Thursday, May 28, 2015

Provisional dining

"La Riviera", Arignano, 28 May, 2015—
LONG DRIVE TODAY, and we ate very casually — out of bakeries, salumerias, and the like. Lunch was bread and salami at a rest stop, washed down with water. Dinner a little better: the same, followed by a delicious melon we bought the other day and have been ripening. Tomorrow will be better, but I should not two coppette of gelato: cream and fior di latte, of course, snd my belief it is that the Gelateria Pino Pistacchio is one of the best I've run into.

• Gelateria Pino Pistacchio, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 73/A, Chieri; 011 9414241
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Slow food

 Grosseto, 27 May, 2015— 

A QUICK SURVEY of restaurants discussed on the popular websites turned up what looked like a serious and interesting place just a hundred meters from our hotel, and barring a glacial pace it turned out to be quite rewarding.

After a complimentary glass of Banfi frizzante I dove into a delicious mound of Tartara di Chianina, lightly accompanied by shallot, cornichon, chopped carrots, and a hen's egg. Chianina is Tuscan, not Piemontese, and lacks the distinctive sweetness of the Fossone I had the other day, but this was delicious just the same, especially with lavender-lemon flavored sea salt.

Afterward, Pici alla selvaggina di Maremma: very nice house-made thick spaghetti, cooked just right, in a ragout involving cinghiale, wild pig. No complaints.

Sangiovese-Merlot blend, Tenuta Gramineta (Tuscany), 2014
• Ristorante Enoteca Wine-Bar L'Uva e il Malto, Via Mazzini 165, Grosseto; 0564 411211
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants


Back to Litro; on to Enzo

Viale di Villa Pamphili, May 26, 2015—

TWO LAST MEALS for the time being in the Eternal City, both en famille — wife, daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, boy friend. Because of employment constraints, lunch at Litro again, where this time instead of vegetables I concenrated on meat, having noticed battuto di fassone on the menu. Fassone: a familiar word, untranslatable by Google, unknown by the fluent Italian speakers at the table, so we're reduced to asking — oh yes; it's the breed of cattle specific to Piemonte, where the beef is so sweet, so clean, so beautifully raised and prepared that it's traditional often to eat it uncooked.

But first, to nail down that northern Italian context, another serving of that excellent giardiniera, if you don't mind — the supple crispness, if that makes sense, of these pickled vegetables provide just the right foil for the smooth but nubby texture of the crudo. I could lunch like this every day.

white, in carafe

•Litro, Via Fratelli Bonnet, 5; (+39) 06 4544 7639

THEN, AFTER AN AFTERNOON strolling and shopping — and stopping in at Fatamorgana again for an excellent gelato — we accepted the urgent recommendation of our Rome host and stopped in at a very popular trattoria in Trastevere. We were thankful to sit at a table outside the door, one of a number: it was jammed inside, and the noise and the air couldn't have been comfortable, especially for a party of six.

I like pasta carbonara and amatrigiana and grigia and especially cacio e pepe as much as anyone, but I like it with fettuccine, or tagliatelle, or even spaghetti if necessary; I've developed a quite ridiculous dislike — well, disaffection — for penne or rigatoni. And that's what the pasta is here. Oh, my Roman relatives claimed, that's traditional here in Rome, it's always rigatoni. Goed so. Not at, for example, da Lucia; not at, for example, Perilli. But I bite my tongue, and do not order pasta.

Instead, after a quite delicious artichoke alla giudia, flattened and fried crisp, I went directly to my secondo: as delicious a saltimbocca alla romana as I've ever had, the veal and prosciutto flavors perfectly balanced, the sage leaf pungent and fresh, the pan liquor salty and savory. And then, since I was still hungry, the abbacchio also alla romana, grilled lamb flavored with garlic, sage, a hint of rosemary, and a few drops of olive oil; salt and pepper of course, and a bit of juice squeezed from the lemon garnish. Again: perfectly cooked, and perfectly delicious.

white (Trebbiano) and red in carafe

•Trattoria da Enzo al 29, Via dei Vascellari 29, Roma; 06 581 2260

Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Monday, May 25, 2015

Wine bar

Viale Villa Pamphili, May 25, 2015—
WE WENT AT THE SUGGESTION of our granddaughter, who works nearby and finds it a convenient place for lunch. Litro has ambitions, as its website will suggest — particularly in the direction of organic and even biodynamic food and wine. This does not keep it from offering an amazing selection of Mezcals, of all things; and, hidden away on the menu, a "cocktail martini," which of course I ordered, even though it is neither Friday nor Saturday. (They're fungible, and I haven't had one since May 2.)

Soon after ordering it a young woman came to the table to verify that that was indeed what I wanted, and did I want it extra dry, or dry, or what? Dry, I said, but not too dry, with vermouth in it, and lemon rather than olives. And soon enough there it was, not cold enough of course, and made with a sweeter (but white) vermouth than I'm used to, but not bad.

With it I had various vegetables. This giardiniera, for example, made according to a recipe from the Veneto I was told, with cauliflower, red sweet pepper, carrot, and onion, in a perfect agrodolce swee-sour vinaigrette. The vegetables were crisp and retained all their flavor: this was beautifully made.

I had pickled artichoke hearts, too, served with mushroom caps and a few leaves of lettuce — very nice.

BruschettaAnd I ordered bruschetta aglio e olio, simply bread — very good bread — toasted, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with good olive oil, just as we do it at home.

