Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ending Italy

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, Nov. 30, 2008

  • Nov. 27, 2008: Trattoria Milanese, Via Santa Marta, 11, Milan; tel. 02 8645-1991
  • milanese.jpg
    Trattoria Milanese
    THURSDAY WE REGRETFULLY ended a short sojourn in Milan with a meal on the via Santa Marta, where we were trying to find a trattoria we'd been to some years ago with a couple of friends. (One of them Marta, in fact, though not the saint, I'm afraid.) Googling for it I ran across the Trattoria Milanese, which seems to be on everyone's list, and I booked a table; when we arrived, we discovered the place we remembered was in fact across the street at No. 6 and was called Al Santa Marta. A man leaving the Trattoria said that Al Santa Marta was a restaurant; the Trattoria was a true trattoria, and specialized in traditional Milanese cuisine, so we stayed with our reservation. I opened with artichoke-and-Parmesan salad and went on to a costaletta Milanese; both were absolutely correct and perfectly ordinary; and I recalled yesterday's meal at Porta Rossa with regret. Could have gone back there!
    Vino bianco da tavola in caraffa


  • Nov. 28, 2008: Sole Luna Cafe, 702 Ash St., San Diego, CA 92101
  • THEN ON FRIDAY we had a long flight, Milan to JFK, then JFK to San Diego where we'd have a ten-hour stop before flying on yesterday morning to San Jose. (Such an itinerary is the penalty for flying on 'free' miles.) I won't write about the airplane food; it was edible, not interesting. Across the street from our cheap San Diego hotel we found Sole Luna, an Italian place, the only restaurant within blocks. Here I had a very good Martini, my first really good Martini in weeks, and a nice Caprese, with clean lettuces, flavorful tomatoes, and decent Mozzarella, dressed with a fine green olive oil. I'd go back there any time, and you almost can; it's open seven days a week, 10 am to 10 pm, and the Italian guys running it are full of heart: just look at their YouTube clip on the website.

  • Nov. 29, 2008: Bistro Liaison, 1849 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley California
  • YESTERDAY, ALAS, we were reminded we were in home at the Bistro Liaison in Berkeley, where we had lunch. (Chez Panisse was full.) I had what was billed as a Salade Niçoise. It came on wet, ragged lettuce, was loaded with untipped string beans, halved hard-cooked eggs, a barely grilled hunk of tuna as big as my shoe, chunks of boiled potato, a number of things that might have been peas, and half a big avocado cut into thick slices. It could have been better.
    Rosé "Vin de Cigare", Bonny Doon Vineyards

  • Nov. 30, 2008
  • TO FRIENDS for the remains of Thanksgiving dinner: Turkey brined by the butcher; conventional turkey breast (both roasted), Brussels sprouts en confit with onions, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce…
    A delicious dinner: and we do have things for which to be thankful.
    And we are.
    Pinot grigio; red wine "L. Preston"

    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    Ponte Rosso

    Via Panfilo Castaldi, Milan, Nov. 26—
  • Ponte Rosso, Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 23, Milan; tel. 02 8373132

  • PROBABLY THE BEST meal of this trip so far was today's midday dinner at a Slow Food recommendation I'd noticed in Osterie d'Italia when I peeked into it yesterday at a bookstore. It was also mentioned in The Best of Milan, a small guide we actually bought at the time, so I called for a reservation this morning, leaving my request on the answering machine; the restaurant called back, unfortunately while I was in a museum — causing my quick eviction from the gallery; I'd forgotten to turn off the phone.
    The kitchen is small; the recipe book basically Neapolitan, many of the dishes historic, from Artusi's mid-19th-century collection. And today's menu was a delight to behold and a hard one to choose from.

    Lardo del Val d'Aosta
    We began with a plate of lardo, uncooked fat bacon aged in salt, dressed with chestnuts in light syrup. I went on to a gattò, a molded rissole, you might say, a shell of cooked spaghetti filled with deliciously flavored minced meat, half of it lightly veiled with a thin Béchamel sauce flavored with white truffle.

