Postcard from Rome, Italy: Offering up a few “last suppers”

These final food photos from our stay in Rome offer a few more glimpses into the confusing multitude of choices available when seeking sustenance in a city of 2.87-million people. TripAdvisor lists close to 6,000 establishments classified as “Italian Restaurants” in Rome.

These are merely listed alphabetically:

Enoteca Buccone – Tables are tucked among well-stocked shelves of wine from which you can select or ask for recommendations without restaurant mark-ups in price.

Knick Knack Yoda – Casual, funky spot with great burger layered with grilled eggplant, spinach and fig jam, but avoid ordering the absurdly expensive bottle of wine with it. Stick with beer.

L’Asino d’Oro – Best part, selecting trio of desserts to share.

Ombre Rosse in Trastevere – Always bustling spot for pizza and salad (spinach and walnut soup featured at top).

Pasta e Vino Come na Vorta – I am bratty about ordering at the counter and being served on paper plates with plastic utensils, but the Mister would have returned often for the rich flavors of coda alla vaccinara, oxtail stew.

Pizza Rustica – One of Rome’s most heralded pizza-by-the-slice spots.

Poldo e Gianna Osteria – Best part of the meal was the pear poached in red wine for dessert.

Popolo Caffe – Crowded, unpretentious neighborhood restaurant with basic good Italian food.

Ristorante Al Borghetto -The risotto with oxtail was among the best risotto dishes ever, but countered by the ridiculously parsimonious presentation of not-inexpensive ceviche.

Ristorante Virginiae – Enjoyed all courses of our fixed-price lunch here.

So many restaurants. So little time.

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 Rome, Italy: Finally, a food break for you

This blog has been dragging you through museum after museum and church after church in Rome, even through my museum meltdown, without one food break. Time to forget art and culture and be honest about why we really travel to Italy. To eat.

This first food post represents an unusual grouping of what ended up being our favorite spots. Even though we traipsed miles across Rome every day, three of these were within three blocks of our apartment.

Let’s get right to a full confession. Our absolute favorite restaurant in Rome is a vegetarian one, Arancia Blu. That luscious stuffed red onion above, roasted until sweet and tender and resting in a pool of red pepper sauce, is among the offerings that seduced us back for repeat visits. Whether a warm bean salad, a crispy radicchio lasagna, chickpea with walnut ravioli, pumpkin ravioli, creamy risotto topped with fried artichoke or pistachio sorbet with caramelized pear – we loved everything we tried. The inside of Arancia Blu is like sitting in a friend’s personal library; outside tables are perched on a side street with little traffic.

We stumbled almost directly off the plane to set our forks twirling in our first plate of that Roman classic pasta dish, cacio e pepe. The rich sauce is the result of few ingredients – aged Pecorino Romano cheese, water from the pasta and a proper dose of freshly ground black pepper. We lucked out because our neighborhood Caffe Vergnano 1882 on Piazzale Flaminio turned out some of the best we tried.

Yes, you can find Caffe Vergnano affiliated coffee spots numerous places, but this location has a chef hidden inside. There is no printed menu, only a blackboard outside listing a couple of pastas and no prices. Reasonable enough in pricing to attract locals, the contemporary spot generally is bustling, which offers a chance to peer at the regulars’ tables and realize there are more dishes than the server recites. Spying is how we discovered one of the best vegetable platters in Rome for us to share with our pasta dishes. More roasted fennel, please.

And, when we were not too overstuffed from lunch, we would swing by Mondo Arancina Flaminio for Sicilian-style arancini to-go. The freshly made balls of rice were filled with things like spinach, prosciutto and cheese, mozzarella and peas or eggplant ragout before frying. Okay, another confession. We were always overstuffed but would grab some for the approaching wine hour anyway.

The final place in this post was way off the beaten tourist track; TripAdvisor only has seven reviews in English posted. We only made the trek once to La Gallina Capricciosa, but the meal was memorable. We barely snagged two seats in the packed family-run, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The Mister’s Spanish worked fine here, as we were probably the only customers without Peruvian blood running in our veins. We way over-ordered, and the waiter was nice enough to eliminate one of our dishes. We started with fried yucca and an inexpensive, extremely generous serving of fresh ceviche in leche de tigre with the traditional corn and sweet potato on the side. We scarcely made a dent in our shared order of seafood rice.

I promise, more Italian dishes later.