WRITTEN BY HRH THE QUEEN OF KUTCH.
If there is a cuisine I absolutely love over all other cuisines, it has to be Italian. So our Italian holiday was quite consciously centered around food shopping, food markets, food stores, and, of course, eating. Three days in spectacular Siena had already immersed us in the wonderful pastas, meats, salamis, Panini’s and pizzas of Italy and we were hoping to continue our gastronomic journey in Rome.
The area where we were staying in Rome was pretty much the Mayfair of Rome if you get my drift. Very upmarket, full of fancy stores and home to all the marquee brand hotels. Didn’t bode well for really good Romano restaurants. But, were willing to give it our best shot.
After an efficient check-in we wandered off to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. A walk that seems immensely doable on the map but since we took many wrong turns and got lost a few times, we ended up walking way more than we expected to. Back at the hotel, we asked the concierge to recommend a restaurant close by that served good, non-touristy food. Restaurants with spruiking and touting really put us off. After some deliberation we settled on one restaurant barely 500 meters from our hotel, and, what a good decision it was.
Restaurant Girarrosto Fiorentino which was started in the 60’s is a family owned restaurant which celebrates ‘dolce vita’ in the truest sense. Everything about the restaurant was harked back to a golden era of indulgence, elegance and style. Real cloth table cloths on the tables, starched white napkins [or laptops as the Gourmet Lawyer calls them] carpets and an feel of the good old days. Waiters in white suits, an aging Maître De with the best, most charming manners, and, table side service had us being caught in a suspension of disbelief for a short time. This restaurant was not just about the quality of food but also the theatre of food which does add so much to the dining experience.
The menu was extensive and many things caught our eye. After deliberation we settled on the Tortellini Brodo and the Beef Carpaccio for our first course. Florentine Steak from the famous Chianina cattle as our shared main course.
Chianina Beef comes from a breed of cattle from the provinces of Arezzo and Siena in the region of Tuscany, Italy. The production of this beef is highly controlled by the CCBI Association ("Consorzio Produttori Carne Bovina Pregiata delle Razze Italiane.") and new-born calves have to be registered with the association, and meat from them has to be certified. Packaging of the meat can only take place in authorized places. Each package will have a number on it representing the animal the meat came from.
The Tortellini Brodo was absolutely delicious with the tastiest most well-seasoned umami broth I have had in a long time. The Carpaccio, also with Chianina Beef, was absolutely beautiful. The quality of the meat was so good; it literally melted on your tongue. The Arugula and Pecorino added to the dish and the olive oil was outstanding. So outstanding in fact was the olive oil, that we bought a bottle of the olive oil from the restaurant when we finished our meal.
|Carpaccio with Arugula & Parmesan|
But the best was yet to come! Out came the most gigantic piece of meat I have ever had. It was the Florentine Steak which is a T-bone with the Rib Eye and fillet on the bone. The server carved the meat table side and I was happy to see it was just perfectly seared but still very very pink. Absolutely superb meat. That’s `the thing'. When you have a really good product, you don’t need to do anything fancy to it. Just cook it simply and well and you have a winner dish. We were very happy with our meal. Food in Rome was off to an absolutely flying start.
|Green vegetable to accompany - Asparagus, Artichoke and Spinach|
|Dessert - Ricotta Cake|
The next day after a few hours at the awe inspiring Collleseum we had a dinner reservation at the very chic Pier Luigi. This restaurant was started way back in 1938 and has been run by the family ever since. In the ‘80s the then young Roberto Lisi took over the reins of the restaurant and transformed the small family-run trattoria into an upscale restaurant.
By the 90s the restaurant had become the pioneer of fish in the Roman culinary landscape. We were seated at an outdoor table overlooking a charming seemingly private square. The service was very attentive and refined and the menu interesting. For our first course we had the very Roman Pasta Amatriciana. A traditional Italian pasta sauce based on Guanciale (cured pork cheek), Pecorino cheese, and tomato. Very decent but neither of us were really wowed. We were sure there were better versions of Amatriciana available elsewhere.
Mains were Suclking Pig for The Gourmet Lawyer and Frito Misto for me. Again, both good but nothing to set our taste buds dancing.
Day 3 saw us at the Roman Forum and the unbelievable store Eataly for lunch and some shopping. Dinner was at the trendy, slightly rough and very foodie Travestere area. But our dinner restaurant Checco er Caretierre was absolutely non-touristy and run by two rather grim sisters. This was an absolutely superb restaurant. Large, wooden tables, wooden floors, long strings of garlic hanging from the wooden ceiling and tons and tons of photographs decorating the wooden walls. The atmosphere was completed by the gruff, slightly eccentric waiters. A carafe of their house wine set the mood and led on an absolutely wonderful meal. We started with an order of Fiori di Zucca: Zucchini flowers, deep fried and filled with mozzarella cheese and anchovies. Delicious!
|Fiori di Zucca|
For our first course we shares a Spaghetti Carbonara, a pasta dish from Rome made with eggs, cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), bacon (Guanciale or Pancetta), and pepper. This was obviously one of the specialties of the restaurant because we saw many many plates of it coming out of the kitchen. The Carbonara was the real McCoy, made with only egg, the egg forming the sauce. This was not a Gujju version made with a bland white sauce. It was excellent.
The second course for The Gourmet Lawyer was Saltimbocca and I had what was perhaps my dish of the trip - Coda alla Vaccinara - oxtail stewed until tender and buttery, in savoury tomato sauce. The depth of flavour packed into that tomato sauce was absolutely staggering. The oxtail was so tender it fell off the bone at the touch of my fork. It was a dish I literally licked clean.
|Coda alla Vaccinara - oxtail|
For our last dinner in Rome and Italy we went back to the lovely Restaurant Girarrosto Fiorentino from our first night. This time we stayed away from the steak and focussed on the rest of the menu. We started with their special selection of salami. Fresh, moist, incredible good quality sliced on order from the many hams they had, and, absolutely perfect.
Our first course was a Risotto with Fontina and asparagus. Really really well made. And for our mains, The Gourmet Lawyer had another Saltimbocca alla Romana and I had a fillet steak with a champagne and black truffle sauce. Again, the quality of the meat was just outstanding and the sauce was such a perfect complement to the meat. The sauce it always used to accentuate the flavour of the meat, never to drown or disguise it.
|Risotto with Fontina and asparagus|
|Saltimbocca alla Romana|
|Fillet steak with a Champagne and black Truffle sauce|
|A fantastic dessert - Vodka & Limoncello|
|Complementary - Vin Santo & Biscuits|
A fabulous end to a fabulous gourmet week.