Postcards from Rome, Italy: Foraging off the beaten track

Taking another quick food break.

Glancing down the street from the corner, one would not be at all tempted to turn down Mantova street in Rome. We only found it because we wanted a lunch spot in semi-close proximity to MACRO and noticed a Berbere Pizzeria was nearby.

We previously had become acquainted with a Berbere in Bologna. The pizzerias are known for the slow-rise, highly “digestible” (We have never understood this foodie-ism issue.) crust topped with fresh local ingredients. The zucchini pie did not disappoint.

Eating outside, we noticed locals going into two establishments on the other side of the street. Looking online for reviews of them later, we found the super-majority of the contributors posting in Italian. Via Montova is not in the tourist zone.

The chef at Il Salento in una Stanza Vini e Cucina seduced us quickly with two amuse bouche offerings – cute little puffballs of fried bread and the best fried anchovies we had on the trip. I wanted to cancel my order and beg for a plateful of anchovies. The meatless-balls in a red pepper sauce were composed of eggplant, and the photo of the fish soup shows its amazing bounty. Looking back at the photos, I’m wishing we had made it back for another lunch.

The pasta with Sicilian tuna at Osteria Via Mantova was a refreshingly different seafood dish, and the flavorful chestnut gnocchi with a hearty lamb ragout was the only such offering we encountered.

And to think we ate it all on Mantova Street. The rewards from venturing away from the crowds often are savory.

Postcard from Mexico City: ‘For Main Course We’ll Have That’

Am slinging out these final food shots from our fall visit to Mexico City like a short-order cook in a bad diner, but I am off taking new photos of meals in an entirely different spot on the map.

Most of these are from the Roma Norte neighborhood where we stayed. Am keeping my comments at a minimum, so the pictures will have to serve in helping you decide about restaurants when journeying there yourself.

Particularly enjoyed the abundance of vegetable dishes, including a no-pasta spaghetti, at Bowie Cocina de Humo, but the restaurant does take its name seriously. Every course is tinged with smoke-infused flavor. By the end of the meal, my mouth almost felt as though I’d been smoking. We found the much-heralded Nudo Negro with its show-off parade up to the kitchen to receive your amuse-bouche from the hands of a chef a tad bit pretentious, but the long-roasted eggplant, split open and topped with humus tableside, melts in your mouth.

There must be thousands of less expensive places to eat a Mexican-style breakfast in Mexico City, but the park-facing patio of Café Toscano on Orizaba is so pleasant the higher price tag was absorbed without question. Both the red and green chilaquiles are wonderful, and the fresh juice combinations round out the meals.

We loved the neighborhood comfort feeling of having pizza on the patio at Cancino Roma or shrimp arancini and a bowl of robust roasted tomato soup at Macelleria, where, as you can see from the featured photo, the restaurant correctly profiled us with the name of the house wine. Few tables at the popular Huset fail to order avocado pizza.

The variety and freshness of ingredients and recipes never disappointed us at Delirio. Fresh salads and sandwiches, moussaka and falafel and fresh meringues are among the celebrated bakery’s fare.

Veering even farther away from stereotypical Mexican food, the curries and toms at Galanga Thai Kitchen are worth seeking. The green papaya salad in particular drew us out for a return visit. With its flavorful chicken, roasted eggplant and falafel moistened with spinach, Paprika enticed us back for multiple meals as well.

From there, jump into downtown for the old-school formality of service in the high-ceilinged Casino Espanol, worthy of entering for viewing the stained-glass in its Porfirio-era home alone. The croquetas, boquerrones and seafood soup transported us to Spain.

We almost avoided Casino Espanol after reading a review describing it as the type of restaurant attracting old suits entertaining young mistresses, but there were only a pair or two seeming to fit in that category. The poor Mister and Vic, unsuited and in the company of old wives.

Whether squiring old spouses or young paramours, diving into a throwback to the past is a recommended ingredient balancing out all the trendy contemporary kitchens so abundant in this bustling culinary capital.

 

 

Postcard from Mexico City: Trolling for seafood in Roma Norte

We kept trying to find just the right seafood fit for our tastes while we were in Mexico City. The ceviche de atun with ginger at the reasonably priced Marlindo was among our favorite dishes, and the shrimp atop a tostada were beautiful. But Marlindo definitely is an ultra-casual neighborhood spot without much atmosphere, better for grabbing a quick bite than for lingering over a bottle of wine.

El Parnita is amazingly popular and bustling, but the dishes failed to excite us. On the other hand, we found ourselves the only ones in the dining room for lunch at Lucas Local. But the softshell crab sandwich at Lucas Local was phenomenal, and the pulpo and dried shrimp ceviche was refreshingly good and imaginatively presented in a coconut shell. Softshell crab is never easy enough for this Chesapeake Bay girl to find; wishing I had returned for seconds.

Our final week, we finally hit our favorite spot, Campo Baja. Casual, bustling rooftop with an open-kitchen concept, and it was not even a full block away from our apartment. The approach to each dish was distinctively different, making wandering through numerous shared plates feel as though we were venturing into new territory.

If you are visiting the neighborhood, hope our photos help you find the right spot to suit your seafood mood.