The first stop on our two week trip to Italy was Rome, mostly because we could get a direct flight to there from O’Hare (we’d be returning from Venice, through Philly, which turned out to be a total debacle).
After landing and stopping off for an Italian SIM card for my phone, we checked into our hotel and went stumbling for lunch. Our hotel wasn’t far from the Trevi Fountain so we went off in that direction. While I was looking one way, fortunately my wife was looking the other and spotted this:
Decision made. Our first meal in Rome was at La Prosciutteria. We were tired and hungry so we didn’t spend a ton of time studying the menu. We wound up just getting some simple prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella sandwiches. The bread wasn’t great, it had probably suffered from sitting around in the heat and humidity for a while, but the meat and cheese were great. The cheese especially. Nothing could have prepared me for how great the buffalo mozzarella would be the entire trip. A couple of sandwiches and glasses of Prosecco later we were feeling much better about life.
On our way out we saw other table ordering platters rather than sandwiches. If any of you wind up here, I would say the platters are actually the way to go. They looked beautifully constructed with various meats, crostini, fruit, etc. You can see them on the restaurant’s website/Facebook page. Probably my only food related regret of the trip was not making it back for one of those platters.
Dinner that night was at a little place that turned out to be right across the street from La Prosciutteria called Ristorante Sora Lucia. Highlights were the spaghetti carbonara (nice and eggy, as God intended) and a liter of their house wine for 7 Euros. The restaurant had no issues letting us linger at the table until we finished all of our wine, previewing the Italian hospitality we would enjoy the rest of the trip.
We spent the morning of day 2 touring the Vatican and the afternoon checking out the Tivoli Fountains. Lunch was at a totally unremarkable place in Tivoli, where we had some totally unremarkable pizza.
Our dinner at Roscioli that night totally made up for our mediocre lunch. Located in the back of a shop, Roscioli uses their higher-end ingredients to put out their take on a number of classic Italian dishes. Some are pretty basic and traditional, while others are a bit more modern.
We started with a gazpacho that also included pureed olives. I wasn’t nuts about it at first but the dish grew on me as we ate it. Then we had a gorgeous plate of mortadella with some shaved cheese. After that was one of the highlights of the entire trip: burrata and prawn tartare with bottarga
Magic can happen when you have a combination of ingredients this good. The burrata was perfect. The raw prawns were pristine. And the bottarga added just enough funk to make it interesting.
After that we decided we should probably get something that had been cooked, so we got the Tuscan meatballs with chestnut polenta.
The meatballs were good but there were, you know, meatballs. The polenta was the special part of this dish. Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The addition of chestnut gave the polenta a comforting quality that made it a perfect match with the meatballs (presence of Nonna unknown).
After dinner we ate gelato in front of the Pantheon, which was awesome on several levels.
The next day our guide took us on an all-day tour of the city, which wound up expanding outside of the city a bit which is where we had lunch. The family that owns the restaurant where we had lunch also owns a farm where they raise chickens. They serve this chicken in the restaurant as their specialty. It couldn’t be more simple. They take half the chicken and flatten it. Then they cook it in a cast iron pan with olive oil, salt, and white pepper with a 10 pound brick on top. The result was one of the better fried chicken dishes that I’ve had. Unfortunately I can’t find the name of the place but if anyone is curious I can try to track it down.
We didn’t have a dinner reservation for that night, but I spotted a little neighborhood place on the way home from Roscioli the night before that looked promising called Pesci Fritti.
For an appetizer we obviously started with some fried seafood. The plate included calamari, anchovies, and a bunch of different vegetables. Everything was well fried and nicely salted. Then I moved on to spaghetti vongole, one of my favorite Italian dishes and something I order at least once at almost every Italian restaurant that I go to.
This version didn’t disappoint. The pasta was perfect, like it was just about everywhere we went, and the clams were tender and sweet.
We passed on dessert but they still brought us a plate of homemade biscotti and glasses of vin santo.
Pesci Friti turned out to be a great choice. It was truly a neighborhood restaurant with not a tourist (except us) in sight.
We spent our last full day in Rome touring Pompeii and then driving back along the Amalfi coast. Before setting off for Amalfi our guide drove us up the mountain to Tramonti hoping to find some pizza. Our guide took us to a restaurant that was supposed to have good pizza, but apparently they only make it for dinner. We stayed and had some pasta, but it was our appetizer that was the highlight of the meal.
Local olives and fresh mozzarella from the farm across the street. To me, this plate was the embodiment of the food in Italy at its best. Just let simple, local, high quality ingredients speak for themselves. For dessert we had some lemon ice from a street vendor outside. The region is known for its lemons, and the ice made for a nice tart finish to our lunch.
Our last dinner in Rome was our only real high-end dinner there: Antico Arco. While everything was good, I probably enjoyed it the least out of our Rome meals. It was certainly the most “technique heavy”.
Top row left to right: Ricotta and black truffles with asparagus and egg, Piedmonts’ Fassona beef steak tartare with green beans
Bottom: Cod fillet, basil ‘panzanella’ and tarragon
After dinner we strolled over to a nearby park and hung out with locals listening to some street musicians while taking in a view of the city. Just a fantastic ending to our time in a city that I immediately fell in love with.
The next morning we were off to the airport to pick up our rental car. It was time to drive to Tuscany…
Via Della Panetteria 34
Fontana Di Trevi, 00187 Rome, Italy
Ristorante Sora Lucia
Via della Panetteria, 12
00187 Rome, Italy
via dei Giubbonari 21-22
00186 Rome, Italy
Via di Grotta Pinta 8
00186 Rome, Italy
Al Valico di Chiunzi
Via Chiunzi 91
84010 Tramonti, Italy
Piazzale Aurelio 7
00152 Roma, Italy