Rome

10 Best Things We Ate in Rome

Cannoli from Ciuri CiuriI know what you thinking.  No, I’m not auditioning for a hand model job.  Although the hands are normally this photogenic this is not the main motivation behind this post, and you should really pay more attention to the beautiful Canollo (single Connoli.  Yes you’ve been living a lie).  With that said, if you insist, who am I to prevent what people want and need.  Drop me a line at ZiggysHands@Gmail.com, also on twitter @handyjobs.

Roma delivered some tasty surprises.  I was all ready to be wowed by all the Cacios and the Pepes, and the Carbonaras, but instead I was impressed by the more familiar items like Meatballs, Mortadella, Burratas and Pizzas.  So in no particular order, our top eats in Rome…

Pizza at Da Remo – Although I’ve been to Rome before this was the first time I experienced the classic Roman “Matzoh” thin pizza.  We enjoyed this one more than the former Michelin star spot we had for lunch in Orvieto that day.  Margherita and the Diavola (like sopressata back home) were spot on, but once we added more toppings things started to get off track a little.  So stay simple with the Matsoh Pizza.  Fun and supposedly flirtatious staff (at least according to RomeDigest.com.  They probably did not notice the hands) lets you take all the pictures you want of the hectic action inside.

Pizza at Da Remo

Fettuccine Agli Ovoli at La Campana.  Ovoli (pronounced delicious) is sort of a rare, expensive mushroom that is bright, sweet, delicate, almost truffle like.  The whole mushroom is a weird egg like shape (hence Ovoli).  The Italians like to call them as they see it.  (E.G Strozzapreti obviously invented when someone witnessed a priest being strangled).  La Campana is one of those proud establishments with a rich history dating back to the 16th century.  And the best part: Open on Sundays!

Fettuccine Agli Ovoli at La Campana

Seafood Assortment at Le Mani in Pasta.  Terrific finish to an uneven meal at this popular seafood institution in Trastevere.  Fantastic hefty juicy Langoustines, wonderfully chewy flat squid, lightly breaded and grilled to perfection, and a nice whole white fish.  Borrowing from the Hummus Whisperer, we attacked this thing with full force.

Seafood Assortment at Le Mani in Pasta

Gelsi Neri Granita at Ciuri Ciuri – Nothing, no ice cream or a slap in the face, during the entire trip felt as refreshing as this dark beauty.  Sweet but not too sweet.  Is it a blackberry?  Well if it is, its not like any blackberry I ever had.  Reminds me more of the white berry I ate in Israel.  There’s a Borat “Black Not” joke in here somewhere.

Gelsi Neri Granita at Ciuri Ciuri

Burrata from Roscioli – Just edging the sleek, paper thin Mortadella which is what Mrs Ziggy would have picked.  The Burrata, creamy, rich and ever so memorable.  But what stole the show was the semi-dried peppery tomatoes I couldnt get enough of.  Promise me you will get both dishes.  Or we are no longer friends

Roscioli - Burrata

Sliced Pizza from Forno Campo de’ Fiori – Fitting entry right after my post on Sullivan Street Bakery and its room temperature pizza bianca.  If Pizza Bianca (white pizza for those scoring at home, or if you are alone) like in Sullivan was more popular in NYC it would be hot off the oven as opposed to room temperature.  We enjoyed a few slices at this Forno.  Delicious plain, chewy bianca, and one topped with tomatoes.  Bread, salt, olive oil never tasted this good.

Forno Campo de' Fiori

Meatballs from Cesare al Casaletto – Another tough choice here between the meatballs and the super flavorful oxtail.  Add the lightly fried gnocchi to the mix and you got yourself a nice meal at this far enough from the tourists stop (oh those pesky tourists).  The meatballs were some of the most unique balls I ever had.   Airy, slow cooked savory brisket meatballs with just enough creamy pesto. Yum yum yum.