    Lindsey had a veal cutlet Milanese style, breaded and fried, served with sweet young arugula and perfect tomatoes; and we shared a gratinata of potatoes and artichoke, covered with a fontina-type cheese and passed under the broiler. Dessert was a perfectly correct Tarte Tatin. I'd like to go back tomorrow.
    Bianco da tavola in caraffa; Dolceto di Ovada nv

    LATER, ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT in our continuing quest for gelato: Gelateria Grom, in the via Santa Margherita behind the Galleria. I had my usual (when riso is not available), fior di latte and crema, and they were very fine indeed, the best gelato I've had on the trip, I think, though Lindsey still favors the Gelateria Gracchi in Rome. Grom makes a big point of being buono, pulito, e giusto; good, clean, and correct. Their sorbetti, for example, are made with Lurisima water; their fruit flavors respect the seasons; the dairy ingredients in my two flavors were clearly honorably produced; the eggs come from a single organic source in Piemonte. Delicious.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Crota Piemunteisa

    Via Panfilo Castaldi, Milan, Nov. 25—
  • Crota Piemunteisa, v. Gian Giacamo Mora 9, Milan; tel. 0283.95992

  • piemonte.JPG
    The scene at Crota Piemunteisa

    TO THE MARKET this morning, a splendid big one, with a fine food market at the center and two long wings of dry goods: and where to eat afterward? The guidebook we're using, Valerio Mqssimo Visintin's Pappa Milano, offering 100 "restaurants of quality at good prices", suggested a Piemontese joint. Lindsey's half Piemontese, so we gave it a try. It's little more than a dive. The menu's on a blackboard, and it isn't very long: half a dozen primi at €3.50 each; half a dozen secondi at €5; a few more secondi at €6. I opted to begin with penne in meat-and-tomato sauce, just what we eat weekly at home, and wished I'd ordered Lindsey's choice, a fava soup with lots of greens in it. We both went on to cotelette alla Milanese because, well, we're in Milan, not Piemonte. They were okay.
    Cheap and really not very good red table wine, certainly not from Piemonte!

    Piena Luna

    Via Panfilo Castaldi, Milan, Nov. 24—
  • Luna Piena, via Lazzaro Palazzi 9, Milan; tel. 0229.528240

  • lunapiena.JPG

    Luna Piena

    SOMETIMES WE JUST luck out; there's no other way to explain it. Our hotel is in a part of Milan we don't know, not that we really know any part of Milan. Around the corner there's a bookstore; they happened to have one copy of a restaurant guide; two restaurants recommended happened to be nearby (two out of a hundred!); one of them is closed on Sundays; that leave Luna Piena.
    It's a curious place, run by a man with a mission: to preserve the cooking of Puglia as his grandfather remembered it from his grandmother. Lindsey wanted a risotto Milanese; after all, we're in Milan, nowhere near Puglia. But on the other hand we've been in Milan a few times; we've had risotto Milanese; we've never visited Puglia.
    One of the first things to come to the table was little cubes of stale bread, lightly fried in oil and flavored with pepper, cinnamon, and oregano. Flavored very lightly, I hasten to add. You'd hardly know there was cinnamon and oregano there: but there was. Then we opened with fava purée with chicory and orechietti tossed with strong (but soft!) pecorino, Parmesan, and tomatoes; and went on to maccheroni with sausage and tomatoes and stufatello di manzo in pignatta. This latter turned out to be long-braised cubes of beef flavored very deeply with spices and herbs and tossed with thick slices of potato. Every dish was deep and resonant; you'd swear we were eating in the sixteenth century.
    Rosato di primitivo; rosso di primitivo

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Salt cod

    Via Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 23—

  • Grappolo d'oro Zampanò, Piazza Cancelleria 80/84, Rome; tel. 06.6897080

  • saltcod.JPG

    Baccalà alla Romana

    NOTHING IS MORE AUTHENTICALLY Roman at the table, I think, than baccalà: salt cod. Of course it's authentically Sevillano, too, and Lisbon, and for all I know Boston. But like artichokes and puntarelle it's a Roman standby, and Lindsey hadn't had enough, and today was our last day in Rome, and it was Sunday, so off we went to another Gambero Rosso pick, Grappolo d'oro, across the street from Ditirambo where we ate a week or two ago.
    I began with a Tortino di alice, which turned out to be really quite delicious: Swiss chard at the bottom, then anchovies, then bread crumbs, the whole passed under a broiler. Raisins and pine nuts were also involved, and a bit of olive oil. A wonderful dish. Then the baccalà cooked alla Romana, lots of tomatoes and just enough raisins and pine nuts again to give the dish a whiff of the exotic. A good mixed salad finished things off, and did I mention the very good warm crusty bread?
    Bianco della casa in caraffa

    AND THEN OUR NEW favorite gelateria, nine o'clock at night after a supper of doggie-bag pizza from yesterday. The Gelateria Gracchi, on via Gracchi just off the Cicerone in Prati, has the smoothest, most consistent, truest-to-flavor gelato of any we've tried yet in Rome, and we've tried a number. Tonight I had half roast chestnut, half deep deep fondente; yesterday it was riso (Yes! Riso at last!) and crema. Excellent, extraordinary gelato; I hope we find something near its quality tomorrow in Milan...

    Sunday, November 23, 2008

    Pasta cacio e pepe

    Via Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 21—
  • Caffè delle Arti, via A. Gramsci 73, Rome; tel. 06/3265.1236

  • THERE ARE AS MANY ways of making pasta cacio e pepe as there are ways of setting out the Italian ten-digit telephone number, I think: some like slashes, or parentheses, or dots; others like setting digits in pairs. Some add Pecorino (grated, goes without saying) at the table; others wince at the idea. At Rome's Museum of Modern Art — well, 19th- and 20th-century art, anyhow — we lunched at the museum restaurant, on tonnarelli (square-cut spaghetti, like spaghetti alla chitarra) in that style. I think there was butter on the plate below the pasta, just a bit; and olive oil added to the pasta along with the black pepper, but very little pecorino; then it was tossed and set out on the buttered plate. A dish of grated Pecorino came to the table, and I added it liberally. I must say the pasta was perfectly cooked: just the right amount of time, just the right amount of salt. Afterward, a simple salad: very small young arugula leaves smothering a dish of halved red cherry tomatoes, dressed at the table with oil and salt. Excellent.
    Frascati bianco "Cantina Conte Zandotti", 2006

    Neighborhood pizza

    Via Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 22—

  • Le Cupole, via Lucrezio Caro 21/c, Rome; tel. 06.3614114

  • cupole.JPG
    Dining room, Le Cupole

    We'd booked for dinner Saturday night, so lunch had to be something light, and after a morning shopping over near the Pantheon we were tired and a little hungry but wanted to drop things off back at the hotel. Why not a neighborhood pizzeria? The first one we came to was Le Cupole, whose sidewalk menu promised a full range of pizzas. I had napoletano: tomatoes cheese and anchovies. Lindsey had margherita: tomato and cheese. Nice thin shells, beautifully flavored tomatoes, and what a pleasure finally to have a bit of garlic! With the pizza, a mixed salad.
    Le Cupole is pretty fancy inside, all gilt and polish; you sit in armchairs; the cupolas of the name are domes in the ceiling, with Venetian chandeliers. But it was late in the afternoon; only one other table was active, a Japanese-Italian family with two charming children… et O ces voix d'enfants, chantent dans la coupole…
    Castelli Romani red, Fabi & Co.

