Friday, April 28, 2017

Home again

Eastside Road, April 27, 2017—
YESTERDAY WAS flight day: a beer and a sandwich at Stockholm's Arlanda airport; a "nice and tasty" supper of roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes, and green beans with a glass of red wine on the Norwegian Airlines airplane.

But today, ah, today: Cook found a couple of Franco Dunn's Provençal sausages in the freezer and "grilled" them in a black iron skillet, cooking potatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves, and rosemary in another, and steaming some nice green beans.

Green salad afterward, and we're home.

     Zinfandel, Alvey-Sinclair (Dry Creek Valley), 2013
     Alas, I don't recall how we came by this amateur bottling; it was very good indeed

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A final tartare…

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 25, 2017—
AND WHAT SHALL we have for dinner, this last evening in Rome for the foreseeable future? We'd spent the afternoon walking the Gianicolo, admiring the view and the late afternoon light, and stopped in for a Negroni to commemorate the occasion, and, well, why not just stay here, and have some final aperitivi and a last battuto ?

Among the aperitivi delicious, flavor-forward tomato bruschetti and, best of all, anchovy on butter on toast with pickled lemon, truly a perfect mouthful.

This was the second time I'd had tartare here this month; tonight's was better, I thought. I liked the presentation: the chopped beef garnished with some lettuce leaves and surrounded by plit capers and dollops of mustard and balsamic honey. I admired it a few moments before taking knife and fork to it to mix it all up. This seems an important moment to me, like saying grace, or Buon appetito, or making the traditional toast before first sipping the drink: it's an acknowledgement that there's a transaction going on here between the diner and the eaten.

Anyhow a delicious accompaniment to a bittersweet occasion. Alla prossima !

     House white in carafe; Barbera d'Alba, Cascina Roccalini, 2014; botn "natural" but pleasant

•Litro, Via Fratelli Bonnet 5, Rome; +39 06 45447639

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Two of the best

Via Damaso Cerquetti, Tuesday, April 24, 2017—
BIG EATING DAYS, as we are not in the Eternal City forever. Sunday we feasted in the Italian tradition: a family dinner at a favorite trattoria at midday. There were plenty of appetizers: most memorably, filetti di baccalà and alici di Anzio (deep-fried strips of breaded salt cod and of Anzio anchovies), anchovies in oil.

I went on to penne alla carbonara, because in all these days I don't think I've had a carbonara yet. This was, predictably, very good — though I wish the pasta had been anything but penne.

     White wine in carafe
Da Cesare, Via del Casaletto, 45, Rome; +39 06 536015

TODAY we repeated the experiment but at a traditional weekday hour, 8:30, the five us seated at a quasi-outdoor table at a Slow Food-recommended place near our apartment but never before visited. (By us, I mean.)

Again, wonderful appetizers: tomato bruschetti, lively and front-of-the-tongue; baccalà croquettes; fine prosciutto from Amatrice — the proprietors of this fine place have roots in that town.

I went on to a favorite pasta, strozzapreti, in a lamb ragù sauce with little artichokes: magnificent. I had intended to eat more, but couldn't. Well, a jam crostata, never as good as they look.

     Grigeto (I think)/Malvasia, white, natural, in a pitcher: mystifying at first and a little sweet, then quickly perfectly suited to the first courses; Cesanese, Martino (Lazio), 2015, forthcoming and fruity but with good body and finish
Osteria Palmira, Via Abate Ugone 29, Rome; +39 06 58204298

I recommend both these places whole-heartedly, and hope to return.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Ostia Antica

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 22, 2017—
OUT TO OSTIA ANTICA today, there to stroll the ruins, visit the seaside, and lunch.

That was in the archeological preserve itself, whose tavola calda is quite acceptable. Look! Spinach! I settled for a simple plate of roast pork with a bit of carrot-flavored sauce, spinach on the side, the whole plate then put in an oven to freshen it all up.

Dinner at home: Minestrone soup.

     Red wine in the glass
•Cafeteria, Scavi Di Ostia Antica, Viale Dei Romagnoli 717, Ostia Antica, Rome; +39 337 1175780

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Roman eating

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 21, 2017—
WE DO EAT OUT from time to time, of course. This was a long day, seven miles of walking in parks, gardens, and the Forum; not enough time to drop back to the apartment for leftovers, let alone meal preparation.

After beginning with a stroll through the Roseto, just opened, and the Orange Tree Garden, stately yet welcoming, we re-visited a place we'd enjoyed two weeks ago — not for a Martini this time; for a saltimbocca alla romana.

I must confess that neither my iPhone nor its proprietor always takes the perfect photograph, and this one has had its critic. It isn't east to convey the content of a plate with a photo. I wanted to go for a close-up.

Saltimbocca is one of those perfect combinations of already manipulated ingredients: vitello or veal, pounded thin; sage leaves; prosciutto. The meat is dredged in flour and browned in a hot pan in oil and butter; the pan is deglazed with white wine or Marsala (the latter, I think, here).

Chicken or veal stock contributes to the sauce, and there you have it. There's a recipe online. It is one of the Hundred Plates, and delicious at this place

     Pecorino da Lazio in bicchiere
•Max Roma, Viale Aventino 20, Rome; +39 06 64420669

WE FINISHED THE DAY at a restaurant I continue to like. The last time we ate here I thought it had slipped a bit, but it's bounced back, better in a sense than before

What I have here is pasta, either alla gricia or simply cacio e pepe. We began with a few antipasti, and it was these that had improved, in my memory. We five shared anchovies with lemon, oil, oregano, and chili pepper; braised vegetables; and a delicious Pecorino with honey; I went on to Spaghetti cacio e pepe: that fine Pecorino and black pepper, and basta cosí.

     Bianco di Toscana, Poggio d'Oro, 2015: quite serviceable.
•Trattoria da Lucia, Vicolo del Mattonato 2B, Rome; +39 06 5803601

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Thursday, April 20, 2017


Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 20, 2017—
YOU WOULD BE WRONG to think we complain about eating leftovers at home. We had roast and mashed potatoes, asparagus, cold roast beef, and a platter of agretti, and more of those marvelous cookies, and it was perfectly fine.      bottle ends: Grenache; Barbera

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Algerian dinner

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 19, 2017—
ALGERIAN BY VIRTUE of the wines, primarily, and the desserts: but the roast lamb had qualities not that far removed, I think. It had a curious provenance, that lamb: it was given to us along with a huge quantity of bay leaves, rosemary, mint, and small garlic cloves by a friend whose country place we visited the other day. It was all local provender, and it was delicious. With it, asparagus and potatoes.

Hamza had just returned from a weekend in Algiers, and brought a box of extremely delicious cookies his mother had made for us, and a couple of bottles of wine:

     Rosé, Grenache and Cinsault, Fleur d'Aboukir (Algeria), nv: crisp, fruity, engaging, delicious
     Grenache, Koutoubia (Algeria), nv: full, forward, spicy

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A simple day

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 18, 2017—
LUNCH WAS SIMPLE enough: a smallish slice of pizza, Margherita of course, in a little place on the Trilussa I've often walked past but never tried. The pizza lacked basil, but had that nice crisp Roman crust.

     Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
•Fast Food Eat Street Food, Piazza Trilussa, Rome; +39 06 580 9456

DINNER WAS ALSO relatively fast, but at home: Cook put the four P's together — pasta (in the shape of fusilli), prosciutto, peas, and pepper. The prosciutto was diced fairly fine and browned by itself, then tossed with the cooked peas and the pasta. Very nice.

     Falanghina del Beneveniano, "Terre di Sabbia," nv: cheap supermarket wine, quite nice

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Catching up

Spaghetti carbonara, C'Era una Volta
Fusilli with Sicilian pesto
Tartare at Litro
Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 18, 2017—
LAST WEEK we mostly ate at home, it seems; I don't count the daily forays to gelaterie within Eating Every Day, though one of these days I'll get around to listing the ones we've logged.

Thursday was one of the two exceptions: we met our Roman granddaughter and her beau at a neighborhood place that had been recommended, curiously, by a courtly stranger, a Roman, who approached us at the Spanish Steps and struck up a conversation. On learning we were staying near the Piazzale Dunant he advised us to dine here. Oddly, Granddaughter said she'd had the same experience a year or two earlier; it must have been the same fellow. Something to write about elsewhere.

I opened with fagiole con tonno, nicely cooked white beans and solid, flavorful tuna; and went on to a really quite delicious Carbonara. This turns out to be just what the man said (and a lot of people on TripAdvisor, for what that's worth): a neighborhood restaurant not apparently visited by tourists. Only Italian on the menu. Professional, fast waiters who've apparently been there for years. Granddaughter, though she lives nearby, had only had take-out pizza from the place; we'll all return, I'm sure.

     House white
•C'era una Volta, Piazzale Enrico Dunant 13, Rome; +39 06 536278

FRIDAY: Dinner at home: Cook bound some fusilli with store-bought and quite delicious Sicilian pesto: tomato sauce with ground almonds. Afterward, in place of salad, agretti, which I wrote about a week or so ago — bitter, sweet, spinachy, delicious with oil and lemon.
SATURDAY: STEAK TARTARE, bound correctly with raw egg and incorporating mustard and capers, garnished irrelevantly I thought with lettuce leaves and fennel fronds. We'd stopped off at this place, a favorite with Granddaughter and Beau, thinking to have just a spritzer as an apéritif, but of course I couldn't resist the tartare. Just as well: one of the best I've had.

     Prosecco, one of those "natural" wines in vogue now, muddy and incivil to my taste
Litro, Via Fratelli Bonnet 5, Rome; +39 06 45447639

EASTER SUNDAY: dinner at home. Perhaps it's here I should mention our shopping. There are greengrocers on almost every block; we like the Egyptian-run one down our street. There are two "supermarkets" across the street, as I think I've mentioned; one of them, Tigre, contains our local panficio, and the bread is really quite good.

We also buy our water, still and sparkling, at the supermarket, and our wine, which I rarely mention because it's not really interesting: inexpensive Pinot grigio, Nebbiolo, or Barbera d'Asti; occasionally a Prosecco.

For today's dinner Cook bought a good-looking beef roast which comes netted, I don't know why. I salted it all round and she put it in the oven along with quartered potatoes and then we took a walk. Alas, the oven's much faster than we thought, and both meat and potatoes were quite charred on the outside. The meat was fine, though, although well done; nicely grained and flavored. Ah well: Next time.

With it, Vignerola. What a marvelous dish! Artichokes, peas, favas, and onions, with chopped prosciutto. Very Roman, I'm told, and unmistakeable, and memorable.

And then, remembering her metier as she too rarely does these days, she whipped up a rich, silky, marvelous zabagione, amazing the grandchildren and pleasing us all. What a woman!

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April 13: Carbonara, C’era una volta April 14: Fusilli with Sicilian pesto; agreti April 15: Tartare, Litro April 16: Rpast beef and vignerolo April 17: Dinner in the country

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Midday out; supper in

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 12—
LUNCH TODAY IN A PLACE recommended by our daughter, and what a nice venue it is. A small dining room in front with a table big enough for the three of us; no need to investigate the dining room further back. Many delicious items to look at. A very capable and interesting woman in charge, and decent serving-girls, I hope I can still call them, at my age.

We ate simply, first splitting a bruschetta of mortadella, pistachios, and honey mustard, with parsley leaves on the side. I went on to a variation of a niçoise: beautiful tuna, black and niçoise olives, capers, nice lemon wedges, lettuce of course, and thinly sliced fennel.

We could not resist a tiramisu to end the meal, and I don't know when I've had one smoother, very discreetly dusted with chocolate, a thin biscotti at bottom, unctuous custard between. I think we will return.

     Chablis (!) in carafe, half a liter, very true to type
•Caffè Novecento, Via del Governo Vecchio 12d, Rome; +39 06 6865242

AT HOME THEN we needed only a bowl of minestrone, which Cook produced with customary authority out of beans, carrots, potatoes, sausage, and I know not what else: it was excellent.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

At home again

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 11, 2017—
DINING AT HOME again: but not our home; that of a granddaughter and fiancé. Apples fall not far from trees; her cooking recalls her mother's, whose recalls hers…

And so we began with some delicious stuffed olives and taralli, those unrefusable savory little crackerlike things; and then moved on to a light supper of fusilli tossed with broccolini slow-cooked with a little red pepper. Dinner and conversation so engrossing I forgot to take any photos…

     "Pizzicanti," white sparkling wine, Sicily, nv: crisp and easy
     Pinot nero, Altùris (Venezia Giulia), 2015: light, fruity, pleasant

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Getting back to normal…

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 10, 2017—
WE DINE IN tonight, deliciously, on a familiar dish, penne rigate in red sauce. Cook chopped fine a thick slice of prosciutto and browned diced onion and some garlic in it, then added a jar of factory-made tomato sauce. (I could find no canned tomatoes in the supermarket; I think they are not used here in Italy. Makes sense.) Toward the end, I think, she added the finely chopped tops of a bulb of fennel.

