As many of you know Chris and I just returned from our fantastic honeymoon. First stop – Rome, Italy. I have traveled through many other parts of Italy including Florence, Venice and Cinque Terre. I went with my sister in August 1998. While we had fun together I left with a sense that Italy might not be for me – it was hot, my sister is blond (man we got harassed) and the streets were empty (Italian residents pretty much clear out in August to travel). But when Chris wanted to go to Rome, I decided to give it another try. I am so glad I did. Rome made me believe again in the beauty of Italy. Where else can you eat a fantastic four-course meal, get vats of wine for mere dollars, go for an after-dinner stroll and bump into the Forum or perhaps the Pantheon?
Our adventure did get off to a rocky start with a diversion to Wales for a couple of hours, because of fog in London. I was so exhausted and groggy from Xanax it seemed like a few minutes. But when we did get to London (with beautiful blue skies, not a single cloud) we waited in an atrocious line to re-book our flights. But eventually we got a flight to Rome and arrived only a few hours late. We took a taxi to our hotel (avoid this and just take the Leonardo Express to downtown Rome, it’s cheaper and efficient), jumped in the showers and went to the opera. The opera was a smattering of arias from different famous operas. It was a wonderful show, not too expensive and in a wonderful venue – Chiesa Di. S. Paolo Entro Le Mura. I believe these shows are easy to get tickets to and not too expensive. While it was a fantastic show we left half way through because I could not wait to start eating (and I was slowly fading due to jet lag and I have my priorities).
After sneaking out we headed to Antica Boheme, a restaurant highly recommended to me by my very good friend and fellow foodie Candace Maloman. We started off the dinner with a pasta course. I ordered the orecchiette carciofe, a perfectly cooked orecchiette pasta with a butter and artichoke sauce – fantastic! Chris ordered lasagne bolognese. That’s a pretty standard dish for him and it was superb. The tomato sauce was good, but I will say I prefer my tomato sauce a little less creamy and a little more tomatoe-y. But that’s just a preference. For the second course we ordered veal. Mine was done Bolognese style with a tomato sauce, melted cheese and ham on top. It was cooked perfectly, but it was a bit much. Chris ordered a simple paillard of veal and it was outstanding. It was a simple, sauteed piece of veal garnished with lemon. I highly recommend his dish.
After drinking copious amounts of wine we headed to our bed and breakfast, Art & Relax Suites for some much-needed sleep. After sleeping for 10 hours, we got a small tap on the door and our perfect Italian breakfast was served.
After breakfast we walked around the city and hopped on a tour bus of Rome. It may sound cheesy, but doing one of the hop-on, hop-off bus tours is a must. It’s fairly inexpensive and a great way to see the city and learn about the sites. There are a number of bus tour options, none are really better than others. Just pick one and go.
After doing some walking we grabbed lunch at a cute neighborhood restaurant called Trattoria Lilli – another Candace recommendation. As we had eaten a lot the day before I had a light lunch including a FANTASTIC salad (arugula, tomatoes, mixed greens and an olive oil and salt dressing) and an antipasto platter. Chris ordered a pasta dish with a tomato and basil sauce.
After lunch we headed to a Vatican tour using a company called Eden Walks as a tour guide. Now, I usually do not like to use guided tours, but this one came highly recommended. Plus, I wanted to really learn about all the history and background. We were not disappointed. Grant, our tour guide, was unbelievable. He talked very fast, but I learned more in that three hour tour than I ever thought possible. Please, do yourself a favor, and book a tour with Grant if you plan on visiting Rome. They do a number of different tours. And most definitely visit the Vatican. It’s a must-see.
For dinner I had my heart set on a restaurant called Trattoria Del Pallaro – a trattoria that had no menu (a recommendation from another great foodie friend Sarah Swanson). You just eat and drink what they bring out. After spending almost two hours looking for the place we gave up and went to another place on my list – Ditirambo. Ditirambo, is not a traditional Italian trattoria. It’s a little trendier and the prices show this, it was by far our most expensive Italian meal. It was also one of our most memorable experiences. We started off the dinner with a pasta dish we split. It consisted of a sampler including a risotto with asparagus and gnocchi with shrimp, tomatoes and eggplant. I will be brutally honest, this was not a great choice. The shrimp did not smell fresh and the risotto was exceedingly bland. Our second course made up for this. Chris ordered the Guinea Fowl three ways – in a phyllo dough pastry, in meatball form and baked. This was one of my favorite dishes. It was incredibly rich and full of flavor. My dish was just as good it was a simple strip steak coated in herbs with a side of the crispiest fried potatoes I have ever had – wow! I must also mention our wine. It was a superbly smooth Nero D’Avola called Feudo Montoni. Since we were a bit sauced we decided dessert wine pairings would be a nice way to end the night. And despite our inebriated state, this was indeed a good call. I got a yummy apple tart and Chris got a millefeuille. I think since we were ordering so extravagently our waiter decided to get us more sauced. He then brought out bottles of grappa, limoncella and brandy – awesome!
The next morning our itinerary included the Borghese Museum, another must-see in Rome. And get the audio guide. It’s inexpensive and fills in all the details about this glorious, but ill-begotten art collection. If you love sculptures, then go to this museum. It is filled with the best Bernini sculptures.
For dinner we headed to Tavernetta 48, located on the tiny Via Degli Spagnoli. Once again we had a superb dinner. Chris and I had gotten so lost earlier in the day, we ended up off our map. We probably walked 14 miles. So were were definitely ready to eat. We started with an ok antipasto. I would not recommend getting it. But it was not bad. But our pasta dishes were perfect. I got the amatriciana with bacon, garlic, tomatoes and onions. The pasta was cooked perfectly. It was al dente! But once again Chris picked the best. He ordered a fusilli in a cream sauce with sausage, mushrooms and one of my favorite ingredients in the world- truffle oil. I was so jealous, but fortunately Chris believes in sharing. For our second course I ordered the veal in a barola wine sauce and Chris ordered a chopped sirloin steak with a gorgonzola wine sauce. Both were fantastic. For dessert we split the tiramisu. It was pretty standard stuff, good, but did not blow us away.
After dinner we spent some time just ambling around the city. It was a holiday the next day and the start of a three-day weekend. So it was very alive – parents and their kids were sitting at cafes eating gelato and drinking coffee. Tourists were out in packs wending their way through the ancient streets, all speaking different tongues. And Chris and I were taking it all in. We stopped by Trevi and threw our obligatory coins, we had a couple of pints at a pub and ended the night at a cafe near our hotel. It was our last night and we were ready for the next phase of our vacation, but we were not ready to leave.
So a funny thing happened on the way to get lunch on our last day. After finding that Sora Margherita was closed for the holiday (a revered Rome lunch institution in the Jewish Ghetto area), we accidentally happened upon Trattoria Del Pallaro. I was so happy I almost cried. It was by far my favorite dining experience in Rome. Chris disagrees and he thinks I liked it because our grandfatherly waiter kept telling me how beautiful I was and kissed me on the cheek numerous times. He might be right. But I still loved it. Immediately upon sitting our adorable waiter brought out a jug of white wine and a collection of antipasto dishes including green olives, fennel bathed in olive oil, lemon and garlic, the yummiest lentils I have ever tasted, salami and prosciutto and suppli. I was in heaven. This was the antipasto I had dreamed about before arriving in Rome. I had been fairly let down so far in terms of antipasto. But not this time. Our second course was so simple, yet heavenly. It was a pasta dish in a creamy tomato sauce smothered in parmesan cheese. Our third course was a veal roast bathed in au jus topped with mozzarella balls and a side of zucchini. And lastly we had a perfectly cooked apricot tart with a side of mandarin juice. This meal was the perfect ending to our Roman adventure.
My next installment will cover the Croatian towns of Trogir and Hvar…