Showing posts with label restaurant review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restaurant review. Show all posts

Friday, May 6, 2011

Trattoria Casalinga: The Price is Right for This Eatery in Florence

Located near the Piazza Santo Spirito south of the Arno River, Trattoria Casalinga offers one of the best culinary deals in all of Florence. The place is sprawling. Set in a Renaissance building with lofty high ceilings, there are two large dining rooms crammed with simply-dressed tables. Unfortunately, the eatery lost most of its grand Renaissance appeal during renovations through the years. Modern pine panels line the walls, and plaster covers the once-beautiful cross-ribbed ceiling. In other words, it's no Pitti Palace (which, by the way, is close by). But what Casalinga lacks in design, it amply makes up for in good regional cooking at bargain prices.

We skip the Chianti tonight and opt for another variety of Tuscan grape, Montescudaio, light with a delicately dry flavor. The liter of house wine, coupled with a basket of fresh bread and rolls, makes us think we're in the right place.

Ignoring the regular menu, we choose our dinner from the piatti del giorno, or "the dishes of the day" hand printed on sheet of butcher paper. The ravioli alla panna, a generous helping of small, round pasta packed with creamy ricotta, aglow in a cream sauce and attractively garnished with bits of ham, is as sensational as the Florentine favorite pappardelle al coniglio, wide ribbon noodles flavorfully paired with a robust tomato-based rabbit sauce.

Tonight, like every night, Casalinga is crowded. Everyone from starving students and artists to international tourists pack the room or press their noses against the glass, ready to pounce on the next vacant table. Dinnertime chatter echoes loudly against the white-washed dining room walls. The energy is lively but not overbearing.

Feeling the pressure to eat and run, we proceed to our next course of faraona arrosto, a succulent, roasted guinea hen whose fresh, gamy flavor is far better than chicken, and trippa alla fiorentina, a Tuscan specialty of slowly braised tripe and minced beef in a hearty tomato sauce, dashingly presented with a healthy sprinkle of parmigiano cheese. Other dishes range from a hearty ribollita (a thick Tuscan soup with bread and beans) or tagliatelle panna e funghi (pasta with cream and mushrooms) to the delicate carpaccio di bresaola con rucola e parmigiano (thin slices of raw beef with arugula and Parmesan cheese) or cinghiale polenta e funghi (wild boar with wild mushrooms and polenta).

Follow the map to Trattoria Casalinga
After dinner, we walk a block to the Piazza Santo Spirito, where a concert is underway. The sounds of Mozart provide a wonderful dessert (instead of Casalinga's signature cantuccini or almond biscuits) as we sit with our backs against the outside wall of the massive cathedral.

Trattoria Casalinga
Via dei Michelozzi, 9
Phone: +39 06 218 624
Closed Sunday
Approximate cost of our meal: 45 euro

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