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

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

Old Feb 3rd, 2007, 05:55 AM
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ek, I simply don't know which of the two is the true pasta alla norma story. (Norma is a great opera, I agree - but who can sing the heroine today? Let alone Pollione? A few years ago, I would have loved to hear Eliane Coelho and Giuseppe Giacomini, respectively; but they've both retired in the meantime, and Coelho has never sung Norma, as far as I know, while Giacomini has only done it as a young tenor, when he was far - FAR - from being the world's greatest dramatic tenor, as in his later years. You see? I always manage to push your threads off-topic...) Back to pasta alla norma, it might as well be alla Norma - it was by no means uncommon in the 19th century to name new dishes after new operas (e.g. salads "Zelmira", "Matilde di Shabran" or "Salammbò", all named after long-forgotten Rossini works).

And a proposito eggplant, if you happen to long for a recipe for ravioli with eggplant stuffing, just advise, it's a great dish...
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Old Feb 3rd, 2007, 08:15 AM
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Franco, you never cease to impress. The last Norma I saw (please do not shudder) in person was Shirley Verrett at the Met. I wonder if you have read Fred Plotkin's Italy tome..the Gourmet Traveler book. I am asking because of the way he fuses opera and food..

I am not ambitious enough to make ravioli but thank you for your kind offer.

By the way, I was just at the sale of cookbooks and kitchen equipment at the James Beard House in New York. the last thing I need is more cookbooks but of course I could not hold myself back. One of the books I considered but did not buy was by Ada Boni; you may have seen this large format book on various regions of the country. I am curious about Ada Boni. Is she or was she a prominent cook in Italy?

Now I am totally veering off into uncharted waters but to show you my lineage regarding opera, here is a film featuring my cousin as interviewer:

http://www.amazon.com/Opera-Fanatic-.../dp/6305332800





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Old Feb 3rd, 2007, 08:44 AM
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Oh my god! it's really a small world! So Stefan Zucker is your cousin... that film that you've linked above is wonderful, especially Leyla Gencer's acid-tongued, spot on comments on her former colleagues. I'm a great admirer of Stefan Zucker's Bel Canto Society, of which I have several videos in my collection... and some of your cousin's own singing, as well... I don't absolutely share his love for Corelli, though, I must admit!!

Sorry, I've never heard of Ada Boni, but I'm no cookbook expert like you, ek; and I haven't read Plotkin's book so far, of which I do have heard, though.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2007, 08:53 AM
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I can't believe it! Franco tell me I am not hallucinating!
Yes, he is my cousin..actually he was my mother's cousin..he is the son of the brother of my grandmother. The film was wonderful, even if there were a number of mean-spirited reviewers on Amazon. Now I must try to see it again, as I do not have the video; I will ask my sister if she has a copy...
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Old Feb 3rd, 2007, 09:38 AM
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That is pretty amazing! It just goes to show that kindred spirits will always find each other.

I wish I had more to contribute on opera... I did interpret for the Vienna State Opera when they came to Expo 67 - does that count?

As for Ada Boni, she wrote a cookbook called “Il Talismano della Felicita” that was, as far as I can gather, a kind of “Joy of Cooking” for Italian brides some decades ago. I’ve seen an English “adaptation” of it in second-hand bookstores, but I haven’t bought it. I do have an English version of “Italian Regional Cooking,” but I don’t find it very user-friendly. I would say you were wise to pass it up.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2007, 09:44 AM
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Eloise, of course it counts. Welcome to the Fodor's Opera Club!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2007, 12:08 PM
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Yes, Eloise, welcome. I am so glad you agreed that I was right to pass up the Ada Boni book. The recipes did not, indeed, seem user friendly. And the book was a little bit tattered and more important, the introductions to the chapters did not seem to contain any information that we have not each rad before. I did snag Nick Stellino's Family Kitchen which has a very good recipe for Peperoni Farciti alla Partenopea, which I would call stuffed red peppers with mozzarella, capers and olives. Stellino is a convivial Sicilian-American who has a show on PBS.

Interesting that each of us loves opera. Can that be a coincidence?

Will be back soon to finish....




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Old Feb 4th, 2007, 08:39 AM
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Saturday: Our last full day in Rome, before our return flight to the US the next day.

Having previously scoped out the offerings at Davide Cenci, an large upscale clothing and accessory shop at Via Campo Marzio, 1-7, we planned to be at the shop in time for the 9:30 opening. As I previously mentioned, Cenci is a large two-floor store that sells the clothing, shoes and leather accessories of many Italian and foreign designers. It appeared to me to be patronized largely by locals, unlike most of the upscale shops of the Via Condotti area. In addition to brands like Ralph Lauren, they sell famous Italian designers such as Prada and Tods in addition to less well-known labels and their own classic line.

Approaching the shop, just north of the hotel, we were startled by a long line of people traling along the street ahead. A sinking feeling overtook us when we realized that these people were not waiting for concert tickets. They were waiting on line for the Cenci store to open! The line snaked south from the entrance on Via Campo Marzio (the Roman Campus Martius, field of Mars) turned the corner and trailed west along the Via Uffizi Vicario. Photographers from the papers were out in force, cameras clicking away. I could imagine the headlines; " Saldi Crush Tramples 22: American Tourists among the Flattened."

There was a frisson of anticipation in the crowd; everyone was eagerly scrutinizing the windows and plotting out their assault on the store; only a limited amount of shoppers were allowed in at one time and many of these people had been on line since 7am!

Although I soon realized the ridiculousness of wasting time in Rome waiting to enter a shop, I soon got into the spirit of camraderie; it was fun to be among these die-hard bargain hunters. After about an hour, we were allowed into the store and, as imagined, it was a madhouse and a sight to behold that brought me right back to S. Klein's bargain tables where I used to trail along with my mother as she rummaged for $8 cashmere sweaters many years ago.

I quickly pounced on a box of my coveted black leather Prada sneakers which were marked down by 50%. (The fact that they may be just a tad too small is something I realized only later after the frenzy of the morning. I am sure they will stretch with wear..must stay optimistic...)

We were quickly out of the store and into the streets which were now almost teeming with shoppers laden with multiple bags from various merchants. We wandered over to the Spagna area for some great people watching. I did not have the energy to do any more shopping (for anything other than food, that is..) Every shop was plastered with large letters trumpeting "saldi" and "sconti" with the percentages: 40%, 50%, 60% discount.

Most of the shoppers were Italian but we noticed lots of British shoppers, too, and a surprising number of Russian speakers as well. Absent were the large numbers of Japanese that had been here during our last visit to the Rome saldis a few years ago.

By this time it ws time for lunch so we headed back to the hotel for another alfresco snack of local cheese, prosciutto, bread, and fruit in view of the Pantheon outside the tall windows. (The rooms at the Senato have mini bars where you can store small perishables).

From a few days we had been gazing out at the skyline and wondering about an unusual twisting spire rising to the west, so after lunch we set off in search and found our way to the Palazzo della Sapienza, home to Rome's old papal university at #40, Corso della Rinascimento. Ensconced in the courtyard of the palace, adorned with Modigliani's bronze Tete de Cariatide, is the 17th century concave facade of the church of Sant'Ivo by Borromini topped by that arresting carved spire we had spotted from our window. Another amazing Roman juxtapostion!

.....to be continued..
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Old Feb 4th, 2007, 01:06 PM
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Ek, shopping is fun, shopping is great, but we are eagerly waiting to hear where you had your last dinner in Rome! (I know, it’s also a bit of a downer - the end of a glorious week, the end of a terrific report...)

On coincidence: “In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen.” William S. Burroughs. No, I have not read Burroughs; I googled for the quotation.
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 03:45 AM
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Eloise, I do apologize for taking so long. We are returning to Matricianella for our last dinner in Rome. Very soon.

I love the quotation. I tried two Jamie Oliver recipes this weekend and results were mixed. I am returning the cookbook to the library.

The crowds at the Davide Cenci sale were equaled only by the crowds at the cookbook sale at the James Beard House on Saturday.
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 04:18 AM
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I'm looking forward to your report on your second dinner at Matricianella. I've eaten well both times I was there; I love their fritti. Over on SlowTrav, two frequnet posters, one of them Maureen Fant, were terribly down on the place after they shared what they called a terrible meal a few years ago.
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 07:03 AM
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That's such a great idea about checking out a cookbook from the library before you buy. I'm always curious about new cookbooks then regret some of the purchases.