    …and then back to da Lucia in Trastevere for dinner. It was our third trip this month; they know us now. There were five of us at dinner, and we had the standbys, spaghetti cacio e pepe and alla gricia, and then some of us went on to secondi, rabbit or, in my case, bononcini (little cubes) of veal with peas; and puntarelle of course, and a fine plate of pecorini da Pienza with honey… delicious, all of it…
    Bianco da tavola; Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese "Michele Chiario" 2007; rosso da tavola

    Back to Testaccio

    Via Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 20—
  • Felice a Testaccio, via Mastro Giorgio 29, Rome; tel. 06/57.468.00

  • Tiramisu in bicchiere

    THE TAXI DRIVER who brought us in from the airport two and a half weeks ago said, when I mentioned Perilli in Testaccio, as we drove past it on our way to our apartment, that he preferred Felice, so I filed that piece of information away. Then the other day I looked up Rome in the Slow Food guide to Osterie d'Italia and there it was, Felice, along with only three or four other restaurants — Slow Food doesn't seem a particular friend of Rome.
    The menu is entirely spoken and entirely traditional: six or eight pasta first courses; six or eight meat second courses; only two contorni (vegetable side dishes); only one dessert. The tables are jammed together; the restroom is teeny; you'd better not think of going without first making a reservation.
    I opened with spaghetti alla matriciana, in a creamy tomato sauce, and went on to coda di vitello, braised oxtail again in tomato sauce. The spaghetti was delicious though a little messy; the oxtail was good but nearly impossible to eat: I longed for a sharp knife. Dessert was Tiramisu in bicchiere, served in a liqueur glass, delicious and thick, almost gluey, with a deep deep chocolate flavor.
    Cerveteri bianco "Cantina Cerveteri", 2007; Lazio Merlot "Togale," 2007

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Ve Roma

    Via M. Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 19—

  • Ristorante Ve Roma, Via Sabazio 22, Rome; tel. 06/84242305

  • bigoli.JPG

    Bigoli, Ve Roma

    Out to the Trieste quarter, to the northeast, to see Santa Agnese fuori le mure (and well worth the bus ride it was), and where then to eat? Gambero Rosso suggested this trendy new-style resto whose name is a pun on Verona, because the cuisine is Veronese. We were pleased with the bread, first of all; rolls and wafers and grissini all made in house. And then the menu was promising. I took from it first Coppa di maile, which turned out to be more headcheese than salume, and came with delicious little cut-up puntarelle; and then Bigoli al torchio, house-made pasta with bits of duck and fried radicchio — quite a delicious dish. The desserts were a little silly, we thought; my chocolate mousse came hiding in a pyramid of wafers and accompanied by a shot-glass of raspberry purée glued to the plate with more chocolate mousse (which was made, by the way, with a generous amount of olive oil).
    Frascati bianco: Santa Teresa, 2006

    Da Gino

    Via M. Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 18—

  • Da Gino, vicolo Rosini 4, Rome; tel. 06/6873434

  • MIDDAY DINNER in the Campo di Marzio again, on a street so tiny we could hardly walk two abreast. (If you want to find it, it's south and a little east of the Piazza Borghese.) Gambero Rosso cites Gino for superb pasta alla gricia, that is, with bacon and cheese, but I was hungrier and ordered spaghetti alla carbonara, which adds scrambled eggs to the mix. Breakfast pasta, you might say. The eggs were a bit overcooked, I thought, but the pasta and the cheese were superb. With it, two contorni, side dishes of vegetables: the best artichoke yet, Roman style, and a plate of superbly fresh Swiss chard. Nothing fancy, absolutely correct, as Gambero says.
    Frascati bianco: Racemo, 2007

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    da Cesare

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 17—

  • Da Cesare, via Crescenzia 13; tel. 06/6861227

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    Da Cesare, via Crescenzia, Prati

