Archive for the ‘rome’ Category

GIOLITTI1Last, but not least, a must-try in Rome: Giolitti. For those in the know,  Giolitti  is widely known as Rome’s ice cream shop to beat. On the day of my visit, there were even special tourist  tours focusing on  Giolitti.

GIOLITTI2Such fame tend to influence people, polarizing their opinions between instant haters (oh nah..another touristicky place) or lovers (oh yeah, it is the best ice cream of my life). I can only trade in facts that my palate is aware of, so I had no particular expectations. I just wanted their ice cream to be a technically well made ice cream, basta! And perfectly made it was, indeed, with a depth of  fresh milky taste (Never mind the flavors: whether the flavor of my ice cream  was pear or vanilla or something else, I believe that is not important — what matters to me is the technique, the depth in the work of the flavors) that is way more refined than at most of the other major ice cream spots of Rome.

Can it get any better than this? Was this my lifetime best ice cream? Remember, this …as excellent as it is …caters to the mass. So, ultimately, I had better ice cream (bolder milky flavor, bolder fruity flavor) done by talented ppl in their homes. But for ice cream catering to the masses, Giolitti’s certainly  one fine example. Giolitti  Addr: Via Uffici del Vicario, 40 – Roma – Tel 06.6991243  http://www.giolitti.it/

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Untitled3Really good pizze at Ciampini Bistro (Addr: Via della Fontanella di Borghese, 59, 00186 Roma Phone: 06 6813 5108 http://www.ciampini.com/en ) , with beautifully conceived  thin crust (soft) as well as ingredients of fine quality. The 4 cheeses Pizza being one of the finest in Rome. I went on a different day and tried other very simple trattoria items (chicken . It is situated in a very  touristicky area of  Rome (the Spanish steps), but this is not a place that is just taking avantage of the hordes of tourists passing by. At what it does (simple trattoria fares), it is doing a serious job. Not exceptional, and this is food that  tastes  similar to what you will get in any  good trattoria in America (…..thanks to the theme of the “globalization”, a magical theme denying any suprise effect to our  palates because food had to taste the same wherever you go — by magical, I hope you understood that I was sarcastic) but certainly fine.

My verdict (Very good>Good>OK>Bad): Good – Can’t go wrong here. Basic trattoria food,indeed, but well made.  Excellent service.

Untitled2While visiting Tivoli, I rushed on the web to find suggestions about where to grab a bite in the area and was disappointed  by the reviews: they sounded completely out of touch with what needs to be expected from such area. It is a touristicky area, miles away from Rome and I am not too sure why one would expect galactic culinary exploits from such humble eatery.  Anyways, on the back of the realistic expectations that happened to me mine……………., I found  Bar Villa D’Este to deliver some honest tasty food.  There was not a vast quantity of  beer, but the beer tasted fresh, which is perhaps what one should expect from any place,  but many touristicky eateries do offer cheap quality beers (Montreal does actually excel at that!). Then my Ravioli di ricotta al ragu was certainly not homemade ravioli,  its texture not of the refined type, but again…………………save for some  high-end restaurants and   few artisan Chef trattorias outside of Western big cities, who the hell is making homemade ravioli nowadays?? At least, theirs tasted good. My only serious quip is that they should STOP USING  plastic ustensils………SUBITO!!!!! There are lots of things that I can tolerate, but that …. I CANNOT!!!!  Bar Villa D’Este – Addr: Via Tiburtina Valeria, 330, 00011, Tivoli, Italy Phone: +39 0774 3883
Verdict (Very good>Good>Ok>bad): ……………… I won’t assess this eatery for the sake of……. accuracy. I do not want you to compare my rating of this eatery to the ones of my recent meals. Why? Because Bar Villa D’Este does not have the pretention of competing with a place like, say, Vecchia Roma..obviously!!!! It is just a humble eatery to grab some noce fresh  beer and have some decent food. And yet, compared to its direct competitition….it is doing a DAMN HONEST JOB!

