Showing posts with label Rome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rome. Show all posts

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chow Italy: Rome Now Available in Paperback!

Chow Italy: Eat Well, Spend Less (Rome 2013) is now available in paperback. The guide lists more than 80 traditional Roman eateries, those unassuming mom-and-pop trattorie, and makes a perfect companion for travelers seeking an authentic culinary adventure without breaking the bank. You can order through or through the CreateSpace eStore.

The paperback edition is the same great guide as the Kindle edition but with an added bonus: twenty printed maps to help guide you.

map of streets near Roman Coliseum
One of twenty maps in Chow Italy guiding you to inexpensive but authentic Roman trattorie.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Getting to Know Trattoria Polese in Rome

Step into Trattoria Polese, tucked in the corner of the cobblestoned Piazza Sforza Cesarini, and you'll be transported back in time. With its rustic brick walls and towering vaulted ceilings, the dining room pays homage to its past, a palazzo, once the illustrious home to the Borgias, a prominent family that rose to power during the Italian Renaissance. A regal pedigree for a trattoria that is deliciously down-to-earth.

Trattoria Polese's dining room with white table cloths and romantic lighting.
Trattoria Polese's dining room retains its palatial feel.
"Ours is a typical Roman trattoria where we prepare dishes using the best traditions," says owner Lorenzo Polese, the second generation of the Polese family to stir things up in the kitchen. His father, Biagio, a self-taught chef who honed his craft while working aboard cruise ships and in restaurants in New York City, opened the trattoria back in 1960. Sadly, the elder Polese passed in 1980. "The restaurant has undergone several changes since those early days," Lorenzo explains, but it's still true to its roots.

While his current chefs—three in all—are masters at preparing traditional Roman fare, with little interest in "nouvelle cuisine," they are willing to take chances and experiment with current trends. Take their carbonara, for instance. Trattoria Polese reinvents this classic dish with fresh asparagus. Their lasagna surprises with fiori di zucca or fresh zucchini flowers, a Roman favorite. And their smoked pork shank roasted in beer, is tender and richly flavorful.

Vintage black and white photo of the front of Trattoria Polese.
Trattoria Polese way back in the day!
Yet Trattoria Polese offers plenty of Roman standards to please even a purist such as abbacchio al forno, roasted lamb infused with olive oil and rosemary, coda alla vaccinara or braised oxtail stew, and of course, baccalà, deep fried cod fillets so loved by the locals.

In warm weather, enjoy your dinner outside underneath the shade of majestic trees that flower in early spring. The trattoria also houses an impressive wine cellar with vintages from Northern Italy.

"We all feel at ease here," Polese adds. "Our trattoria is informal but we're attentive!"

Trattoria Polese
Piazza Sforza Cesarini, 40
Telephone: +39 06 686 1709
Trattoria Polese website
Google map

Trattoria Polese is just one of 80 trattorie and osterie featured in Chow Italy: Eat Well, Spend Less (Rome 2013).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Getting to Know Vecchia Osteria del Gelsomino in Rome

Beautiful exposed brick archways in del Gelsomino's dining room.
Vecchia Osteria del Gelsomino, located on a quiet side street not far from the Vatican, has a rich history dating back more than 100 years. In those days, explains current owner Lorenzo Mariani, the eatery wasn't much more than a tavern, a local gathering spot where old men played cards and drank wine late into the evening. Mariani's own family has deep roots to del Gelsomino, too. For instance, his mother-in-law grew up in the neighborhood during the 1930s. When she was a little girl, he explains, her mother often sent her to find her father to bring him home for dinner. More often than not, the little girl found him at del Gelsomino, or "The Jasmine" as it was called for the flower medallion hanging proudly over the entrance. Years later, Mariani remembers coming to the osteria with his family. "I used to eat here as a child when Signoria Maria owned the place," he says. "We were always treated like family."

When Mariani became del Gelsomino's proprietor (perhaps it was fate?) 15 years ago, he and his co-owner embraced "la cucina romana," or traditional Roman cooking. "Ours is a true and traditional Roman kitchen," he explains. "We prepare only fresh dishes. The same as a mother would do for her family." To that end, everything at del Gelsomino is prepared from scratch without the use of a microwave or freezer. And although the menu boasts an abundance of Roman specialties such as pasta amatriciana, coda alla vaccinara (a savory oxtail stew), homemade gnocchi (on Thursdays, of course) and pollo alla romana (chicken sautéed with colorful peppers and tomatoes), the entrées are at the discretion of the chef depending on the season and availability of ingredients. Therefore, every day the dishes are different. In winter, for example, you may find orcchiette with broccoli while the menu in spring is sure to offer fresh Roman artichokes and abbacchio alla cacciatora (a classic lamb dish infused with lots of garlic and rosemary).

With a keen eye towards freshness, Mariani shops daily with much of his produce coming from the surrounding hills of Rome; his poultry from local farming cooperatives. He uses only the best beef from Danish or Irish pastures. His pasta comes from Gragnano, a small town tucked in the foothills near Naples and said to produce the best dried pasta in all of Italy. His olive oil? Extra virgin, of course.

Mariani's culinary efforts and attention to detail are deliciously apparent in every bite of his food! After a long morning of touring the Vatican, be sure to stop by del Gelsomino to sample some true Roman cuisine.

Vecchia Osteria del Gelsomino
Via del Gelsomino, 69
Telephone: 06 630 750
del Gelsomino's Website
Google map

Vecchia Osteria del Gelsomino is just one of 80 trattorie and osterie featured in Chow Italy: Eat Well, Spend Less (Rome 2013).

Monday, January 21, 2013

What Should I Eat When I Visit Rome?

More than half of Latium’s (one of twenty regions that makes up Italy) five-and-a-half million people live in the capital city of Rome where culinary trends are created and where eating habits seem to revolve around days or events of the week. If it’s Tuesday, for instance, polpette, those light-as-a-feather meatballs are the go-to dish. While on Thursday gnocchi, tiny dumplings tossed in grated parmigiano cheese are sure to be il piatto del giorno (the special of the day) at many trattorie. But on Saturday, the aroma of trippa alla romana (tripe simmered in tomato sauce) catches everyone’s attention.

The region of Latium prides itself on its vegetables, too. The countryside just surrounding the Eternal City is mostly volcanic land, and the soil, rich in minerals and nutrients, enhances the appearance and taste of everything that grows. Though fields of peas, beans, celery, and lettuce blanket the nearby Alban Hills, the artichoke (carciofo) is the most popular with Romans. Served deep fried or “Jewish style” (alla giudia) or braised with garlic and then anointed in olive oil (alla romana), they’re always delicious and inexpensive.

Typical trattoria in Rome.
And what about pasta? Yes, of course! Romans take their pasta seriously. There are several specialties that spotlight this ubiquitous staple that every visitor must-try including: amatriciana (tossed with onions, guanciale or pork cheek but with a taste similar to smoked bacon, tomatoes, and white wine), carbonara (a rich, bacon-like cream sauce), cacio e pepe (a simple pairing of grated cheese and freshly-cracked pepper), and gricia (dressed with guanciale, pecorino cheese and pepper). Together these four dishes are the bedrock of a Roman’s diet.

“But where’s the beef?” you may ask. It’s here alright but just not in the form of thick rib-eye steaks. Instead, Romans are known for their slowly braised beef dishes such as coda alla vaccinara or oxtail stew, and other lesser-cuts of meats such as the ever-popular trippa alla romana, or tripe braised in tomato sauce. Lamb (agnello/ abbacchio) is also a favorite and comes roasted, al forno, or small, grilled chops, abbacchio a scottadito. Saltimbocca alla romana, veal scaloppini topped with a thin slice of prosciutto and sage leaves, is a must-try as well.

And although pizza is a Neapolitan specialty, don’t discount the pie in Rome. A thin, crisp crust topped with a variety of fresh ingredients and quickly baked in a wood-burning oven will dazzle your taste buds. It’s true heaven on a plate. Buy it by the slice, “al taglio,” at a take-out stand or order a small, plate-size pie for yourself at one of many fantastic pizzerias throughout the city.

Rome is the best city to start an Italian holiday. The friendly, casual nature of Romans makes dining and touring a delight. In summer, trattoria owners pull tables from hot, stuffy dining rooms out to the sidewalks. People parade by and seek out old friends. If none can be found, they’ll make new ones from the diners enjoying the balmy evening and home-style meal.

Excerpted from the recently-released e-book, Chow Italy: Eat Well, Spend Less (Rome 2013).  

Monday, April 18, 2011

When in Rome, Head to Hostaria Da Corrado

Hardly noticeable, hidden in a tiny storefront north of the Piazza Santa Maria in Rome's hip Trastevere quarter, Da Corrado is like an unmade bed--a little unattractive to look at but warm and comfortable under the covers.

As we enter, the moist air--coming from a kitchen concealed behind a steamed-up, glass partition--gives way to inviting smells of garlic and herbs. The dining room is basic with white-washed walls adorned with framed photographs of past patrons (celebrities, perhaps?) and gleaming tile floors.

With a cigarette in one hand, the waiter slaps a piece of butcher paper on our small, weathered table. He returns a moment later with two short wine glasses and an ashtray. (Don't let his gruff exterior and deep voice intimidate you; he's really a nice guy, happy to explain unfamiliar words and dishes. Although if you question him too much, he'll decide what to order for you!)

From his short, verbal listing of the menu, we choose our first course: bucatini all'amatriciana, a Roman favorite of long, hollow macaroni showcased in a tomato sauce flavored with bacon and white wine, and a simple dish of ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese, then topped with fresh tomato sauce.

All afternoon, locals from this working class neighborhood come and go--businessmen, construction workers, students, and even four old ladies who consume two liters of house wine easily. We could too--the white, dry Frascati is light on the palate, but we show control and order a half-carafe.

Follow this map to Da Corrado
 The second course rivals the first with spezzatino bianco--tender chunks of veal smothered in a white wine sauce, accompanied by lots of roasted potatoes--and pizzaiola, a zesty dish of thinly sliced veal simmered in a spicy tomato sauce. Other simple choices include several Roman favorites like coda alla vaccinara, a typical dish of oxtail stew, and trippa alla romana, tender tripe in tomato sauce.

Da Corrado is the best deal we found in Rome. Though it lacks style and panache, it's brimming with local color--no tourists here, just simple Roman food, dirt cheap.

Hostaria Da Corrado
Via della Pelliccia, 39
Phone: +39 06 580 6004
Closed Sunday
Approximate cost of our meal: 30 euro