Thanks for the idea!
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 07:45 AM
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bookmarking
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 02:55 PM
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Later in the afternoon on our last day, a Saturday, we took the bus from Largo Argentina to Piazza della Repubblica, near Termini station, and walked the few blocks to Santa Maria della Vittoria. This Baroque church holds Bernini's masterpiece, Ecstasy of Santa Teresa, which depicts the saint in a swoon after being pierced with an angels' arrow.

Then it was time to head back to the hotel, pack some things, and head out for Matricianella. We had reserved a table here after an excellent dinner earlier in the week.

Our reservation was for 8:30 and when we arrived the restaurant was almost full. The temperatures were in the high 50s so the outdoor tables had been set up in front beside those giant heaters used in outdoor cafes.

And now without further dawdling, here is what we ate that night, along with prices to give an idea of the breakdown of a meal for two:

Bread..1.50

1 liter water..2.50

House wine..4.00

Daily Special:
Bucatini alla Matricianella (this was their version of Bucatini all'Amatriciana, the classic Lazian dish of bucatini with a sauce of guanciale (pig jowl); tomato; onion; garlic; and dried red pepper. {The name of the original dish comes from the town of Amatrice, in inland Lazio}. This was excellent and I would consider it a must if you want to explore the classic Roman repertoire......8.50.

Daily special:
Tonnarelli ai Carciofi. Wonderful pasta dish with artichokes. Excellent...7.00

Secondi:

Daily special..Eggplant Parmesan. Not as good as the same dish at Trattoria Monti, as it lacked the slightly burned bits at the edges. Excellent just the same....9.50.

Scallopine al Limone. I wanted a fairly light second course and had not yet sampled any veal. I asked the waiter his opinion and he made an ever-so-slight face and pointed me towards the SPECIAL of abbachio with an egg (??) sauce. Of course, ekscrunchy did not follow her own advice, which was to stick with the specials. And to ignore the waiter's subtle clues...inexcusable. This dish was disappointing. The veal was all right but the lemony wine sauce was ok but not memorable. Very disappointing. I could have kicked myself for choosing this for my Roman finale. 11.00.

Total....44 Euro. Well worth it, even with the slip on the veal.

Matricianella, Via del Leone, 2-3-4. Closed Sundays. A SlowFood pick.

After dinner, we stopped for gelato before heading back to the Albergo del Senato for what would be our last overnight in Rome.



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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 03:05 PM
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eks,
How was the Matcianella version of all'amatriciana different from the traditional or could you tell? I ask because it's a favorite, and one of the few things I make--rather well--at home. Of course I have to substitute for the guanciale.
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 03:07 PM
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Sorry for misspelling Matricianella. Getting a little ahead of myself.

And thanks for the report. Love all the detail.
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 04:32 PM
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So sorry to learn that your final dinner has been less memorable. Lamb with egg sauce, yes: abbacchio brodettato, one of the hallmarks of Rome's cuisine; I'm being lazy now, and instead of translating Sora Lella's recipe for you (given that I don't even know whether you really want to have it), I'm just posting this link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/reci..._13080,00.html
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 04:22 AM
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Leely, the version at the restaurant seemed to me to be the traditional one with another spelling. I've never made it at home but am considering doing it soon. Guanciale is now fairly easy to find here but pancetta would do the trick, too. It really is a good dish.

Franco, thank you for the recipe. So even with all of that preparation and all of the great tips and advice, I managed to goof up! You must think I am a doozy for ignoring your recommendations for Sora Lella, Checchino, and Osteria dell Angelo!
Maybe it was a subconscious wasy of insuring I would HAVE to go back to Rome!
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 06:35 AM
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Certainly it was! See above: you instantly accepted the penalty of having to go back soon and do further research work (and a new gorgeous trip/food-report).
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Old Feb 8th, 2007, 05:35 AM
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Hello out there, nobody is posting - does that mean we have to get by with the fact that this gorgeous report is finished now? No more lunch on Sunday?
And if so, where and when are you travelling next, ek? Guess I've become an ekscrunchy food report addict!
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