UntitledBaia Chia was recommended to me by the same folks who did suggest that I eat at Vecchia Roma. VR was an instant success, for me, but BC, although using nice ingredients by western restaurant trattoria standards …. and specializing in food that I am partial to (seafood)…delivered a meal that I won’t be able to rate (as explained below) – Scampi risotto was  as all’onda as it is possible to  be, the scampi of good quality, the taste delicious enough  but lacking the depth / complexity of a great  seafood risotto (this was good, just not great — the sort of white wine as well as seafood stock used makes a big difference, and it is  that difference that I was missing ). A seafood platter of grilled seafood featured good quality scampi, shrimp and  and calamari, the maritime aromas in evidence. Simple, as expected  but certainly effective though nowhere as dazzling as its better examples. Baia Chia Via Macchiavelli 5A Phone: 06 70.45.34.52

Verdict (Very good>Good>Ok>bad): ………………There is no denying the fact that Baia Chia uses fine produce (BY WESTERN TRATTORIA STANDARDS), service is great, food tasty enough. But I was not floored, for reasons…that have nothing to do with them: when it comes to seafood, my point of reference is the seafood from the Indian Ocean and/or the Caribbean . My palate perceives them as way superior than the seafood found elsewhere.  BC’s seafood is good, but I made the mistake of having that point of reference in mind. It diminished the appreciation of my mean, so I can’t rate this ..l.

Pursuing with further  accounts of my trattoria meals in Rome:

Angeletto Ai MuseiL’Angelo ai musei – flawless  pennette with pink salmon, with an osso bucco that was technically executed as it should, but that still left me perplexed as explained below.

Verdict (Benchmark>Excellent>Very good>Good>Ok>bad): Ok ++. This was some tasty classic Italian food, but I would need a second visit here to better assess this place since the sauce of that  good osso bucco had..somehow…a funky taste. Not too sure what the problem was… Furthermore, the house wine was really bad and that is hard to forgive in Italy. Sorry Angelo, but ….non posso perdonarti per quello!  L’Angelo ai musei, Rome  Addr: Via Leone IV, 2, Roma Phone: 06 3972 3187 URL: http://www.angolettoaimusei.com/

Couple of days in Rome. A quick account of my meals at  some of their humble trattorias:

TEMPIO DI MECENATETempio di Mecenate, L.go Leopardi 14/18 Phone: 06 4872653 http://www.tempiodimecenate.it : Food would  have impressed a bit more had my plate of grilled seafood expressed a certain degree of  maritime flavor both to the smell and on the palate (they just lacked salinity), their quality perfectly fine  for this standard of eatery.  A dish of ravioli as well as roman oxtail stew were not going to be remembered as ranking among the ravioli and roman oxtails that knocked my socks off , but  both were tasty, for sure, and   technically executed properly. Perhaps not in my top tier trattoria food items during this visit of Rome, but this was a  pleasant meal   and on this  visit, there were plenty of Italians of different generations eating there, which I guess is not a bad thing at all. Verdict (Very good>Good>Ok>bad): Ok

MARGHERITAEqually pleasant without standing out was the nearby Il Pasticciaccio (Via Merulana, 34, 00185 Roma, Italia Phone: Phone: 0689528967) . On one visit, I had couple of pizze here of which my sole reproach would be that  the crust needed to be softer.  The rest (cheese, tomato sauce) was fine enough/ Ok / normal  even by the standard of your average pizza in North America.  I will admit that  what I was missing the most was the flavor of a wood fired pizza, and dreaming of Neapolitan pizza  was not helping at all , but that is obviously not the fault of Il Pasticciaccio. After all, it is not as if I did not know what were the best pizze of Rome (Sforno,  ).  The service is good, and on the first evening I was there,  they even had  one young Italian lady who was able  to converse in English. If you go there, try the dishes featuring  grilled meats (chicken, beef) as the people who were eating at the neighboring table  seemed to have liked  their grilled meats. Again, nothing out of the ordinary of this kind of casual restaurant, but not bad at all neither. Verdict (Very good>Good>Ok>bad): Ok

 

Roma VecchiaTrattoria Vecchia Roma – Opened since 1916, this trattoria is one of the older eateries of Rome.  Where such feature would allow  plenty of restaurants to rest on their laurels, Vecchia Roma is of a different breed: the food is traditional, indeed, but nothing tastes nor feels tired under this roof as exemplified by a buccatini all’amatriciana that tasted  great  and a trippa a la Romana with not one single quip.

Rome is touristy, but if someone complains about  Vecchia Roma’s  being touristy, then he has a lot to learn about traditional Roman cooking.

