Thursday, February 25, 2010

Roman holiday: La parte due

A pizzeria sighting and great Roman graffiti!

Please welcome guest bloggers Peanut Butter and Jelly, foodie friends recently back from a vacation in Rome. In the second half of their guest post, Peanut Butter shares some of their experiences eating out and reviews their three favourite restaurants. —Asha

Both lunch and dinner are served on the later side, which suits us well. Some restaurants don't open for lunch until 12:30 or 1 p.m.

A full meal at a restaurant consists of a small appetizer, a primi (usually a medium-sized portion of pasta) and a secondi (usually a meat dish with a few veggies).

We did not consider the service slow as much as leisurely. Generally speaking, the food was very good or excellent, sometimes regardless of price point. We did encounter a few misses but not too many.

Mind you, we followed a few important rules when eating out:

* We followed our noses and smelled the restaurant once inside.

* We avoided restaurants where there was someone outside who was aggressively waving for us to come in or yelling after us in English. This was actually a tip from Eyewitness' Top 10 Rome guidebook that stated “no self respecting Roman would go to such a restaurant and neither should you.”

* We avoided restaurants on main streets near major tourist attractions (which is somewhat difficult as Rome is teeming with these). Some of the best places to eat are on side streets and not much to look at.

* We tried to order what the restaurant is best at. For example, if we were at a pizzeria, we ordered pizza.

* We steered clear of “tourist menus.”

Of the many restaurants that we tried over our 12 days in Rome, here are our favourite three:

Il Bocconcino
Via Ostilia, 23, phone 06 77079175

The luscious menu at Il Bocconcino.

This is the restaurant that we were the most impressed with and we were lucky enough to visit twice. It has a rustic, welcoming feel and the staff were patient when explaining in detail all the items on the Italian menu. We started with the antipasto plate, which was plentiful and had a decadent array of cheeses, meats as well some interesting baked goods. The rigatoni carbonara was the best carbonara we had on vacation (this is a common Roman pasta dish consisting of pasta, bacon, parmesan cheese and egg). The rabbit medallions in red wine sauce were tender and juicy and so good that we came back and ordered this item for a second time. We also enjoyed the artichoke torte; while not the strongest item on the menu, it was good nevertheless. We skipped our usually daily gelato and went for dessert. We split a chocolate cake that was similar to a soft, chewy brownie. Molto buono!

Piazza Delle Coppelle 44, phone 39.06.683.078.95

This was a restaurant that Jelly had researched ahead of time and wanted to try. After we made our reservation we discovered that it was in a few tourist handbooks, which explained the number of tourists we saw there. But in fact, we benefited from their presence — during dinner we met some interesting American tourists who were nice enough to give us their tickets for that night's midnight mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

But I digress, the food...

We shared artichoke cooked in white wine and garlic, unexpectedly good. We cut into it easily, and it was a nice starter. For our primi, we tried a gorgonzola and pear gnocchi and a red-lettuce risotto that was subtle in taste and quite a refreshing change from the heavier flavours usually found in risotto. Although a good pairing of ingredients, the gnocchi itself was not as good as we tasted at Casa Coppelle (the next review below). Our two secondis this night were osso bucco and carpaccio. The osso bucco was good, but the carpaccio was excellent. It consisted of paper-thin slices of uncooked tender beef, covered in arugula and parmesan cheese, and served with olive and balsamic. The meat almost dissolved in your mouth and we enjoyed every last bite.

Casa Coppelle
Piazza Delle Coppelle 49, phone 39.06.6889.1707

The atmosphere and friendly staff also set this restaurant apart. The highlight was the gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce. This was by far the best gnocchi I had ever tasted. It was clearly made from scratch on the premises. The gnocchi did not have a sticky or heavy consistency but was rather light and tender. We also both tried the veal escalopes with lemon sauce that we a bit salty but still enjoyed it.

Nuns caught out in the rain during midnight mass in Vatican City.


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