After 20 years I finally made it back to Rome – this time to visit my daughter Maryann and her husband, Andrew. He was just finishing up a year at the American Academy as a winner of the Rome Prize for architecture. We got to stay at the Academy which sits atop the Gianicolo with a commanding view of St. Peter’s and pretty much all of Rome to the Appenine Mountains.
If you want to know about all the sights to see in Rome, get the Rick Steves book. I just want to sing the praises of the food. A few highlights:
The coffee: It’s everywhere. There must be thousands of coffee bars in the city all serving perfect little cups of espresso topped with a foamy crema. Each morning started with a dopio and either a freshly made scone or a cornetti (croissant) sometimes filled with pastry cream or chocolate. Forget scrambled eggs and bacon in this town. They love their sweet pastries and bitter coffee.
The market: My favorite was the Campo deFiore
where you can buy everything from clothing to zucchini blossoms. They seem to have an interesting, three-tiered pricing system. The highest price (usually listed on a makeshift card) is for tourists who don’t speak Italian. Slightly lower prices can be negotiated if you speak Italian. And finally, the locals have the rock bottom prices. Actually, it all looked reasonable to me given the quality and variety of the fruits and vegetables. We also visited similar markets in Trastevere and Tastaccio. They really love their zucchini. Most markets had several varieties and bushels full of blossoms for stuffing and frying.
Street Food: Of course there are pannini and pizza everywhere. But we stumbled into a place called FORNO right on the Campo deFiore that had the freshest, most delicious versions of Roman pizza we had all week. I walked around to the ovens and watched as one of the bakers stretched a piece of dough until it was six feet long and thin enough to read a paper through. He slid it onto a huge peel and then directly into the ancient wood fired ovens that give a distinctive aroma and crispy finish to the final product. Inside the crowded shop they also have arancini (Sicilian Rice Balls), and Suppli (Roman Rice Balls). Next door they have another store devoted to sweets. Don’t miss the Brute ma buono. They have them all over the city but none better than here.
Restaurants: The first night we went to a place on the Gianicolo called Scarpone’s.
There’s a big shoe out front to tell you this is the place. You can sit outside under an arbor if the weather is nice and enjoy the fantastic array of antipasti and plenty of pasta choices. The next night we went to a place called Orso 80. Now here is the place for antipasti. For 15 Euros they bring out a seemingly endless stream of dishes from fragrant proscuitti on ripe cantelope to meatballs in tomato sauce, fried peppers, celery and anise salad, potatoes and mushrooms, stuffed and fried zucchini blossoms, sauteed zucchini slices, eggplant, beans, and on and on. Only go here if you are really hungry!
You can check out their website at www.orso80.it
Two of our most memorable meals were at the Academy. One night I cooked a meal of Chicken Cutlets (ala Romano, of course) and Pasta Cucozza using the small Roman zuchinni that have pronounce ridges.
And then for the 4th of July we had a real America picnic under the Olive trees in the Academy garden with burgers, home made potato chips and watermelon for dessert.
If there is any interest, I’ll post recipes for some of the dishes from our Roman adventure. Ciao!