Anyone who knows me, and probably also those who don’t, will be aware that I adore Italian food. Cuisine is an important part of any trip we make and we certainly give the quality of food a significantly higher weighting when it comes to evaluating places we visit. As much as there is to see in Rome, I was also very excited to enjoy more Italian food.
Upon arrival in Rome we sought out a light lunch as it was quite late. Unfortunately the sandwich shop I planned for us to eat was nowhere to be found. We instead ate at a virtually empty restaurant where we sweltered from lack of air conditioning. Richard enjoyed a pleasant clam pasta which was refreshing and generously portioned. I tried my first buccatini alla amatriciana; one of the iconic dishes of Rome. The pasta, buccatini, is a swimming noodle in pasta form. The hole through the centre of the spaghetti-like strands allows for an excellent sauce to pasta ratio. The sauce is a simple tomato base with onions and local ham. I regret to report that it was gloopy and too salty.
A highly recommended place near the Trevi Fountain is Pane e Salami. It’s a small restaurant with mostly low tables suitable for the most casual of eating. It was completely packed and even though it was due to close within the hour, a crowd had formed outside of hopeful people waiting for a space. There was no hope of us getting a table so we ordered take away sandwiches to eat sitting in front of the Trevi Fountain. The scene was basically perfect; the most beautiful fountain, a hot night, bustling crowds and an Italian sandwich. If only the sandwich was a tad nicer! The bread was great but the cured meat very fatty without a lot of flavour. There are not many things more disappointing than a lackluster meal in Italy. I was beginning to despair.
Day two produced far more satisfying results. Between our two walking tours we grabbed more sandwiches which were far better than our previous attempt to get on the panini train. A highlight was the porchetta in mine which was flavourful and hearty.
Our touring ended in Piazza Navona and we were utterly exhausted. We sought dinner at Bernini Ristorante. Being in a touristy piazza, I was slightly doubtful but pleasantly surprised to have the best meal of our trip there. We began with refreshing bruschetta followed by carbonara and more buccatini alla amatriciana; both really hit the spot. We had fit a lot of sightseeing into a short period of time, battling crowds and heat, but now we were sat looking down the length of Piazza Navona as the sun set, cool drinks in hand and bellies full – we had properly arrived in Italy.
In the summer it is impossible to resist all the gelato stores in Italy and really, why should you? Twice, we sought out a refreshing lemon and mint granita from a store called Grom. It’s a chain store but still serves up excellent cooling treats. We also had a strawberry sorbet, slurped with gusto in the shade.
Our final proper meal in Italy was at a restaurant with slow service even by Italian standards. It was a good temperature for sitting and not moving a lot so we were both reasonably happy to laze about enjoying a satisfying meal. My starter was a dish that could have only been conceived on a hot Italian day; juicy slices of lemon with thin sheets of prosciutto. Richard enjoyed a large bowl of black mussels; always an interactive dish that produces a satisfying amount of slurping and hums of appreciation. Beside us was a table of 6 or 7 very loud people having a crazy conversation in a combination of English, German, Italian and Spanish. It was obviously a very multicultural group of young travellers but I did find myself wishing they would keep it down slightly so we could have a conversation of our own. Richard’s favourite dish of the trip was enjoyed here; a simple but perfectly executed pasta with fresh tomatoes, chili and garlic. Continuing on my theme of repetition, I tried yet another carbonara which was excellent. As with all the other tables that left before us, we eventually got sick of waiting to pay and simply went to inside to do so. It’s a little unusual in Europe but the food was great at least!
While we started the food journey with disappointing results, Rome turned around and showed off fine cuisine that captured what I love about Italian cooking. Fresh and good quality ingredients cooked simply without fuss – delizioso!