    ANOTHER GAMBERO ROSSO pick: we'd just settled into our hotel in the Prati, a short block off the Piazza Cavour, and were hungry; da Cesare was just the other end of the piazza. A nice, understatedly elegant dining room; very correct waiters and busboy; appetizing displays of vegetables and seafood in the entry. But I settled for perfectly Roman fare in this Tuscan-slanted restaurant, opening with spaghetti alla corbonara and going on to saltimbocca alla romana, with a roman-style artichoke on the side. The spaghetti was beautifully cooked, perhaps the best-cooked pasta I've had these three weeks, and the "bacon" — guanciale, I'm pretty sure — had deep flavor. The saltimbocca turned out to be two nicely sized thin-sliced fillets of veal, covered with well-chosen prosciutto, the requisite sage leaf hidden between, the whole in a light but not thin brown cream sauce; and the artichoke, warm, standing in a pool of the best olive oil I've had yet, was a perfect accompaniment.
    Vino bianco in carafa

    Paris in Rome

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 16—

  • Paris, piazza San Calisto 7a; tel. 06/5815378

  • paris.JPG
    Ristorante Paris, Trastevere

    WE HAD EATEN HERE before; it was a place I particularly liked, and it couldn't be more convenient: right off the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. And last week I bought a guidebook to Rome restaurants, Gambero Rosso, and there it received a decent rating. And it's open Sunday noon; not all are. So for Hans and Anneke's last Rome dinner for a while there was nothing more to say.
    I opened with rigatoni alla matriciana, with delicious tomatoes that managed to be both sweet and pungent, and just the right balance of cheese; and went on to that echt Roman dish stracchetti, "scraps" of meat — baby beef in this case — in light brown sauce, with plenty of porcini mushrooms, all on a bed of crisp clean dry arugula. I shared Lindsey's crisp-fried-flattened artichoke alla giudea, and for dessert a fine tiramisu. The best place we've eaten in, except maybe Ditirambo, Hans said. Why "Paris"? It's the given name of the chef; has nothing to do with France.
    Frascati in bicchiere; Lazio Merlot "Togale," 2007

    Saturday, November 15, 2008


    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 15—

  • Ditirambo, Piazza Della Cancelleria, 73, Roma;
    tel. +39 06 6871626

  • ditirambo.JPG

    RICHARD AND MARTA'S last day in Rome, so I thought we should dine (midday) at a special place. Ditirambo is just that, a very Roman menu elevated a notch or two, in calm, elegantly plain rooms quite near the Campo de' Fiori (hence easy for Richard and Marta to get a cab afterward). White truffles were on the menu and we all took advantage: in my case I began with salt cod on a chick-pea purée, nicely dressed, and then went on to a "flan" (I'd say another purée) of potatoes garnished with chopped porcini and shavings of truffle. Afterward, a nice little chocolate cake with a glass of pear gelato flavored with grappa.
    Montecompatri bianco "Le Trecciole", Tenuta Le Quinte, 2007
    (Coffee later, at Tazza d'Oro)

    Friday, November 14, 2008

    Back to da Lucia

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 14—
  • Trattoria da Lucia, Vicolo del Mattonate 2; tel. 06/5803601
  • A PLEASANT STROLL in the Botanical Garden down at the end of our street, and then midday dinner back at da Lucia, because I thought our Veronese friends should know about it. I wrote about it here a few days back, and again four years back and then some. Every time I eat there I like it more: homey, comfortable, quiet, off the beaten track but easy to get to. Today I just had a plate of spaghetti alla Gricia, with bacon and grated cheese; and afterward, for dessert, delicious pecorino from Pienza with a spoonful of first-rate honey.
    White vino da tavola; Montalcino Tuscan red, 2006

    Enoteca Corsi

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 13—
  • Enoteca Corsi, via del Gesù 88, Rome; tel. 06-679-0821
  • AN INCREDIBLE RAINSTORM greeted us on our exit from the Museo del Corso, where we'd seen a show of Dutch painting from the 17th century, paintings on loan from Berlin. No cabs to be had, so we rushed through driving rains to a nearby galleria, through it to a piazza, flagged down a cab, were dropped off at the end of a pedestrian street, waded down it to the other end, turned right a block, then waded another long long block to the Enoteca Corsi, where Hans and Anneke had ducked out of the rain twenty minutes earlier and staked out a table. This online review is close to the mark. I had a bowl of lentil soup that began to take the chill off, then a simple aristo di vitello, rather dry slices of roast veal flavored with garlic and salt. Beet greens on the side: oil and lemon juice. Panna cotta for dessert.
    Red vino da tavola

