at the gates of Rome. Well, since we're walking into Testaccio, why not lunch at Perilli? It's one of my favorite restaurants in the (by me) known world, so why not?

We opened the place, but other tables began filling up soon enough — many local businessmen, some eating alone, others in twos, threes, and fours; a few tourists; a few young couples. The waiters are imperturbable and professional. The menu — well, I doubt it ever changes much, nor does there seem any reason it should.

CacciopepeI had one of the dishes that defines Rome, for me: fettuccine cacio e pepe , dressed simply with grated pecorino and black pepper. The combination of semolina, really good cheese, and pepper was bracing and substantial, and I was very happy. Afterward, a simple lettuce salad, dressed with oil and juice from the lemon accompanying my companion's dish of green beans. A perfect lunch.

Frascati in carafe
•Perilli a Testaccio, Via Marmorata, 39, Roma; 06 575 5100
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Eating Cheap

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via di Castelfusano, Ostia Antica, May 20, 2015—
A GOOD HALF-DAY on the road brought us to this port town outside Rome, where the first order of business was to get something to eat. But it was nearly three; trattorias were closed, and we weren't in the mood for snacks.

I'd parked, as it happened, right in front of a fried-fish joint, so we went in, not expecting much. A couple of plastic tables; a woman at the till looking bored, a giant of a man waiting for her to get off work, a guy clearly not European at the fryers.

But a surprisingly extended menu, from which we chose this platter: battered and deep-fried cod; French-fried potatoes, and deep-fried zucchini blossoms. For dessert we had a couple of deep-fried apple rings. Everything was clean and delicious. I looked back into the kitchen and store-room: they use sunflower-seed oil, a lot of it, and I bet it isn't GMO, not in this country.
House white
•Pesce Fritto e Baccalà, via Rutilio Namaziano 4, Ostia Lido; 06.5690835
IMG 0510THEN IT WAS on to the Roman ruins for a few hours, and check in to our hotel, and be damned if I wasn't a little hungry again. So we simply stepped into the trattoria next door, which offered a three-course dinner for ten euros.

I started with a very nice penne all'amatriciana. One bite and the combination of tomato, oil, garlic, and Pecorino said I was eating pasta in Rome again, first time in quite a while, and good to be back.

Then on to this Pollo alla brace, grilled chicken — chicken that tasted as if it had run around a chickenyard every day, eating weeds and bugs, and had grown a few feathers in its day: and yet chicken that had been roasted while retaining surprising tenderness and moisture. It was good.

I had a simple salad of lettuce, which I dressed with lemon juice and olive oil and salt; and then a lemon tart that had whole cooked (chopped) lemon for a filling, zest pith meat juice and all — a variation of a Shaker lemon pie, Lindsey said, and she should know. Not bad; not bad at all.

House red
•Il Frantoio, via di Castel Fusano 23a, Ostia Antica; 06.83086501
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The best yet

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Campobasso, 19 May, 2015—
I SET THIS PHOTO here to suggest the elegant simplicity and the total taste-genius of this place. The waiter was almost excited when he told me the artichoke came from within a few kilometers of the restaurant, also the potatoes. Their flavors, their sweetness, the freshness they both spoke, their textures, even something about the shapes they took on the plate — all those things said two things, in perfect harmony: faith in their quiddity; reliance on simplicy of treatment.
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We'd chosen the place from Slow Food's Osterie d'Italia 2015 , and I can't believe the book will often be as perfectly descriptive as it was on this page.

There was no menu, of course, and after a tiring drive my Italian wasn't up to the waiter's, so I asked him to repeat, and I wrote things down on the paper tablecloth:
Pizza minestra
Pasta e fagiole
Taglialini, fagiole verde, pomodori, basilico
Tagliatelli, spinaci, favi, finnocchio
I chose the last; my companion the Taglialini. Both plaates were absolutely delicious. The idea of combining pasta, string beans, cherry tomatoes, and basil had never occurred to her; I'd bet we'll be having it at home this summer. The basil was very discreet, as was the fennel — the fronds only — in my tagliatelli. Then came
Spezzatini al sugo
Bollito di manzo
Coniglie al vino
Scamorza arrosto con pere
Fegato di maiale
Uove con la ciambotta
Salsiccia arrosto

and, the waiter almost forgot, that artichoke with potatoes.
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My companion chose the rabbit, roasted in wine as if it were veal; I had the veal spezzatini, delicious in a very pointed tomato sauce. And afterward, of course, that artichoke.

Dessert was, for me, a chocolate torte, bittersweet, dense, substantial.

This is one of the best places I've been to. In the kitchen, three women, the oldest in her seventies I'm sure. Two waiters. Two dining rooms packed with, say, forty very happy diners.

House white (dry moscato, very nice) and red of the locality in carafe
•Trattoria “La Grotta” da Concetta, via Larino 7, Campobasso; 339.614.4678
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Monday, May 18, 2015

Eating ordinarily again

Gallipoli, Puglia, May 18, 2015—
IT CAN BE DIFFICULT, finding a good restaurant in Italy on Monday. Most are closed following the big weekend ruch. The one really promising possibility turned out to be closed for the week on family business.

So we drove out to the other coast, after spending the morning and noon hour in Lecce, and ate at an ordinary trattoria specializing in seafood. We begaan with the anchovies you see here — in fact this is about a third of them; it was an enormous serving, quite delicious, dressed with very good olive oil and a little white vinegar and accompanied by extaordinarily sweet chopped lettuce.
I went on to filets of cernia — a kind of grouper, as far as I've been able to determine — cooked à la Pugliese, in tomatoes and black olives and, I think, a little mint. The Greek presence is still influential in this part of Italy's heel. Afterward, a mixed salad, and no room for dessert…

Fiano, "il bianco dei Vespa" (Salento), 2014: Nice color, good flavor and body
•Trattoria Scoglio delle Sirene, Riv. N. Sauro, 83, Gallipoli; 0833.261091
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants