Day 11 Part 2
After an extremely civilized train ride from Naples to Rome, we checked into our charming apartment by mid-day. We dropped off our gear, turned on the A/C and we were out the door in search of a delicious Roman lunch. Since our apartment was super close to the Vatican, we hit up Pizzarium for our first meal in town. Even after eating Neapolitan pizza for the past 5 days, we still weren’t bored of pizza and were actually very excited to try out Bonci’s place. Pizzarium has been getting a lot of buzz over the past few years and rightly so. Cut to order, Roman “street food style pizza” and sexy fried suppli are the specialty of the house. I let “FMF” do the ordering and order she did. I think she ordered a piece of every pizza they had available and they were all super tasty. The crust had a delicious crispiness to it with a great ciabatta chew and the toppings were super fresh with traditional and “outside of the box” flavor combinations. The potato and cheese foccacia style pizza was incredible and I wish we had an opportunity to eat that again. After hoovering back all that pizza, “FMF” was obviously in dire need of some dolce; she had been telling me about her desire to do in-depth gelato research in Rome, so we set off on a journey which would eventually entail 45 scoops of gelato in 3 days. I’m still in “lactose intolerant awe” of that girl’s gelato indulgence.
Our first Roman gelato experience was at a suburban location of Fatamorgana. Delicious and unique flavours combined with varying and interesting textures. I distinctively remember a pink grapefruit sorbetto with horseradish and ginger that kept me tasting and re-tasting for all the subtle nuances. Knowing we had a relatively early dinner reservation at the famous Salumeria Roscioli, we toured the town, saw the sights and got blindsided by amazing monuments with each corner turned.
With a reasonably healthy appetite, we checked in at Salumeria Roscioli for a highly anticipated dinner. This restaurant came highly recommended and fortunately a friend from the Primograno Tour secured us a high in demand reservation. Dinner started with a gorgeous basket of breads from their famous bakery and a plate of gossamer thin slices of impeccable mortadella. Followed by coppa di testa with ginger, a tasting of Colonnata and Cinta Senese lardo, mind-numbing burrata with anchovies and an “interesting” caprese salad. The coppa di testa was easily one of the most memorable things I ate all trip; I was so surprised to see it being served with ginger, but the flavours worked and texture of the head cheese was perfection. I enjoyed it so much, I asked “FMF” for her last bite and fortunately, she acquiesced. The burrata was made in Bari that morning and transported to the restaurant the same day. Though the anchovies definitely overwhelmed the cheese, the burrata was the freshest and most delicious that I’ve ever tasted. Perfectly tempered, the burrata exuded creaminess with such a clean and rich taste. The Colonnata lardo was also a treat, served with warm multigrain bread; “mmmmmm lardo”, enough said. I believe we were drinking Lambrusco with the appetizers and eventually made a switch to a young and delicious Barolo after the salumi and cheese was polished off. Next up, the classic Roman speciality, spaghetti carbonara. So decadent, so rich, so tasty. Nicely cooked spaghettoni with, crispy guanciale, black pepper and a ridiculously rich liason of beautiful egg yolks and tons of Pecorino Romano. Salty, sinful, blow your head off, heart attack special, carbonara. Then there was a gazpacho of sorts, followed by a tasty dish of Roman style meatballs with crispy chestnut polenta and smoked ricotta. After the savoury, came the coffee and dolce; I really thought they were trying to kill us with food at this point. First amazing cannolis, then a classic and superb tiramisu, followed by a fondue of Valrhona chocolate with meringues and biscuits. We finished off our meal with some Valrhona chocolate mignardise and we left Roscioli extremely content and exceptionally happy.
We spent the rest of the night wandering the historic streets of Rome. Me, “FMF” and her new umbrella, checked out one amazing sight after another. I don’t believe there was anymore gelato that evening, but I could easily be wrong.
Our day started off with a mediocre lunch of traditional fried foods in the Jewish Ghetto. Everything was just too damn touristy and the restaurants we were planning on dining at were closed for the summer break. After lunch, all hell broke loose. “FMF” wanted to get serious about her gelato mission and so it began. Starting at Carapina, we also hit up San Crispino, Fiocco di Neve, Grom and Giolitti. Our benchmark flavor was pistachio, because it was both of our’s favorite and “FMF” would then select a combination of other flavors that peaked her interest. We’re not talking tastes of gelato, we’re talking real, adult sized portions. Hell, she tasted, on average, 6 additional flavors at every shop, before deciding on what she would actually order and consume, so realistically, she probably tasted 50 additional flavors during the span of 3 days. After an excessive afternoon of gelato indulgence and “sight jisting,” the heat, sleep deprivation and the sugar crash finally caught up with us. We decided to escape the Roman sun and catch the subway back to our place, but not without a little unexpected excitement. “FMF” somehow got stuck between the tussling arms of a Gypsy pick-pocketer and the would be “victim” who caught her in the act. At one point, “FMF” got pulled off the train as part of the scuffle, I believe I came to the rescue by forcing an escape route and quickly yanked “FMF” back onto the train. After all that drama, an afternoon nap was definitely in order.
We spent that evening in the quaint Trastevere neighbourhood along the Tiber river. More food, more gelato, more awesome sights. After a mediocre meal at the hipster Bir e Fud (the exception being the Nduja di Spilinga with bruleed Provola cheese), we hit up Fior di Luna and another location of Fatamograna. You should have seen the look of disappointment on “FMF’s” face when we arrived at the last gelateria of the night and they had already closed. I found it hard to believe that the store employee did not succumb to her pleading glances, when reality set in and it became obvious that there would be no more gelato that day. She limited out at 22 scoop and though I’m sure she could have easily eaten another 10 scoops, she truly earned the title of “The Gelato Beast.” By the way, for you ice cream vs gelato people, here is my 2 cents on the matter; gelato is just the Italian word for ice cream. There are a ton of ways to make ice cream with varying techniques and ingredients and there are a ton of ways to make gelato with varying techniques and ingredients, so in my book, it’s pretty hard to say gelato is superior to ice cream or vice versa. Generalizations about gelato and ice cream are exactly that, generalizations. Also, a little off topic, but a travel tip for the next time you’re in Rome, go check out the sights late at night. 2am is an absolutely perfect time of day, there are no tourists around and you get amazing private viewings of Rome’s most spectacular monuments.
Rented a “big boy” scooter and hit up a traditional Roman trattoria called Flavio Al Velavevodetto for a delicious lunch. There was some killer straciatella with anchovies, classic cacio e pepe pasta, a robust stew of offal and red wine, some tasty braised greens, followed by an ultra-rich chocolatey version of tiramisu. We then spent a few hours exploring the amazing food halls at Eataly Rome. Amazing charcuterie, fresh cheeses, ultra fresh seafood and meat, pastas, olive oils, you name it, nothing but the finest food products available in Italy. I could only dream that one day we could have a store like that in Vancouver. That afternoon, a little more scootering and a lot more gelato highlighted by the soft serve gelato at Eataly, the salted peanut at Vice and the trio of pistachio at Otaleg. I don’t find too many foods disgusting, but I was completely grossed out by the cacio e pepe flavoured gelato from Otaleg. What a great combination for pasta, but what a horrible union for ice cream. Unique is definitely not always a good thing.
That night, we enjoyed an al fresco dinner at another classic Roman trattoria called Cesar Cucina Romana Casareccia. What an outstanding Roman feast of suppli, eggplant croquettes, fried octopus, gnocchi, pasta with bacala, braised oxtail and soulful tripa alla Romana. I can’t remember all the dishes, but that tripe was perfection and what we had been seeking for the past few days. Fatty, sticky, unctuous, deliciousness, finished with pungent Pecorino cheese; I felt like a victorious Roman soldier after eating this profound dish.
After dinner, even more scootering, a midnight snack of traditional Roman pizza and fried salt cod at Pizzeria Nuovo Mondo and then we “re-stumbled” upon what turned out to be my favorite gelateria in Rome, Gelateria la Romana. It was around 12:30am and there was a line up of 50+ people on an ordinary Monday night. I couldn’t believe it. “FMF” was like a kid on Christmas day, super hyper, checking out all the different stuff, taking lots of pictures and chatting with the staff and locals trying to get the inside scoop. Their classic flavour Creme dal 1947 was gelato perfection to me and is now the ideal that lives on as a taste memory in my food loving mind. A little more scooter action, a few late night laps around the Colosseum and some other classic sites and we decided to call it a night.
Though I won’t get into too many details, let’s just say our adventure did not end that night at 3am. Rumour has it, there was a “mysterious key incident,” a sketchy all night cafe, some “chatty Bangladeshis” and a rather chilly Roman sunrise. Some way, some how, we survived our adventure, made it to the airport just in time for boarding and slept most of the way across the Atlantic.
If you’ve read all the way to this point, thank you for putting up with my verbose recap. To be honest, I’ve skipped a lot of descriptions and details, because if I didn’t, these post would be 10 times as long and really, really boring. Sorry, I cook food for a living and I realize I’m not an overly eloquent writer of words. I just feel so fortunate to have seen, eaten and experienced so many amazing things during my inaugural sojourn to Italy. Special thanks to “Follow Me Foodie” for being an “exceptional and fluffy” travel companion and without her, this trip would have been a totally different beast. What a breath taking trip to Italy, what an eye opening journey and I can’t wait to visit you again. Grazie mille Italia!