Verdict (Benchmark>Excellent> Very good>Good>Ok>bad): Very Good  – Very busy eatery. The crowd of Italians (of all generations!!!!) flocking here  is not a lure. This is some really well executed Roman restaurant cooking (it goes without saying that..unless you distance yourself from major Italian cities, and try the countryside, to take an example, do not expect some perfectly made nonna’s-style food at restaurants).  Too bad I have never been a fan of Roman cuisine (I tried hard to appreciate Roman cuisine,  trust me… but its flavors do not move me in general…yeah, I know, my loss) — When it comes to Italian food, I have a soft spot for Traditional Ligurian as well as most Italian coastal cuisines which Flavors  my palate perceives as  generally stronger, in their expression, than what is typically found in Roman cuisine. As ever,regardless of personal taste, no cuisine should be viewed  as superior to the other. TVR is considered by many locals as one of the better trattorias  of Rome. I am not  going to question that. Trattoria Vecchia Roma Addr: Via Ferruccio, 12b/c, 00185 Roma, Phone: 06 446 7143 URL: http://www.trattoriavecchiaroma.it/

Event: Dinner at restaurant La Pergola, Rome
When: Tuesday, June 12th 2012 19:30
Michelin stars: 3
Type of cuisine: Haute Italian
Addr: Via Alberto Cadlolo, 101 00136 Rome
Phone: +39 06 3509 1
Url: http://www.romecavalieri.com/lapergola.php

Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7)

La Pergola is not “earth-shattering’, but it does not matter as, at the end of the count,  it deserves every single of its 3 Michelin stars. Its cooking is  also superior to some  of its 3 Michelin star peers.   It is the sole 3   Michelin star of Rome. Deservedly so (the top tables of Rome are great, but LP did more by  perfecting  every single aspect of  the operation of a high end restaurant) . 

Overall Food rating: 8/10   At quick glance, many would have found it to be a flawless food performance. At 3 star Michelin level, in my view, this was indeed a very good meal but not an excellent (9/10)  nor a standard-bearing one (10/10). I am no god and MY assessment of MY meal is certainly just that, my assessment (which means a personal appreciation/thus purely subjective/far from being perfect), but there’s one major element I ‘need  to detect’ at such level, and it’s that …….firm/authoritative/personal cooking imprint. La Pergola has a high class cooking brigade, make no mistake about that, and it truly deserves its 3 stars (I’d say a very good 3 star, which is great indeed, just not a standard-bearing/strong 3 star in my opinion), but the firm/authoritative/personal cooking imprint  is what I was missing in the course of this meal (which my meals, couple of days later at Aimo e Nadia in Milan, Dal Pescatore in Canneto sull’Oglio  as well as A cantina de Mananan in Corniglia, have all proven that what I was looking for is realistic at haute and casual dining levels).

 

Service/Dining experience: 10/10  Fabulous service.  I’ll take this example of  when they told me that taking photos of my meal is prohibited (I know…some were able to do so, but I insist on experiencing my meal as any normal diner would, therefore I was fine with this rule of them since it applied to their normal patrons): this  was handed with such a great tact that   we (both the staff and I) even gently joked over this.  Examples of this sort of coolness  abounded all along my meal there.

NO PHOTO RESTRICTIONI was in the mood of reviewing the meal, since I was alone and this was not a romantic meal, therefore I asked the restaurant staff if I was allowed to take photos of  my dishes. They said, no. so no pics of the food (though, I believe you can still make arrangements with them, since I saw web blogs with pics of meals at La Pergola; again, I did not insist since my intent is to experience things the way a normal diner would).  Which is fine to me, since I could appreciate what I was eating without any distraction. I took no note of my food neither, so I’ll go with general memory / impression of the overall meal and dining experience.

One quick day in Rome ( People look at you with big big eyes when you do that, Lol. Indeed, Rome deserves a longer stay)  before pursuing my journey of 7 days in Italy. I secured a reservation at the Rome Cavalieri’s hotel (an No..I didn’t lodge there, I do not have that kind of money Lol..) main restaurant and only 3 star Michelin in Rome (this sounds odd to me, I always thought Rome would have much more  Michelin 3 stars): La Pergola.

Upon entering the hotel itself,  most won’t fail to be seduced by the overall luxury and sense of wealth of this location. I think it is  smart on their part to open their 3 star Michelin restaurant only at night and not on lunch, since the view over Rome, at night, is really nice here. The restaurant is  situated at more than 3 miles away from downtown Rome . La Pergola offers Italian Haute dining and its executive Chef is a German who has spent the last two decades in Italy, Chef Heinz Beck; his success led him to also open Apsleys, a  two Star Michelin Italian haute table in London.

FOOD REPORT: I did not partake in their tasting menus (they have a 6 or 9 courses menu) on this dinner, since I had to catch a train around midnight (Yep, a crazy thing to do, I know), so I went with a choice of four food items on their à la carte  menu.

Started with an  item of sweetbreads (8/10), cooked to ideal consistency. As you might expect at this level, not one single technical slip is noticed, and the accompanied onion purée (9/10) and fig sauce (this had remarkable deep fruity taste)  offering logic balance to the meat. It  is  tough for me to get excited over this dish since I have sampled more impressive sweetbreads at bistrots that will never see the shadow of one single Michelin star in their entire existence, but in total fairness, this was a very good food item in which a lot of attention to details was invested and it would be inaccurate to  diminish the value of such dish (47 eur) simply because I had memorable ones at lesser $$$, elsewhere:  we all should know better that once you open the doors of a haute dining venture, you are paying for the stunning service, the luxury, the efforts that is put in the dining experience.

Then cheese and pepper spaghetti followed. A classic Roman fare, served in its chic version. This dish is  simple but this is where a skilled kitchen gets to show that a lot can be extracted from very little. Which, they did: flavors were good, the pasta cooked with the precision you would expect from a good Italian kitchen 8.5/10

Concluded the savouries with turbot served along asparagus, ham and spinach (8/10), which turned out to be more creative that what I anticipated (lots of thoughts in both the presentation and work of the flavors). The ingredients were of top quality, the fish in particular was an example of great seafood sourcing . At a non star Michelin restaurant, I would perhaps be tempted to give this dish  a 9/10, but with regards to 3 Michelin star standards,  the 8 over 10 score seems accurate to me.

I skipped the cheese and desserts since it  was, soon,  time to hop on my train. I still got to enjoy all their petit fours, which were expectedly well done without being as outstanding as some sampled at most haute dining ventures in Paris, for  eg(8/10).  No wine (I hate taking a train with wine in my blood), but they  have one  large wine selection of superb bottles covering most parts of the world, worth some intense perusing, with of course a vast list of Italian wines as well.

Pros: If I had to offer a special top-class dinner to a beloved one, La Pergola would be a top choice. It is not, on a personal level, a top favourite, for the simple reason that I am more into  personal/authoritative cooking (Dal Pescatore fits in what I am trying to point out), but that is subjective,  that is just me.  The most important, to the most, is that  it hits on all the right notes of a great haute dining experience. Which it does. I won’t argue against that. Also: the hotel of this restaurant (restaurant is on 9th floor) seems like a beautiful romantic retreat. I was not staying there and did not wander around neither,  but from the few glimpses at the hotel’s interior, it looked very pretty.

Cons: At 3 star Michelin level, I tend to favor a more   personal/authoritative cooking imprint, the type of cooking of which I can say ‘ok, ok, I think  not many, at its level,  can replicate that exact depth of flavor, this specific work of the texture, etc’. Though, in the case of La Pergola, their work of the texture of most of the dishes I was sampling was indeed of top flight level. The beauty with Italian cooking in Italy,  is that no one will forgive you for cooking a bad dish since the produce is fabulous, the sense of taste seems collectively high, the competition between eateries is an epic battle, lol. So, they have numerous highly skilled  artisan Chefs who know that people are eating their food because there’s something special/personal/authoritative in there, and you’ll find it at any level of their dining spectrum (haute or not). It’s really on that very specific aspect, where I felt that this meal could have been bettered (on the following days, my meals at Aimo e Nadia in Milan, Dal Pescatore in Canneto sull’Oglio  as well as A cantina de Mananan in Corniglia would prove me right – they were not all as sophisticated as La Pergola’s, but I could remember each of the dishes I had at those 3 places…even months after, and in a blind tasting, I could tell exactly who cooked what).

Salute!