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    La Taverna dei Monti

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 12—

    WE SAW AN EXHAUSTING exhibition of Bellini paintings today, spending nearly four hours on two floors of the Scuderie — what a show! But it's eating, the subject here: I asked an attendant in the museum if there might be a good restaurant in the area; she thought for a moment, then said that all the nearby restaurants were fast-food or tourist affairs, but that one, Jubileo, wasn't far off, and was good.
    Off we go then, in gathering rain, looking for the Via del Boschetto off the Via Nazionale. I ran ahead, thinking restaurants would surely be ending service by now and I'd best poke a head in and reserve. We didn't have an address or a phone number. I poked my head in the first place I came to, an empty but inviting place, but saw a name on the doormat that wasn't Jubileo. This isn't Jubileo, I said aloud, more to myself than anyone (but in Italian): No: further down, on the corner, an invisible voice answered.
    I hurried down to the corner and found Jubileo. The door stood open, so I walked in, then through a number of pretty damn fancy dining rooms, past bars and bus stations, calling out from time to time: Nessuno? nessuno?
    No answer, so I went back to the first place. Can four of us get something to eat? No problem, came the inviting answer. We ordered off the menu, just a pasta course and a side dish. Everyone had gnocchi but me; I had spaghetti caccia e peppe, apparently house-made spaghetti, very nicely dressed with grated cheese and black pepper; on the side, spinach in olive oil with a half lemon. Delizioso; and the others said their gnocchi was also very good.
    Bianco da tavola, 2007
    La Taverna dei Monti, 41, via del Boscchetto; tel. 06 4817724

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Nor Style nor Substance

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 11—

    Nè Arte nè Parte
    OFF TONIGHT TO MEET friends in Testaccio, that small sector of Rome distinguished by its gridded streets and its tradition of dining on meat scraps — testament to its being the traditional butcher-shop of Rome. We'd eaten before at its most famous restaurant, Perilli, and tonight I wanted to try a Slow Food recommendation, Nè Arte nè Parte, said to be a locus of the true Roman tradtions when it comes to cuisine.
    I'm afraid reactions were mixed, and colored partly by views of the service: there were six of us at table; some ordered antipasto, some not; some ordered primi to be served as secondi, and so on, and we never made clear to the service just how we wanted things done, and they (as some of us pointed out) never bothered to ask.
    For my part, I was pretty well pleased. I thought my spaghetti carbonara quite good, creamy with its soft-cooked egg, piquant with its crisp bacon. The saltimbocca alla Romana was nicely pointed, and had fine soft big leaves of sage on each piece. And the chocolate-chestnut torta with whipped cream was a well-balanced constrast of textures, weights, and flavors. I'd go back. But first I'd go back to Perilli.
    Bianco: Castello di Roma; Nero d'Avila 2007

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    La Campana

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 9—

    Lindsey (center) checks out the fish display at La Campana

    MIDDAY DINNER TODAY at La Campana (vicolo Campana 18; tel. 06.867.820), and a good thing I phoned in the morning: it was jammed. When we arrived, though, just a little late, Hans and Anneke had worried expressions: no reservation. Oh, I said, that's because I made it in the name of Consolini, Shere is just too difficult for the Italian ear on the telephone. There was our table, in a handsome plain room that quickly filled with three-generation families, babies, ancient women in wheelchairs, and at a nearby table a small lapdog. I had ravioli stuffed with artichoke and served in a very light and creamy tomato sauce, then grilled calve's liver, sweet and succulent; Lindsey had risotto with shrimp and squid, then puntarelle. Readers of my fine book Roman Letters will have realized by now that we're revisiting restaurants sampled four years ago: so far, no reason to change my opinions. Campana's one of the best.
    Frascati Superiore "Fontana dei Mori" 2007; red table wine in carafe

