First of all, thank you all SO much for your incredible feedback. I really appreciate you sharing what subject matter you like (and don’t), and honestly, I was so touched that many of you said you liked my voice regardless of the subject matter. Feedback received: and I will continue my Faces of ALI project for sure.
So, onto another random tangent then? This time, FOOD. Specifically, the food of Italy. Why is it SO GOOD there? Is it possible to replicate it here?
I am very lucky because Darcy has some rock star foodie friends. I’m not allowed to tell you who they are (Chinese walls and all that) but I AM allowed to share their fantastic recommendations for your next trip to Rome. Or, your virtual trip.
We got a lot of advice on Roman food before we left. The necessities to try (antipasti, spaghetti carbonara, gelato, cream puffs and the unique pizza made with potatoes) and most hilariously from one of Darcy’s contacts: tourist trap places to AVOID. When I was napping off jet lag, Darcy got some gelato and it was subpar. I said: “Did you go to that place x told us not to go, Blue Ice?” Sure enough, he had.
Our first meal was near the Trevi Fountain (tourist trap central) at Ristorante La Tavernetta 48, but it was off the beaten track: we followed pretty oil lamps down a tiny lane to find it. I ordered homemade gnocchi, a favorite of mine, but the best part of the meal was the appetizers. Zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and delicately pan fried:
And anchovies. These tasted NOTHING like anchovies I’ve ever had before. They didn’t taste fishy or salty or smell bad: they were light and flavorful, almost like small rainbow trouts. They were served with greens and fresh herbs and olive oil, and were delish.
There was a local bakery near our hotel (Hotel Eden) and we ate there every morning. I don’t remember the name of the place, but we began to befriend the locals we saw there: the same people were there every day. I don’t drink coffee so instead indulged in hot chocolate which tasted different: lighter, frothier, more delicate. LOVED. And we ate different pastries each day. Roman pastries were not particularly sweet. (Which I liked: I don’t like my sweets TOO sweet, YMMV). My favorite was the cream puff: light crunchy puff pastry encased a light, lemony cream made of ricotta. YUM.
For my birthday lunch we went to Pipero Al Rex, a restaurant that had just that week received a Michelin star. Oh, it was heavenly. I ordered their famous Pasta Carbonara and it was the best dish, hands down, I had in Italy. Pasta Carbonara is one of those deceptively simple things: spaghetti, egg, bacon, lemon and pepper: but again, the quality and preparation of those simple ingredients was such that a sublime meal was created. The pasta in particular was al dente and just tasted different (and better) than any other spaghetti I’ve ever had.
For my birthday dinner, we ate at the exquisite restaurant on the top of our hotel, which was called La Terrazza dell’Eden. It was FANCY and the view overlooked the Vatican and other beautiful sites. We ordered Lobster and pasta and it was delicious and sophisticated. We drank champagne and felt rather fabulous.
After touring the Forum and doing a ton of walking the next day, we went to a cheap take-out place (almost a bakery) famous for its potato pizza (yes, really!) called Forno Campo de Fiori. The potato pizza was delicious and we ate siting on a fountain in the middle of the flower market. We dashed in and out of Forno a few times to get “just one more slice”…
We left Rome for Naples the following day. Naples is a tough town: as we were taking a cab to our hotel, in the middle of the day, I noticed a young couple arguing intensely on the street. Suddenly, the woman hauled off and SLAPPED the guy across the face! In front of tons of strangers! He walked away but soon returned, gesticulating madly, trying to apologize, it seemed. He must have really done something to piss her off.
Naples is pretty much acknowledged to be the best place in the world for pizza, and Darcy’s food connections all agreed: the best pizza in Naples was served at Pizzeria Starita. We had to take a cab up winding, narrow, medieval streets: the steepest I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived in San Francisco. Finally we arrived at a tiny restaurant that was very crowded. We were lucky enough to score a table, and readers: the pizza was perfection. The best I’ve ever had: simultaneously liquidy and crispy. I kept it simple and ordered the Margharita.
After touring Pompeii, we moved on to Positano, possibly the most beautiful town I’ve ever visited. Perched on a stark cliff, the hotels and homes are architechtural feats of engineering and also charming and picturesque.
Sometimes when you travel you wander into a cliche: such was the scene when we went to the restaurant Mediteraneo. Darcy captured the cinematic moment perfectly in this short clip. That music is NOT ADDED IN: it was actually PLAYING at the time! It was like some romantic comedy come to life.
Cliched or not, the pasta was delicious here: Darcy ordered this homemade seafood pasta dish after seeing it be delivered to two locals and I ate spaghetti with tomatoes and eggplant.
And so…I am now very hungry and wish there was a way to recreate that spaghetti! Do you have any Italian dishes that are your favorites? What are they? And please direct me to any good recipes you know of for authentic delicious meals