My companions had ordered more substantial things: a tuna salad; a serving of baccalà with potatoes. And at another table I overheard a man ordering four bottles of wine with a neutral American accent, and after we'd finished lunch I apologetically intruded on him and his companion for enlightenment. They turned out to be Georgian; at least she is; he's an American expatriated to Georgia, where he paints, runs a winery and restaurant, and shares enthusiasms for polyphonic a capella song, food and wine, and as rich and natural a lifestyle as possible — and it does seem possible. Perhaps our next jaunt should be to the Caucasus.

Muscatedda (Moscato), Marabino (Noto, Sicily), 2014: beautiful golden color, unfiltered, biodynamic, supple, reasonably dry, and delicous
Litro, Via Fratelli Bonnet, 5; (+39) 06 4544 7639
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Da Lucia

IMG 0636
via di Villa Pamphili, May 24, 2015—
THIS HAS ALWAYS BEEN one of my favorite restaurants in Rome, and I wanted it to be better than it was this time. I was worried when we approached, at 9:30 pm, and saw dozens of diners at tables out in the street. Inside, the dining rooms were also full, but for the table reserved for our party of six. Still, it's a wonderful room, and good simple menu, and good honest cooking and serving, and we enjoyed ourselves.

We did order too much. Three platters of anchovies; three plates of pasta (alla gricia; caccio e pepe), two orders of long-braised chicory, two of vignarola, which I'll explain later.

Then we went on to secondi of our choice. Mine was the veal spezzatini you see above: a simple dish I've had here once or twice before, just chunks of veal, cooked in the manner of the French blanquette de veau, served with peas, such a standby in this part of the world.

IMG 0634Speaking of peas: Vignarola is a vegetable dish involving artichoke, peas, favas, and onion. There's a recipe here, if you read Italian; I think I'll make it when we get home, if there are still fave on the market.

And, oh, those anchovies… we do love anchovies, all six of us at the table…

Poggio d'Oro (Toscana), 2014 (like most Tuscan wines, not to my taste); rosso della casa in carafe (better)
•Trattoria da Lucia, Vicolo del Mattonato 2, Roma; 06 580 3601
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Neither trattoria nor restaurant

IMG 0572
Via Villa Pamphily, May 23, 2015—
ALMOST TWO O'CLOCK Saturday afternoon: where to eat today? The first two or three places we phoned were full, of course, what with wedding parties, graduations, and whatnot.

So we did a little websurfing and my contessa came up with this place, a ten-minute walk from our apartment. And here I feasted:
Saltimbocca di Capasanta con la sua Mayonese, Patata fondente, Rapa rossa e Chips di Fiore di Zucca

Tagliolini all'Uovo con Ragú bianco di Piccione con Cipollotto Asparagi e Lamponi

Il Controfiletto di Scottona marchigiana con Lardo e Radicchio brasato
which is to say,
Sea scallops with mayonnaise, puréed potato, beetroot, and fried zucchini blossom
Egg noodles in white pigeon ragout with onion, asparagus, and raspberry

Grilled heifer steak with lardo and braised radicchio
or, basically, surf and turf.

This was a very rich meal for me — in the last few years I have not been able to eat rich foods as easily as in younger days — but I shouldered my way into the meal and did myself credit, I think.

The scallops were of course not really saltimbocche but managed to look like them, which was the point; and the preparation was both rich and delicate, very nicely balanced, with potatoes slightly tasting of white truffle.

The tagliolini were perfectly cooked, the onion and asparagus chopped and softened in olive oil along with chunks of previously cooked (I think) pigeon. The raspberries were puréed and drizzled over the completed preparation, garnished with what looked like very young purslane.

The steak, oh my, that was quite delicious, cooked perfectly to order, salted but innocent of further flavoring — well, maybe a little olive oil — and the braised radicchio a fine complement, slightly bitter, neither tender nor tough, a vegetable that can stand up to a beefsteak.

The service was friendly and knowledgeable, and the cooks quick, deft, and gifted. I would go back here any day of the week.

white, then red
•L'Osteria di Monteverde, Pietro Cartoni, 163, Roma; 06 5327 3887
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Back to Perilli

Via Viale Pamphily, Rome, May 23, 2015—
WE HADN'T KNOWN YESTERDAY when we decided to lunch at Perilli that tonight's dinner had already been reserved there — a family affair in honor of our granddaughter's graduation from the American University in Rome. There were six of us at table, three generations; we arrived a little late, about quarter of ten; and we were welcomed with very friendly hospitality.

I ate simply: an artichoke alla romana , a plate of spaghetti carbonara; another of fave with guanciale; zabaglione for dessert. Others ventured further into the menu; we were all more than content.

The artichoke was delicious, and I asked the waiter about its flavor. C'e cotto con timo ? Is it cooked with thyme? No, signore; mentuccia. In a flash he was back with a small saucer on which lay a spray of catmint and a small bowl of chopped ordinary mint. Considerable discussion ensued. It's a nepeta, says Wikipedia, who kindly provided this photo; and it's selvaggio , wild, said our waiter — another roadside botanical contributing to the rich and locally specific Italian kitchen, like the silex that flavored a memorable risotto four years ago.

We were too much immersed in family and in celebration for me to think of taking photographs; I'll refer you to yesterday's — which as it happens shows the precise table we occupied well into the night.

white and red in carafe
•Perilli a Testaccio, Via Marmorata, 39, Roma; 06 575 5100
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants