While we were in Rome we worked and we ate. I wrote four thousand words; Scott about thirteen thousand. I am thoughtful writer, who thinks about her words, okay? Or something. Like Scott had an immediate deadline and I did not. My deadline’s not till August, which is AGES away.
The eating was way more fun than the writing, not that it wasn’t fun. I like my four thousand words but not as much as I loved these restaurants:
Via G Pagliari 11
06 854 8438
This is a neighbourhood restaurant with a simple but elegant fit out. The owner was a total sweetheart whose good English made up for our non-existent Italian. The food was also simple but elegant. My favourite dish was home-made ricotta with roasted tomato and zucchini and intense wild mint. Though Scott’s artichoke soufflé was also pretty amazing. Way more artichoke than soufflé. Served with dried roasted artichoke. Though all the food was fabulous and the owner was very helpful picking a wine for us as neither Scott nor I know much about Italian wine.
I really loved the pace of this place. I never felt rushed. The long breaks between courses were very welcome. And we were given much help designing our vegie repast. The Waitress was also charming. She didn’t speak English (and why should she?) but did speak Spanish. Was fun getting to use my extremely rusty Spanish.
Vicolo della Campana 18
La Campana is very old school, which befits a place that’s supposed to be Rome’s oldest restaurant. The waiters were mostly older blokes and spoke almost no English. We muddled by on my Spanish and guess work, which made everything that much more fun. The place cooks only traditional Italian (mostly) Roman food. Everything we had was wonderful. My favourite dish was (again) a salad. A huge oval of mozzarella di bufala with tomatoes and rocket. The tomatoes were sublime: sweet and firm and probably the best tomatoes I have ever eaten. Their skin was mostly red with some green and yellow striping and the seeds a dark green. I’m desperate to figure out what they were. Yum! The cheese was also sensational and bears no resemblance to the substance of the same name I’ve had in Australia and the US. (We actually had the same tomatoes at lunch at Cantina Cantarini Piazza Sallustio, 12—a very simple mostly fish restaurant that we also enjoyed heaps).
I ordered the wine at every restaurant we went to La Campana was the only one where they had Scott taste it. I did say old school. They also automatically gave him the cheque.
Vicolo Del Cinque, 58 Traselevere, Roma
This was our favourite meal. Prices were very reasonable and the food was adventurous, well-executed, and delicious. Definitely not old school. This time my favourite course was my main: monk fish with almond cous cous and yellowy orangey reduction that I cannot remember what it was but it was wonderful and a sprinkling of chili. The whole thing was amazing. Dessert was sublime. We both had the orange and pavlova dish. Which was several orange segments in a line with salt and paprika sprinkled on them and then a big round kinder-surprise looking meringue filled with orange gelato with a kind of sherberty mixture at the bottom. It resembled an egg and was deeply fabulous. Even the bread was amazing. It came on a long platter with two slices of each kind which ranged from regular sourdough through to black squid ink bread.
The restaurant has a really fun fit out with dangling lights and plenty of glass. Including the tables. The wait staff are young and lovely, though sometimes a wee bit confused. The sommelier was spot on though and we wound up having the best wine we’ve had so far on this trip: a 1999 Gaja Chardonnay “Gaja e Rey”. I want it again!
The chef, Cristina Bowerman, came out to talk to us because there was almost nothing on the menu for vegetarian Scott. She was utterly charming and organised a fabulous meal for Scott that included coffee quinoa and chickory. It turned out she trained in Austin and spoke well of the wonderful restaurant we’d been to there, The Driskill Grill. Her favourite restaurants in NYC are our faves: Per Se and WD-50.
I wish we’d had longer in Rome. We didn’t manage to get in at La Pergola, which some say is the best in Rome. But there were also gazillions of neighbourhood restaurants I wanted to explore. Oh, yeah, and I guess we should have checked out the Colosseum and the Pantheon and that stuff. Did I mention we were working? Novels don’t write themselves you know! And hungry writers cannot work. Their mind’s wander and they start typing the same thing over and over again. It was essential for our careers that good food be our priority.
In short: Rome is now on my list of cities I could live in.
For a city to make this list it must be pedestrian friendly, have really good food and wine, and I must have, you know, been there. The other cities on the list are: Sydney, Melbourne, New York, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Paris, Mexico City.
I’m also very fond of Bologna, Salamanca, San Miguel de Allende, and Dunedin, but suspect they are all too small to live in for more than three months or so. Bangkok, on the other hand, is a bit too big, though I’d definitely love to go back and stay for a few months. Such good food there! Yum.
Oh, look at the time. I must away to my next meal.
What are your favourite food cities?