When in Rome, do a Roman.

04Aug08

I hope you don’t think of me as arrogant and a snob. You know, now that I’m so well traveled and quintalingual.

Ciao. I just returned from my first trip to Europe (England doesn’t count). First stop. Rome, Italy.

Fresh from her trip to Israel thanks to the Israeli government (WHO knew??), Sarina met me in Rome to start our European adventure. I arrived in the city around noon, renounced sleep and prepared myself for another 12 hours of daylight. With only 2 and a half days in Rome, I had a major checklist to fulfill.

While Sarina was checking off the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon…

I was marking my map with so many circles around trattorias and osterias that it looked like ink-filled land mines had exploded everywhere.

Rome is an embarrassment of cultural riches and it left me speechless. What got me most excited was knowing that not only is history alive through the monuments and statues lining the streets, but that it would be tasted in the authentic Roman cuisine to be had around the city.

We walked in circles trying to find Sant’ Eustachio il Caffe, regarded as one of the best places to get coffee in Rome. After standing in the middle of the bar like two mutes for a good amount of time, we realized the caffe only served 2 things: espresso and cappuccino. Neither of us avid espresso drinkers, we handed the barista a euro each for whatever he had to give us. It was like going through the atmospheric layers of an utopian planet called Espresso. After my lips felt the initial layer of sugar crystals generously sprinkled on the foam, they cut through what tasted and felt like the caramelized crust of a toasted marshmallow. At the end of my journey, my lips had touched (for the very first time) what espresso was meant to taste like. With no trace of bitterness and only the smooth pure taste of I now know as coffee, this was the standard to be met for the rest of my life. When the crunch of the sugar crystals was met with what tasted like melted dark chocolate, my taste buds were jolted from happiness rather than caffeine.

Our dinner that night was at Trattoria Da Oio in the Testaccio neighborhood (aka the Jewish Ghetto). “Jewish Ghettos” in Europe seem to be synonymous with adorable cobblestoned neighborhood with good cheap food, great bars, and college students. The highlight of our meal was definitely the gnocchi. Perfectly tender and al dente, the gnocchi was drenched in a simple tomato sauce and an endless amount of grated parmigiano reggiano.

For my secundo, I chose the oxtail in tomato sauce (after the waiter told me I couldn’t handle the Pajata [intenstines] and that perhaps I’d prefer the chicken). Which was also after our first waiter, whose eyes managed to be both cross-eyed and lazy, handed me a menu in Japanese and Sarina the English version. Needless to say, we were in a very “authentic” neighborhood.

The meat on Sarina’s lambchop was indistinguishable from the fat…but isn’t that the best kind? The rosemary potatoes were only a side dish, but they were some of the most amazingly prepared potatoes I’ve ever tasted. The potatoes absorbed all the flavor and fat of the lamb jus making them incredibly flavorful.

Day two, we took the advice of our hotel’s front desk and went to the nearby Osteria Da’ Olimpica. I knew I couldn’t leave Rome without having pasta carbonara and that’s exactly what we chose for our primo. Pasta Carbonara is prepared by tossing the hot pasta in egg yolk, which lightly curdles the yolk, bacon and parmigiano reggiano. It’s the Italian answer to the Mexican breakfast burrito. And my answer to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Can’t forget the homemade tiramisu….

Day three saw…more pasta. After eyeing a local eat the spaggheti cacio e pepe at the trattoria the night before, I HAD to have some. It’s a traditonal Roman pasta with nothing more than olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, and cracked black pepper. A simple dish with a focus on great ingredients that needs no elaborate preparation.

These pastas were ravished at Mario’s, a restaurant near the Colosseum with an indeterminite address.

The food in Rome spoiled me rotten and left me wondering what could possibly top this unearthly food experience. I only had to jump in a plane to Barcelona to find out…

Sant’Eustachio il Caffe
Piazza Sant’Eustachio 82 (near Piazza Navona), Rome 00186

Trattoria Da Oio
Via Galvani 43/45 in the Testaccio neighborhood

Il Forno Roscioli
34 Via Dei Chiavari
Rated best sandwich in Rome

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3 Responses to “When in Rome, do a Roman.”

  1. 1 Shanna

    looks soooo good!

  2. 2 AJ

    So where’s the story about doing the Roman?? Now that sounds juicy!
    I’m glad you had a good time and got to eat great food!! Kepp up the good work Yi

  3. 3 Collin Wood

    sounds starchy


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