The reet of the fennel, chopped to finger-usable chunks, for salad. A fine stay-at-home.

     Nebbolo d'Alba, Morando, 2012: not holding up well in the opened bottle…

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Perhaps I am eating unwisely…

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 9, 2017—

YESTERDAY WAS A LOVELY day, not that all these days haven't given us the best of weather. Like all last week, the day got off very late indeed; we weren't able to get to lunch until almost 2:30. When we did it was delicious but, given my somewhat compromised state, overwhelming. There was a carciofo alla romana to begin with, one doesn't want to pass that up; there was a cannolini stuffed with brandade, you never pass up brandade. Hamza ordered a burrata for the table and I must say it was extraordinary: smooth, supple, rich rich rich. I partook of too much of that.

My main purpose, though, was a fettuccini with asparagus, those thin rather bitter almost wild asparagus you get this time of year. Very nice pasta, dense and well cooked; and for the first time so far I was unable to finish my plate. What a wimp.

     White wine in carafe
Trattoria da Teo, Piazza dei Ponziani 7A, Rome; +39 06 5818355

TODAY, SUNDAY, we traipsed around the flea market at Porta Portese, no longer as interesting but then what is, and then repaired to a place new to me, stylish, spacious, inviting. I tried to eat more wisely and ordered nothing but vegetables: agretti and puntarelli. Agretti (Salsola soda), whose common English name, acc. Wikipedia, is "opposite-leaved saltwort," is a curious plant indeed; it tastes, to me, like spinach with a bit of seaweed mixed in, and is quite pleasant.

Particularly when paired off with puntarelle, that typically Roman salad of chicory stripped of its leaves, the stalks set to chill in ice water until they curl, then dressed with anchovy and olive oil.

But of course I couldn't resist ordering a pizza margherita, that's what we're here for, extending the world of margherita. I could only eat a couple of slices. Very good: not Neapolitan, but very good.

     Dolcetto d'Alba, Sandrone, 2014: quite good
Emma, Via del Monte della Farina 28, Rome; +39 06 64760475

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Meat and lighter

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 8, 2017—
THURSDAY BEGAN BADLY: a long tram ride beginning with and imbroglio and ending in frustration when a consulate office closed just as we got there. Then came another long ride, this time in H's car, almost an hour in traffic.

But the we were in Eataly, that commercial temple to the best of (commercial) Italian gastronomical produce. I must say Rome's version seems less intricately fascinating than Torino's, perhaps because it is more spacious. But the general model prevails: displays of fresh and boxed and canned foodstuffs, a bakery, a café, lots of beer, wine, and spirits… and restaurants featuring these things.

I see that the previous paragraph neglects cheese, fish, and meat. Never fear. Feeling a bit weak — we've been eating decently, but I've not been in the best health for the last week — I thought I'd go to the meat restaurant, though the Contessa opted for the fish. (Fortunately the table was between: they like to make things easy for you here.)

I began with a tartare, of course, chopped sweet fresh Fassolone beef from Piemonte on a bed of clean crisp arugula. Curiously, I think, that's a dark olive tapenade on top, incorporating a nod toward shallots. I still think the optimal service of tartare presents the meat neat, centered, raw egg on top, relishes surrounding. But the world is many things.

The Contessa had her bronzino, but I stayed with my beef: the tagliata. The waiter didn't ask how I wanted it cooked, always a good sign. It was cooked perfectly, nothing added but a bit of olive oil and crystals of good clean salt, served with a mesclun salad. Oil and vinegar on the table, of course.

     Nero d'Avola, "Nero di Lupo", Azienda Agricola COS (Sicily): delicious, like everything from this source

•Eataly Rome, Piazzale 12 Ottobre 1492, Roma; +39 06 90279201

For supper, then, at home, simply some egg salad.

YESTERDAY BEGAN SIMILARLY: the consulate was at least open, but denied my request. Ah, bureaucracy. I slunk home again, an hour on the bus, and had some crudités and fruit for solace, with a light Fernet-soda.

The afternoon walkabout took us to Trastevere where a spritzer refreshed us and where we found a favorite shop, a Sard pastaficio. Much has changed in Trastevere in recent years, but this place has been a constant for thirty-one years, and looks secure for as long as I'll be likely to need it.

There we bought little semicircular ravioli filled with meat in ragú, and at home Cook boiled them up and served them with butter and grated Parmesan. You can't do a lot better than that. I'll try to get a photo of the pastaficio next time, and maybe even its name and address; it's on the Via del Moro, across the street from Mama Pasta (and having nothing to do with it, I'm sure).

     Nebbiolo d'Alba, Morando, 2012: an inexpensive bottle bought at the supermarket across the street, and very good it is.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Lessons not learned

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 5, 2017—
NOT THAT MANY YEARS ago we found a delightful trattoria just far enough away from the Piazza Navona to be safe from the mobs — the clientele seemed to be locals happy with a small menu of typical Roman entries. After a quick dodge through a jam-packed Campo de' Fiori and Pantheon, the shorts-and-T-shirt crowd at the Piazza Navona — I'm beginning to realize April just before Easter is not a good time to visit the seat of Christianity — we fell upon this refuge once more, about two o'clock in the afternoon.

The place has been much remodelled, opened up, brightened, and discovered. I was already disgruntled by the crowds and the noise, and two dashing young priests soberly discussing their menus in German, then eating their pizzas with knife and fork and washing it down with Coca-Cola at the next table didn't help, nor did the angry baby a couple of table away. I am too old and, I suspect you'll say, too snobbish for this. I don't know if I'll return.

But maybe I will: the meal was good. I started with a nice big carciofa alla Romana, a half artichoke boiled, then served on a pool of oil; and continued with a fine fettuccine alla grigia, wonderful thick house-made pasta quite al dente, generously sprinkled with fine thick strips of pancetta, dressed with good pecorino cheese. I think this was one of the best interpretations of the dish I've had.

> We lingered in spite of the noise for a macedonia, a refreshing tumble of orange, apple, pineapple, kiwi, and strawberry, lightly sweetened. A fine lunch.

     Ribolla Gialla, La Tunella (Friuli Colli Orientali), 2016: yes yes yes.
•Da Francesco, Piazza del Fico 29, Rome; +39 06 6864009

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Eating in Roscioli's black box

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 4, 2017—

A LATE START and a quick ramble to the Campo de' Fiori, where I had my hair cut by a favorite barber, and then lunch in the remarkable inside room at Roscioli. There's a three-sided counter open at the end facing the bar; I suppose each side has room for five, maybe six high stools. It was so late we basically ate alone.

The room is severe and seductive, black, magically lit; the bar a marvelous still life of luminous bottles — an alchemist's laboratory.

The contessa and I each ordered the Niçoise, here called Nizzarda: potatoes, tiny tomatoes, green beans, artichoke, tuna, hard-cooked egg, anchovies, olives and capers — and, of course, lettuce. As you see one might object to the expertise behind the hard-boiled egg, but the salad was generous and well balanced.

Before it, a delightful amuse-guele: a tiny piece of cracker, let's call it, with soft ricotta and tiny tomato and honey.

     Pecorino, Castello di Semivicoli - Masciarelli (Abruzzi), 2015: fruity and pleasant

•Roscioli Caffè, Piazza Benedetto Cairoli 16, Rome; +39 06 89165330

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Rigatoni con fave e salsiccia

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 3, 2017—
FIRST GOOD DINNER since Friday, restoring me nearly back to normal. And as usual I didn't think of photography until almost too late, so the first course is missing: a warm salad I made by first roasting, then peeling and cutting into strips a couple of beautiful peppers, one yellow, one red, and then very slowly softening them, salted, in olive oil with a couple of onions sliced quite thin. We both thought immediately on tasting them that anchovies were missing. Yes, and parsley. Next time.

Cook fixed the pasta, crumbling nice sausages from the corner butcher, sauteeing them with a bit of garlic, adding the favas and tossing them with the pasta. Delicious enough to warrant a name: alla Cerquetti, perhaps?
     Cortese, Aziende Vinicola Valle Erro (Piemonte), 2015: frizzante and clean
     Masi, Campofiorin, 2013: fruity and rich (Thanks, Hamza)
     Cheap Nero d'Avola, 2015
(Five of us at table)

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