    Saturday, November 8, 2008

    Eating Dutch in Rome

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 8—

    Aristo, broccoli, potato gratin

    IT MAY BE SIMPLY my imagination, but last night's dinner tasted echt Dutch to me. And why not? Hans and Anneke had gone to the market in Campo dei Fiori, where they found sliced aristo, roast pork and veal combined; and potatoes; and Venetian broccoli, the spiral kind that has such a nice subtle flavor.
    Once home, they peeled, boiled, and mashed the potatoes, then set them in a baking dish, covered them with slices of cheese (having forgotten the name: not parmagiano, not pecorino) and set it in the oven. They heated the meat in the frying pan and steamed the broccoli. Dessert was a melon, also from the Campo. Excellent quiet inexpensive dinner at home.
    Nebbiolo d'Alba: Marne Brune, 1996 (!)

    Lindsey, CS, Anneke, Hans, at Albino il Sardo

    TODAY, ON THE OTHER hand, we took midday dinner out, at Albino il Sardo all'angoletto (via della Luce, 44-45; tel. 06.5800846): and we were the only people in the dining room, apart from the cheerful and friendly but reserved waiter. I had the same meal I had four years ago, and neither it nor waiter nor chef nor room had changed. Maloreddus, those short, fat-maggot-sized ribbed pastas, in tomato sauce; then porchetta, roast suckling pig. No cinghiale chop on the side this time; perhaps they've had to cut back. No matter: the meal was filling. Before it, carta di musica, "music-paper bread", the Sardinian national wafer-thin crispy flatbread drizzled with nice butter; on the side, cicoria ripassata, "overcooked" chicory; after, a nice almond cake, a sort of genoise with almond paste here and there, and a good coffee.
    White and red table wine "Segolaj"

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    <i>Lardo colonnato</i>

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 6—


    I THINK THAT'S WHAT you call it; we don't have an Italian food dictionary, and there's no internet in the apartment to check this. In any case it's sweet and delicious, and after having a bruschetta of lardo yesterday for lunch I thought why not repeat it today.
    Ruggeri, the excellent cheese and salume shop at 1-2 Campo dei Fiori, sold me eight very thin (fino fino? Sì!) slices, thirty-five grams they amounted to, for eighty-five Euro cents, and half of them on a couple of slices of toast made a fine lunch, with a handful of dried prunes, dates, apricots, raisins, and sour cherries, also from the Campo.
    Leftover Merlot with sparkling water

    Nov. 6: Chez Panisse at the Academy

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 6—

    THE FELLOWS AT THE ACADEMY complained for years about the food; only those with barely enough money to get by ate at the American Academy up on the Janiculum. Too bad, because the buildings and grounds are magnificent, the site quite splendid, the library enviable: it seems a perfect place for the contemplation and conversation that goes into the liberal arts.


    Entrò Mona, as Moravia might have written; enter Mona Talbot about two years ago. Mona was a line cook in the café at Chez Panisse quite a while ago, and has, as they say, good chops. She also has a fine mind and a big heart, and she completely changed the direction of the food at the Academy. Last night we were up on the hill for dinner: house-made terrine of offal and meats with pickled onions and mixed greens; then sautéed chicken, moist and plump, finished in the oven, with small white Cannelini-type beans and further mixed greens from the garden. Yes: the Academy's own garden, which is being encouraged to develop into a kitchen garden alongside its more traditional elegant setting of pines, cypresses, and lawns. Dessert: an extraordinarily subtle persimmon gelato with an equally fine-textured fior di latte on a soft meringue. Cuisine has joined Contemplation and Conversation, and you can be sure much of the table talk is about the food. Excellent.
    Chardonnay-Sauvingnon blanc: Monte Lessini "Re d'Aurum" 2005

    Nov. 5: Pasta at home

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 5—

    NOT FAR FROM our apartment, at 82, via del Moro, near the Lungaretta, is a little pasta shop run by a Sardinian family. La Pasta all'uovo, says the sign over the door, fresh egg pasta: tortellini, agnolotti, ravioli Sardi, fettucine, canneloni, gnochetti Sardi (those are especially nice), and half a dozen other pastas, all turned out fresh every day. You can see them being made, the filled potato sabadas, if that's they are, delicately pinched between busy fingers.

