Food: Rome & Florence at Christmas
The Perfect Bun: On the English web-site www.inromenow.com under the heading Restaurants is a subheading of American. There is a large ExPat contingent in Rome so here you will find a list of restaurants where you can get “hamburgers” and other American fare. Other than the ones I’ve made at home, we had not had a good hamburger in a restaurant in six months, so we were game. The closest one to the B&B was “The Perfect Bun” which looked like a typical American upscale bar and grill. The nostalgic menu had 15 kinds of burgers – your classic burgers plus bacon/blue cheese and chili – but they also had a Hell’s Burger, The Nightmare and The Big Badass Burger. The menu included chicken wings, ribs, steaks, nachos, burritos and other Mexican fare with brownies for dessert! We arrived without a reservation at 7:30 ish on a Saturday night and almost didn’t get in (I think the couple behind us were turned away), even though the place is pretty large with two levels. We noticed that they had a Sunday buffet (all you can eat, which we can’t do justice to) with pancakes, waffles, bagels, omelets, fried eggs, bacon, sausage, country potatoes, American coffee (which Larry had, but I consider a huge step down from Italian caffe) bloody Mary’s and Mimosas – we made a reservation right then for noon the next day. They also had a carving station with turkey, ham, roast beef, lamb, pastas, chicken and vegetable dishes, salad/fruit bar and great desserts – but we were there for the good ole American breakfast that does not exist in Ascoli. Yummmmmmm! Click here for website.
We ate once right on the piazza by The Pantheon and another time on the Campo di Fiori, admittedly for convenience, and both were mediocre tourist meals at a relatively high price. Rick Steves warned us to just have a drink at these places and go somewhere else for dinner, but we were having too much fun people watching and were too lazy to relocate. Our bad.
Cremeria Monteforte: Is a great gelateria in Rome that has fruit flavors that taste like biting into the fresh fruit itself. It faces the west side of the Pantheon, but was closed for the months December and January. Bummer.
Frigidarium Gelateria: On our way back to the B&B we found this gelateria to be a very good substiute. It is a gelateria artigianale, which is important, with great flavor selections and no artificial colors. Click here for website.
The following restaurants are all Rick Steve’s recommendations and he’s never steered us wrong yet.
Pizzeria da Baffetto: One night we grabbed a quick meal of pizza and salad at at this pizzeria located behind Piazza Navona (they have two locations). It was wonderful, but Rick was not joking when he said it is tight quarters and very busy. Don’t be surprised when they seat strangers at any extra places you may have at your table. We sat right next to the wood pizza oven and watched three guys (one with a long-handled pizzza peel) perform a well-choreagraphed ballet of pizza making/cooking in an area with floor space of about 3’x6′. There was a line outside 15-people-deep waiting to get in when we left at 8:45 PM, so go early. Click here for website.
Ristorante da Furtunato: When we visit a city we like to have one “white tablecloth” experience to be sure we have tasted the best they have to offer. In Rome we chose Ristorante da Fortunato, a block in front of The Pantheon. Suggested “for a dressy night out, this is a reliable and surprisingly reasonable choice.” All businessmen and fashionable couples, it had an intriguing menu and the white-jacketed “real” waiters provided top-notch service. It’s a given that we had a great bottle of wine. Larry opted for: Primi – Tortellini au Gratin (wish I had ordered it); Secondi – Veal meatballs w/potatoes; Dolce – White Chocolate Pudding w/Raspberry Reduction. Not being real hungry, I ordered: Antipasto – Grilled Radicchio; Secondi – Pan-Seared Salmon w/Arugula; Dolce – Ricotta Torte Nona. A wonderful meal. Click here for website.
Trattoria da Lucia: One night we decided to walk around Trastevere (across the Tiber), and ended up at a this trattoria. Once inside we realized we had eaten there on a past trip. Rick describes this place as having traditional food and being family run since WW II. Traditional food is an understatement as either I did not know what it was or would not eat what it was on what was on a goodly portion of their menu. We were seated in the back room, so we missed the people-watching aspect. Larry just ordered a Secondi of “Involtino alla Romma con Piselli” – Beef Rolls with Peas. I ordered a Primi of “Bombolotti all Amatriciana” – Rigatoni with Tomato, Bacon and Cheese, and a Contori of “Carcrofo all Romana” Artichoke in Roman Style. Artichokes were in season and I had seen this dish in a couple other restaurants. We opted out of dolce and just ordered Lemoncello for something sweet. Click here for website.
Enoteca Cul de Sac: This may have been my favorite place as it was such a nice surprise. A corridor-wide trattoria lined with wine bottles, a block off Piazza Navona, it has over 1,000 wines to choose from and so many great cheeses that you order them by number. Many dishes had a French flair like their home-made pates, Escargot, and French Onion Soup. The first time there we just stopped for Antipasti but we saw so many things on the menu we wanted we returned for lunch on our last day in Rome. For Antipasti we ordered a plate of pates selected from a list of about eight. We chose: liver with cognac; pheasant with truffles, and sweet & sour boar pates – all yummy. We also ordered a plate of four local cheeses from Lazio. They were very busy so this is all I could get out of the owner: a sheep cheese matured in walnut leaves; a fresh sheep cheese; Fioco vela and Recco di Formia??? For lunch I ordered a Primi of Duck Ravioli and a Contori of Warm Goat Cheese with Vegetables. Larry ordered Meatballs with White Wine and Mashed Potatoes (he likes meatballs). Everything was delicious. They don’t take reservations but are open noon to midnight, so go outside normal Italian eating times for your best chance at a seat. Click here for website.
Florence – Trattoria Iche Ce Ce: (Name in dialect – Whatever there is, there is) While in Florence we just had one meal, a lovely lunch to give us a place to sit down and rest in the middle of a very long day. We stopped at this small family-run trattoria located between Piazza della Signoria and Piazza Santa Croce. We ordered Antipasti of “Crostini Toscani” Little Toasts with Liver Pate; I ordered “Tagliatelle al Cinghaile” Tagliatelle Noodles with Wild Boar; Larry ordered “Topini al Quattro Formaggi” Little Gnocchi with Four Cheeses Cream. Instead of Dolce we had caffe. It was an excellent meal for the price. Click here for website.
A rundown on all the holiday parties will be posted soon.