When in Rome...

After two weeks eating our way up and down Italy, we’re seven pounds heavier, but have a better understand of what food and cooking is really all about. Not to get all philosophical on ya, but the reverence the Italian culture shows for ingredients is seriously life-altering. Be they in rustic trattorias, wine-centric enoteche, sweltering pizzerias, happening gelato bars, trendy ristorante, bakeries, candy shops, or apartment kitchens, Italian cooks raise up raw materials on pedestals. Integrity is preserved. Flavor is emphasized with a golden dot of extra-virgin, squiggle of aged balsamic, shaving of stinky cheese. It’s beautiful and humbling, and a little sad that this ethos is often absent from American kitchens.

But enough of the grass-is-greener reflections. We know you wanna know what we ate. Describing the symphony of tastes, aromas, and textures would take longer than the line for Florence’s Uffizi Gallery (1.5 hours). We don’t want your boss to catch you anti-working, so we’re gonna give you the CliffsNotes menu and let the pictures do the talking.

Venice: buttery langostino crudo (pictured); cappelinni with scampi, cherry tomatoes, and asparagus; sweet cherries and wild strawberries (pictured) from an outdoor market; pistachio gelato; Hosteria al Vecio Bragosso’s perfect spaghetti, with squid ink and calamari, or light tomato and spider crab; head-on grilled prawns (pictured); local Soave that tasted exactly like
Red Delicious apples; octopus-and-potato salad; dainty designer desserts and strong espresso at the sleek counter at Andrea Zanin; the original Bellini, lightly pink and frothy, from Harry’s Bar (pictured).

Florence: Slow Food gelato from Grom every night, in flavors like apricot (pictured), Amalfi lemon, pistachio, ciocolatta fondente (bitter chocolate), and raspberry; baby strawberries in red wine and sugar; fresh Burrata spilling warm cream over grilled zucchini (pictured); bistecca Fiorentina, monster rib-eyes cut from Tuscany’s legendary Chianina cows; Grana Padana, fennel-and-Parmigiano flan, tagliloni with pork sausage and peas, and wonderfully rare beef at lunch at Castello Banfi, paired with sparkling Gavi Principessa 2005, Serena sauvignon blanc 2006, Rosso di Montalcino 2005, and Brunello di Montalcino 2002; roasted cod with onion fondue, gnochetti with Burrata, tomatoes, and basil (pictured), citrus-marinated anchovies, baked Scamorza with pears and peppercorns, all enjoyed in sophisticated Cavolo Nero’s fragrant garden; Gorgonzola gnocchi with porcini mushrooms (pictured); Mascarpone-filled calzone draped in chocolate, Nutella, and pine nuts (pictured).

Rome: amazingly sweet raspberries and peaches (pictured) washed under an ancient fountain in the Campo de Fiore; zucchini flowers, julienned in risotto, stuffed with grouper and tempura-fried, and julienned atop the best pizza on the planet at Da Baffetto (pictured), whose black-edged crusts are thin as a crepe and crisp as matzo; nachos, burgers, MGD, and Diet Coke at Hard Rock Café that were fatty and delicious reminders of home; magnums of Nastro Azzurro beer; caprese pasta salad and ridiculous Nutella tarts at hip luncheonette GiNa eat & drink; dessert-y chocolate-chili, tartufo, mint, and zabaglione gelato at Nice Ice, an amusement park gelateria in the shadow of the Pantheon; buffalo mozzarella, still warm from Campania; lemon granita scraped from a huge block of ice on a push-cart (pictured) in Sperlonga, a picturesque beach town an hour south of Rome; bitter coffee granita layered with fresh whipped cream by the Spanish Steps; sweet Sicilian Nero D’Avola; Ambasciata d’Abbruzzo’s wood-roasted whole Branzino, tissue-thin ravioli filled with cheese, spinach, and nutmeg, and heavenly fresh ricotta scooped from a basket by signing waiters.

It’s worth mentioning the irony that fat Italians under the age of 75, like unicorns and no-photo signs for Japanese tourists, do not exist. Probably because this impeccably dressed super-race walks everywhere and eats smaller portions, but we suspect the devil’s involved one way or another. Have you seen Sophia Loren lately? 107 years old and still a fox. And about that Hard Rock thing, keep it between us, okay? After 12 days of Italian
food, we needed a break. It was a moment of weakness and won’t happen again.
Photos: blogalicious


Anonymous said...

Mouth watering photos, especially the first one. I'm buying berries for lunch today!

Bill said...

Sounds like you're having a great time & I'm envious. But, you burst my bubble.. Hard Rock!? All right, I guess I understand ;)

adam said...

Bill, you're rubbing iodized salt in my wounds. I feel bad enough already. Dining at Hard Rock was not my decision, but after dragging friends and family 'cross the Arno River to the nether-regions of Florence, scouring dim alleys for Cavolo Nero, I figured I owed them one. I can't front, though; after putting away pounds of pasta and enough wine to extinguish the Lake Tahoe fires, burgers and beer were a nice change of pace. Needed a shower after though. Chain restaurants just make me feel so dirty.