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ROME..Trip report with emphasis on food..January 2007

ROME..Trip report with emphasis on food..January 2007

Jan 21st, 2007, 09:49 AM
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Susan: As do Mar is a pretty popular brand; I am sure there are many sources but I found it at the supermarket on Corso Vittoria Emmanuele to the east of Largo Argentina; I am sorry I don't have the name handy but will post it if I find the slip. There are not really any supermarkets in the historic center of Rome that I could find apart from that one and a small one (open non-stop daily) on a street leading west from Piazza della Rotunda, Via dei Giustiniani. The latter market was smaller than the Corso one but neither are really terrific as far as buying the type of stuff I llike to bring home with me. I would keep my eyes peeled in the smaller alimentari for that brand if you want to try it. It is imported into the US but the prices are, of course, quite a bit higher. The smaller stores are a lot more fun. In most of them, they dole out portions of tuna from a huge open can so you can buy what you like; I see Callipo used a lot in this manner. Whew, just writing this is making me think of all the great stuff I did NOT bring home; I was a lot more circumspect regarding the meat issue than in the past.

According to Cadogan Rome guide, the Via Andrea Doria market is open Monday through Saturday until 1pm.
ekscrunchy is online now  
Jan 21st, 2007, 10:02 AM
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Thanks, I'll check it out. There is also a supermercato on Via Monterone, just east of Piazza Navona off Corso Vittorio Emmanuele. That's where I got the Rio Mare, among other things.
SusanP is offline  
Jan 21st, 2007, 11:51 AM
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Ek, This is terrific - please, please continue soon!
Eloise is offline  
Jan 21st, 2007, 12:14 PM
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Ek-Loving your report! As a foodie myself, I appreciate all the details. I've been dying to go back to Rome and spend an entire week there so this just whets my appetite!
Kristina is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 06:57 AM
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Matricianella, a SlowFood pick, sits on a narrow street close to San Lorenzo in Lucina. I would guess that its tucked away location keeps it off the radar of many tourists, depite the attention heaped by the domestic and foreign press. Accolades and magazine and newspaper articles line the walls of the three rooms that comprise the restaurant; in good weather there are also tables outside.

Our meal here, the first of two that week, exemplified the differences in staff attention directed at first timers versus repeat diners. We were waited on by a young man who was attentive and friendly enough; the next table, obviously not first timers, were attended by this man aas well as by a senior staffer. It was fascinating to overhear the discussion that led up to the actual order taking. Questions were asked about what kind of mood the diners were in,what they felt like having. There were debates about what was best tonight, what had not been up to par on past dinners, and on and on. Truly this was fabulous to overhear even if I did not get the entire jest. To me it illustrates the benefits of patronizing a few good places and becoming known to the staff, rather than bobbing all over town in search of the one "perfect" place. (Something I tend to be guilty of....)
This was brought home to me even more stronly later in the week at lunch at Da Nerone.

Ok, back to the plate here. Most of the diners appeared to be locals, although I think that tourists are often placed in the last of the three rooms. We were in the middle room.
ekscrunchy is online now  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 07:22 AM
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Building a restaurant list for my next visit from your suggestions . . .

And yes, frequenting the same places does garner a different kind of experience. On my last trip to Rome, I was recognized by waiters at two different restaurants that I've visited on a few previous trips. No, not by name, just by face--a second glance and "Oh! Welcome back" and then received another level of service and cameraderie.
ellenem is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 07:26 AM
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sorry, hit the wrong button.....

Anyway, we were in the center room. Matricinella is a handsome place plastered with, as I said, lots of articles and awards. The wine list is..well, there is no other way to describe it but to say it is a tome. A fabulous document that merits lots of time. {Note: We ordered the house wine; this is the usual policy of my travel partner}

I am dawdling a bit before getting down to the meal. Here is what we ate; you can see that we did not follow the traditional progression of courses (one of us was rather full from lunch):

Spaghetti with truffles..excellent (15 Euro)
Pasta special (Bucatini alla Amatriciana, with tomatoes, onions, guanciale (pork cheeks) red pepper flakes, a specialty of the Lazio town of Amatrice and a staple on many Roman menus) Excellent, if a bit heavy on the peperoncini for my partner...

The restaurant is famed for its fritti so we followed with a pair of plates:

Carciofi all Giudia..a perfect rendition of this fried artichoke

Fried polpetti..fried meatballs. These were dry and disappointing. I have never had this dish before so it may well be an impeccable rendition. I had seen a great-looking meatball dish pass by en route to another table; upon further investigation I learned that this is not a fritti but a meatball/arugula dish. I would order this next time.

I glass passito di Pantelleria

This is the one invoice that I cannot find so I have to guess that this light dinner cost in the range of 50 Euro for two of us. I have to withold comment about the restaurant until the next time. (We thought it was promising enough that we reserved a table for our last night, a Saturday.) Again, our experience perhaps illustrated the benefits of being a regular and being able to discuss the menu knowledgeably with the staff before ordering.

Another point (more on this later) brought home to me was: ORDER THE SPECIALS. For my secondi of our second dinner here, I strayed from this advice despite the urging of the waiter and was very sorry.... The pasta on the specials list (usually a piece of paper attached to the menu) is often house made while the other pastas may not be. If you look around you, you will often notice that the regulars will be eating the specials. Often they order without consulting a menu and, instead, relying on the advice of the waiter or owner. This is a very prudent policy to follow for first timers and especially once you have become familiar with a place.

After dinner we stopped for a gelato at Gelateria della Palma, near the hotel. (There are several branches of this great ice cream shop in the city)

(It would not be until the following night, at Trattoria Monti, that I discovered the ultimate gelato flavor combination which would become my very own signature cone on subsequent nights...you have to stay tuned to learn what it is...)

Thus sated, we waddled back to the Senato.

More soon...........tomorrow: Borghese Gallery; a pizza lunch; dinner at Trattoria Monti.

ekscrunchy is online now  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 08:14 AM
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Excellent trip report so far! I'm really enjoying the in-depth restaurant comments as well as the great tidbit about a SMN branch in Rome. I had no idea, but I'm taking notes on all of this for my trip to Rome next May.
hazel1 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 08:36 AM
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This is great, EK. I am also taking notes for our first trip to Rome in June.
nona50 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 10:27 AM
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Da Armando al Pantheon! This was the restaurant my sister and I went to, and I couldn't remember the name for my trip report a couple of years ago. You are a lifesaver. I had the lamb chops. Yum. And they were so nice to us.

Great report. It's nice to see Rome through the eyes of a serious foodie. (I am only semi-serious.)
Leely is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 11:32 AM
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How did you discover all the great restaurants? Our experience with food in Rome was quite different from yours (not in a good way) and I THOUGHT I had done my homework.
missypie is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 03:16 PM
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i love your review so far. please keep on going!
demmler67 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 07:00 PM
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I am just "eating up" your report!

Love all the restaurant and meal descriptions...these will certainly help me with my planning for my week in Rome in December 2007!

Can't wait for the next installment!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 07:52 PM
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bookmarking.. great information
rubysplace is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 04:06 AM
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Thanks again.

Missypie, I do lots of reading and asking around when planning where to eat. I got lots of help on the internet and from New York Times and magazine articles, and most important, from the SlowFood guide. That is only in Italian now but it is not hard to muddle through if you can read the names of the dishes and have some vague idea of Italain. For some of these I double checked guidebooks such as TimeOut and Cadogan. I am curious which sources YOU used for planning that led to less than satisfactory meals. And where were those meals? It is always good to know! (This will be helpful for next time!)
ekscrunchy is online now  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 06:46 AM
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The next morning, Tuesday, we had reservations for the 11am-1pm time slot at the Borghese Gallery. I had somehow managed to miss the Borghese on previous visits to the city. What an oversight! I booked the reservation on-line about two weeks in advance of our arrival. The process is simple and straighforward.


We took (another) taxi to the entrance of the park nearest the gallery, arriving about a half hour early.
You can wander through the gallery alone, with an audio guide, or with a "real live" guide. The price (5 Euro per person; separate from the admission and bookings fees) is the same for either type of guide. Although audio guides in many places are excellent, I like to be able to ask questions, so we chose the human variety.

There were only two other visitors in our group so we had what was essentially a private tour with a very learned young man who shepharded us through the Galleries with special attention to the Berninis. Something about the Borghese reminded me of the Frick in New York; although the space is grand, it feels easily accessible to the visitor. There is so much beauty arrayed here that 2 hours is barely enough to get anything more than a broad overview. The interiors alone, even if the rooms had been empty, are worth the price of admission. This is a must-see and a place I will re-visit on subsequent trips, perhaps with the audio guide next time. Thrilling.

After exiting the musuem at 1pm, we ambled through the gardens and down the steps and through the Spagna metro station, exiting on the Piazza de Spagna. Since we were booked at Trattoria Monti that evening, we decided to forego a large lunch. {Note: the money changing office facing you and to your right if your back is at the Steps offered the best rate on US Dollars that we found in the city center; the difference between the rate here and the rate at an office near our hotel was 10% and there is no commission}

We walked north along Via Babuino, window shopping. I stopped into the Prada Sport store to try on a pair of shoes and was offered the discount by the saleswoman even though the official sales had not yet begun (The shoes did not fit)

We stopped at Piazza del Popolo and took a seat to admire this beautiful square. Skip this next few lines if you are not a dedicated food shopper......Continue north through the Piazza, walk under the arch, and you will find yourself on Via Flaminia. Along this historic thoroughfare, once a principal entry point into the city, and on the adjacent side streets you can find excellent tourist-free shopping for all manner of foodstuffs in a variety of alimentari. (The famous one is Castroni at #29/30 but there are many others) I did some extensive purchasing on a prior trip and reluctantly passed up the chance to re-visit due to lack of time...

We had intended to visit the Santa Maria del Popolo church but due to ekscrunchy's poor reading of the guidebook (I had this church confused with the "twin" Santa Maria churches which close for lunch), we missed this important church and its treasures. Yet another to add to the long list of reasons to return soon.

Turning south, believing that the church was closed for lunch, we wandered south along Via di Ripetta. We considered having lunch at Buca di Ripetta at #36, which we had enjoyed on our last visit; this is one of a few inviting looking trattorie on this ineteresting street. (There is another good one a few steps away, Trattoria Al Gran Sasso).

However tempted, we trudged onward to Buccone. Run by the Buccone brothers and tucked into a 17th century palazzo, this enoteca had been a favorite from previous visits. You could spend an hour here just admiring the selection of wines arranged by region of origin. Buccone also serves light lunches at tables in the rear. Not wanting to burden myself with heavy bags for the walk home, I limited my purchases to one bottle of inexpensive Orvieto amabile (I believe that this is the original style of wine from Orvieto and that the dryer version came about more recently in response to international markets; this may or may not be true, I remember reading it someplace and did not investigate; I wanted to try the wine) and a well-priced bottle of olive oil with truffles. Unlike most "truffle oils," which are often truffle-infused grapeseed oil, this one actually has large pieces of black truffles floating in the extra virgin olive oil. Here again, vigilance paid off; I inspected the bottles on the shelf and sure, enough, the ones in front bore the 2005 harvest date (a year old!). Digging further brought forward a bottle of 2006 oil which I bought for about 10 Euro. This was the producer; the site is under construction):


I also priced the traditional balsamic vinegar and found the price of 80 Euro for the gold-cap Modena extravecchio to be the lowest of all the vendors I found in the historic district. The prices varied a great deal from shop to shop. (Similar to this but not from Leonardi):


Some information on balsamico:


Rather reluctantly, I passed up the vinegar and, instead, set out in serach of a snack a few doors south at a one of several Rome branches of the ever-popular Pizza Re. This is a large, bustling Neopolitan-style pizzeria at Via di Ripetta, #14, a few blocks south of the Piazza del Popolo. Their salads are good but the pizza is the thing here, of course. The menu lists more than 2 dozen varieties but we stuck with a simple 7.50 euro Margherita. I've never had pizza anywhere else in Rome, so cannot compare. I have visited Pizza Re several times and have never been disappointed with the food. (The service can be scattered at busy lunchtimes when the marble topped tables are jammed with workers and students from nearby establishments; just be patient). {Although Via di Ripetta is located just west of the upscale Tridente shopping zone, it is a refreshingly Prada-free thoroughfare with quite a few options for good eating.}

ekscrunchy is online now  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 08:59 AM
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I have a question about enotecas. When we visit Rome in April we will be looking for olive oils to bring home. Would enotecas be a good place to look? Any suggestions or ideas on other places to look would be appreciated. Thanks again for your detail-laden report. I am really enjoying it.

iamq is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 10:34 AM
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So EK, since you can't carry on that precious cargo did you just bubble wrap it and put it in the checked luggage I assume? Hopefully it all made it home ok.
sandi_travelnut is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 10:56 AM
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Sandi, I did put it in the checked luggage. I brought a bunch of bubble wrap with me and a good thing, too, because while the shop owner wrapped it for me in a makeshift cardboard wrapping, I felt a lot safer with my own bubble wrap. I even brought two bottles of wine home with me that way; I could not bear to leave them behind in the hotel!

Bill, Yes, I would look in the enotecas, which often also have a good selection of bottled and canned food products. Along with Buccone, there is a wonderful enoteca on Via dei Prefetti at #15: Enoteca al Parlamento. There are so many good ones that you could spend days going from one to the other. And many if not most of them appear to offer some kind of snacks. Another food store/wine shop that gets tons of press is Roscioli, a beautiful shop on the south side of Campo dei Fiore.

ekscrunchy is online now  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 12:00 PM
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Hi ek, loving your report (and thinking about mine which hasn't been written yet) and still thinking it's funny that we stayed in the same room! (Interesting that the price difference between Christmas and January was 85 Euro. Gulp!)

I have to add that we used the Senato's limo service and the drivers didn't say a word to us, so I think I'll try Rome Shuttle next time!

I definitely second the advice to make reservations if food is important to you. We didn't make a reservation for the last night and had trouble finding a place.

hausfrau is offline  

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