Cesare al Casaletto - meatballs

Biscotti and Cookies from Biscottificio Innocenti – Like eating Biscotti and cookies for the very first time.  Tucked on the quiet side of Trastevere is this 100 year old bakery/factory.  Just walk in and ask for an assortment.  Score one big one for Katie Parla

Innocenti

Fettuccine from Il Sorpasso.  With pesto, zucchini flowers and sunflower seeds.  Need I say more?  Yes I probably should.  Perhaps the single best pesto sauce I ever ate.  There!  One of 3 excellent non-Roman pastas we shared here after some fantastic cheese and cured meats.  A perfect lunch spot after the Vatican

Sorpasso

Cannoli from Ciuri Ciuri – (Picture on top).  Yes, 2 items from Ciuri. a place so good you say it twice.  The trick about good Cannoli is seeing empty shells, which means a fresh fill of that ricotta goodness when you order.  Cannoli lovers – look no further!  Well, you can look further.  Its just an expression.

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Sorpasso in Rome – 10 More Minutes

Italy - 2013 2469“10 more minutes!”  “10 more minutes!”  “Altri 10 minuti per la grande cucina”  That’s what I tell visitors staying in Times Square  or any other famous tourist attraction.  That’s what I tell my family often on our vacations.  My youngest doesn’t even ask anymore.  “Dad, how far is lun.. oh let me guess… 10 minutes?”  Another 10 minutes and you get to a little foodie paradise, where tourists are largely outnumbered (those pesky, annoying tourists!), where you are not being taken advantage of, where there are no waiters standing outside suddenly speaking your language and complimenting your hair.  10 minutes away, the food gets more refined, and the ingredients begin to talk.

Such is the case with Sorpasso in Prati.  10 minutes, depending on the size of your heels, from the Vatican.  And if you do indeed wear heels to the Vatican as I’ve seen so many do, than I really have no sympathy for you.  I bet you are also the kind that spends a ton of time “freshening up” in the ladies room while on a date.  Why do women do that?  If the makeup needs refreshing every hour, doesn’t it mean you simply need to buy better or new makeup?  The only time you’ll see a man in the bathroom staring at the mirror is after his left leg fell asleep while sitting in the stall for too long and he’s waiting for the blood to start flowing again before he can walk normally, but until then he pretends that he’s busy with his hair or shirt, or answering an important text

But I digress, Soprasso while not your typical Roman Trattoria delivered all sorts of big flavors…

Mozzarella ball – Heavenly!

Hard Cheese with pear and honey – A revelation!  Supposedly a hard to find Umbrian cheese according to waitress.

A gorgeous Salumi plate included fantastic Mortadella, savory speck and ultra tasty dry salami.  The type that normally gets my attention at a Salumeria

Strozzapreti (obviously invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while watching a priest being strangled) with monkfish and fresh tomato sauce – couldn’t get enough of this one

Fettuccine with pesto, zucchini flowers and sunflower seeds. Perhaps the single best pesto sauce I ever ate.

Orecchiette (Mike Tyson’s favorite pasta) with meat. Perfectly al dented pasta, tender meat. We eat this dish a lot back home but its never like this.

The pastas here were on a separate menu that changes daily, and on a pasta filled trip we found them rather exceptional.  A truly memorable lunch overall.  If there’s one tip I have to give you about Rome is go to Sorpasso after your Vatican visit.  Its 10 more minutes folks!

P.S.  I’m just about ready to embark into the next phase of my blogging career.  Any idea how much those clown guards charge?9327892123_106f0f1b5f_b

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Lazy Post – Morning in Trastevere

When in Rome… do as the tourists do.  Explore all the major sites which can take about 3 days.  But, it pays to stay a few extra days and explore some neighborhoods such as Trastevere.  As is the case with other major cities in Europe we visited, we prefer to stay away from the center, in a more residential area.  I rather open my window to a line of laundry in the morning rather than an Eifel Tower, or Colosseum.  When leaving to do our thing as tourists I like to see the locals starting their daily routines, kids going to school, Orange Yogi man preparing for work.  Trastevere, although a bit more touristy than I imagined in the evenings (those damn pesky tourists) was just that in the mornings…Italy - 2013 2550 Italy - 2013 2605 Italy - 2013 2540 Italy - 2013 2544 Italy - 2013 2557 Italy - 2013 2564 Italy - 2013 2565 Italy - 2013 2569 Italy - 2013 2575 Italy - 2013 2582 Italy - 2013 2545 Italy - 2013 2609 Italy - 2013 2602 z Italy - 2013 2597 Italy - 2013 2595 Italy - 2013 2591 Italy - 2013 2589 Italy - 2013 2587

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Cesare al Casaletto – Another Useless Rome Post

Cesare al Casaletto - meatballsContinuing my streak of useless Rome posts I will now write about our last meal in Italy.  Why is a post about this particular meal useless you ask?  Well, good question Timmy! The answer lies with Google and the reason I picked this place in the first place.  Virtually every Rome blogger and their nonnas has already blogged about Cesare since they opened a few years ago.  Some of them even show you the same pictures like the Kodak friendly meatballs and the fried gnocchi.  I really don’t have much new to offer here.  The Oxtail?  Looks like that tip was already covered by Katie Parla.  “off the beaten path”, “Last stop on #8 tram”, “Only locals”, “gotta have the fried stuff”, bla bla bla, all of that was already covered extensively.  Perhaps I could add a picture of myself trying to smile but that would just make things more awkward and may ruin any appetite you may have, or may make you moody.  I got nothing but reconfirm what the locals already said.  Cesare al Casaletto has left us impressed.

Cesare al Casaletto - wineIts almost like every major Italian tourist destination has this line in the sand.  Cross the line and you dine with the locals.  Cesare is well beyond the line but extremely easy to get to especially if you are staying in Trastevere.  Take tram #8 all the way to the last stop, about 15 minutes from the river, and its right there on Casaletto street.

I almost didnt make it to Cesare after seeing less than glowing reviews on the boards.  But then it hit me.  Caicos Cafe in Turks and Caicos is just about my favorite restaurant in the world, but does not always get rave reviews from visitors.  So just like I expect my friends and family to trust my judgement on Caicos Cafe I decided to stop reading and start trusting.

The menu here reads like a roman cuisine dictionary with a surprising English translation for such a residential area trattoria away from the center.  Within an hour the place got filled with locals.  How do I know they were all locals?  Well for starters everyone got kisses from the staff except us.  I tried forcing a wet one but the young waiter got a little confused.Cesare al Casaletto

Appetizer portion of the menu consisted of all sorts of fried staff which is a specialty here.  Started with a very interesting and very generous fried gnocchi on a bed of light cream. Terrific, although the the gnocchi loving little ones declared their preference for the regular kind.  Tough to argue but this was satisfyingly unique nonetheless.  Excellent fresh succulent mussels here. The reason we order them everywhere is because the kids ask for them every time they see them.  But the star of the apps and perhaps the entire meal was probably the meatballs with pesto. Not the meatballs your mamma used to make. Better!  Like an airy slow cooked savory brisket balls.  Well done!

Cesare al Casaletto - bruschettaThe pastas were fine here but again the least memorable course as was the case with all the meals in Rome not named Sorpasso.  More of a testament to the other courses here really. You select a pasta type and the classic preparation. I wanted another Carbonara and Cacio but the wife said lets try something else so I opted for a Gricia with Tonarelli and Bucatini Amatriciana which was more satisfying. I realized I prefer all the classics over the Gricia overall.  Roman pastas to me is like Mexican food. A 3 to 5 ingredient shuffle.  Pasta, Pecorino, Guanciale, black pepper, egg or tomato sauce.  Stuff I would eat over Mexican food any time of course.

Another winner was the last course of oxtail stew. Chunky, falling of the bone juicy, tomatoee, packed with flavor meat.  Although I forgot to take a picture of this one since we were so engaged telling the kids the story of Maximus (gladiator).  I took pictures of pretty much every single dish on this trip except this last one

We skipped dessert this time and left very satisfied.  For the price perhaps the best dinner in Rome (70 something. 100 euros less than Roscioli).

Special thanks to Hande of Vino Roma for all her help with the restaurant choices.  Thanks Hande!

Cesare al Casaletto - fried gnocchi Cesare al Casaletto - Tonarelli Gricia Cesare al Casaletto - Bucatini Amatriciana Cesare al Casaletto - mussels

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George Costanza Rome

Costanza

This post is dedicated to my Ozzie friend Tanya who is a big Seinfeld fan.

Rome surprised me in many ways.  The Carbonara, the matzoh pizza, the in your face vendors turning into Orange Yogi man.  But the biggest surprise was the abundance of statues and religious figures posing in what I can only describe as George Costanza poses.  While the poses are indeed different than that infamous Costanza pose, that was the first thing that popped into my sick mind.  Can anyone explain this to me.  We are fortunate enough to be able to travel all over the world but I don’t recall ever seeing this.  And on daily basisItaly - 2013 1811

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“show me angry.  now show me sleepy..  ye that’s it…”

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“show me sexy… not a full smile.. just a smirk..that’s it”

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“Miror mirror in my hand.  Whos the prettiest king on land”

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On the last day we even spotted this sign of a restaurant.  I think it confirms it

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More statue and fountain images.  The last one is for momcat, the hardest working woman on Trip Advisor.

“I cant feel my right arm”.  “You cant feel it because its fake”

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Roscioli {Rome} – I Dream of Deli

Roscioli - Burrata“United We Stand”, our go to deli by my office in Manhattan which changed its name from “United” after 9/11 cant quite pull this stunt.  Nor any of the other delis in NYC numbered in the thousands.  It requires special talent, special expertise and a special name which Roscioli got.  Not exactly a hidden gem unless your Rome research includes studying Trip Advsior rankings.  Roscioli, a deli/Salumeria by day, one of Rome’s top restaurants by night is #742 on Trip Advisor at the moment

Mrs Ziggy thought my trip researching just reached another level when I told her that we can use the bathrooms next door to the Roscioli bakery during lunch since we are having dinner there that night.  So I can go in and simply confirm our reservations while everybody uses the bathroom.  Brilliant plan!  What I didn’t tell her was that it was just a coincidence, or a bizarre 6th bowel movement sense that we don’t know about.  The next day my emergency plan was to just enter any random dining establishment and try to confirm our non-existent reservations while the girls use the bathrooms.  Of course with the amount of time they normally need, I would be found sitting with a bib around my neck munching on another Cacio e Pepe by the time they came out.

But I digress, again.  Roscioli represents everything about why I love going to Italy.  Raw material!  Roberto from Da Roberto in Mantisi had perhaps the most memorable line of the trip; “I’m not a chef, I’m not a cook.  I just present to you the ingredients.”  And Roscioli is all about the ingredients.

The first 2 dishes cannot be made at “United We Stand” Deli.  A plate of paper thin Mortadella from bologna with 3 year old Parmesan was like eating Mortadella for the very first time.  Silky, smooth, salty perfection.  Creamy Burrata with semi-dried tomatoes was a dish of the trip nominee, and a reminder that not all black pepper is created equal.  I don’t recall sun dried tomatoes as addictive.

What followed was a service misunderstanding.  Since we ordered 2 primis and 2 secondis for the 4 of us, the staff assumed that its all one course.  Understandable, I suppose.  Surprisingly the pastas were the weakest course, although its more of a testament to the quality of the rest of the dishes.  A Carbonara was supposedly one of the best in town, but we actually found it a bit too al dente for us, on the 11th day of a pasta filled trip.  I’ve had Carbonara and various variations of Carbonara in the US but never quite as al dente as this.  Gnocchi Amatriciana was more like it.

Highly doubt our deli even heard about an Austrian Simmental Entrecôte (rib eye if you scoring at home, or even if you are alone) which was perhaps the steak of the trip.  Perfectly bloody medium-rare with more flavor than all the Bisteccas we had in Florence and Lucca.  Of course all of this meant I get 4 bites, while my 11 year old gets half of it.  Meatballs with smoky ricotta was another big winner.  Somehow I came out of Italy with an unintended meatball fix instead of the intended Carbonara fix.  Meatballs you can get at many delis here in NYC, most likely covered with enough red sauce to compensate for the staleness and fishiness it gets from its neighbor inside the counter.  Nice tiramisu and chocolate fondue with fruits to cap a great but most expensive dinner of the trip (160 euros).

Sitting inside felt like sitting in a trendy Soho spot.  If you are looking for that Trattoria with locals feel you are not going to get it here.  Chances are you’ll be sitting next to other tourists.  Either way, you will most likely have an unforgettable meal.  Ask if possible to sit in the back or downstairs, as opposed to the front by the counter.  I leave you with pictures from both the restaurant and the Rascioli bakery nearby where we sampled some nice pizzas, and a delicious apple strudel. Roscioli - Mortadella Roscioli - Carbonara Roscioli - meatballs Roscioli - Entrecote Roscioli dessertRoscioli - pizza Roscioli - porchetta Roscioli - Bakery Roscioli - Strudel

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