    We first found the Piras sisters in their Laboratorio Artigianale four years ago during another Roman sojourn, and were happy to return today. Tonight we have tortellini with grated Parmesan (you buy a chunk of cheese; the merchant grates it for you) and black pepper. With them, a nice head of fennel cut up to be dipped in oil and salt.
    Merlot: Trentino, La Vis, 2005

    Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    Nov. 4: Cacci'e pepe

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 4—

    ROME'S WATER IS SAID to be ideal for cooking pasta, and spaghetti caccia e pepe — with simply cheese and black pepper — is one of Rome's famous dishes. I doubt you can find it better prepared than at Da Lucia on the Vicolo Mattonato here in Trastevere. With it, puntarelle — chicory stems stripped of their leaves, then submerged in ice water to curl them, served as a salad dressed with garlic-and-anchovy sauce.
    Vino bianco in carafa

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    Nov. 3: Eating at San Egidio

    via Corsini, Rome, November 3—

    DINNER TONIGHT, our first night in Rome this year, in the Piazza Sant' Egidio where we spent our first month here, four years ago. We'd never before noticed this Trattoria de "Gli Amici", situated right next to the greengrocer we always used to patronize. I don't know much about the St. Egidio community: you can read about it online, I'm told. "Gli amici" — the friends — are connected to the communità somehow, and employ people with physical and emotional handicaps among their staff, an idea I like in principle.
    We had a light meal, salt cod for the others, saltimbocca alla romana for me, with a simple mixed salad dressed at the table and a carafe of good simple white Sicilian wine.

    Nov. 2: Endive, ham, kaas

    DINNER AT HOME AGAIN: Anneke wrapped cooked endive heads, each the size of a sparrow, in sliced ham, laid them in a pyrex dish, and covered them with slices of Beemster cheese, then put them under the broiler. With them, mashed potatoes sprinkled with paprika and also set under the broiler for a moment.
    Dessert: pears cooked in red wine and a little Port, flavored with cinnamon and a small spoonful of sugar.
    Red wine from Provence

    Nov. 1: Party!

    Leidschendam, Netherlands: Raimondi's Villa Rozenrust, Veursestraatweg 104; tel.

    DUTCH FAMILIES SEEM TO KNOW instinctively how to celebrate serious occasions like wedding anniversaries: festively. Eighty or so of us gathered for the 25th anniversary of our friends Tom and Judith at a party they had organized in a favorite Italian restaurant of theirs. Six or seven long tables accommodated us easily, even permitting a change of seating at midpoint to allow maximum socializing.
    An Italian dinner, with its sequence of antipasto, pasta, primo, secondo, and dolci allowed plenty of opportunity for organized interruption: speeches by the fathers of the bride and groom; photo-biographies of each of them as children, then of the family they have made together; toasts by the guests. There was even a quiz game to find out who really knew them best: how many times have they vacationed at Tom's favorite place, seven or nine? When they decide to go out, is it to the movies or the theater? (Their second son won the prize, a bottle of wine: unfair, I thought.)
    We had salume, prosciutto, eggplant, caprese, vitello tonnato, strozzapreti in tomato sauce, penne with shrimp, swordfish en croquette, grilled lamb chops and steaks, and tiramisù, with no doubt other things I've forgotten or hadn't noticed. It was all remarkably good considering the number of servings that had to be ready all at once — and then in some cases had to wait for another speech to run its hilarious course. The party began to break up about one o'clock, and everyone had a great time.
    Pinot grigio; vino da tavola rosso