2015 Italian Food Diaries, Day 5

Tuesday was our last full day in Rome and we were determined to make the best of it. We started at 10am with, of course, a stop at La Renella for Joe’s breakfast of choice: potato pizza. Wandered a bit east in Trastevere towards the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum…yesterday’s two day ticket still allowed us entrance into that area. Stumbled upon bar “Long Island” and grabbed a quick caffe….I think it was the best I’ve had. Really hot, a slightly caramel flavor (or it was the particular brand of raw sugar I added). Delicious. Soon after stopped at a pasticceria and grabbed two small lobster tails – one cream and one chocolate. Amazing. I have no idea the name of the shop.

Crossing the bridge we popped into the church, Santa Maria in Cosmedin, behind the Mouth of Truth. The church is worth a visit, and despite the large crowds gathering in front for a photo op a la Roman Holiday (OK, we did that on our first visit too), the church itself is usually quiet and almost empty. There are frescoes from the 11th century, a bell tower from the 12th century, the skull of Saint Valentine and the most amazing mosaic stone floors. The basilica sits on the site of an ancient temple of Hercules, and a crypt in the basement contains some artifacts from that time.

We continued over to the lower entrance to Palatine Hill, where we entered and made a sharp right towards the Forum (again taking advantage of the complete lack of line at this entrance). Using some downloaded Rick Steves audio guides, we synchronized our phones and enjoyed a one hour tour of the Forum. Surely it would take more than a week to understand all that’s happening there, but in an hour you get get a general idea, and don’t suffer heat stroke (or impatient teenager syndrome). Following the history lesson, we walked up the hill behind the Vittorio Emanuele Monument (aka “the typewriter” or “the wedding cake” due to its bright marble facade and enormity). We climbed the stairs to the main viewing level, but then took the elevator to the top. What a view of the city! (all of my pictures came out blurry, I believe there was some pastry cream involved…)

We were a little weary from walking and climbing and artifacts and the heat, so we stopped at the little cafe on the main viewing level of the monument. Expecting an overpriced cold drink but at least a place to sit, I was pleasantly surprised. Joe had a Coke (it’s made with real sugar here and he likes it) and a prosciutto panino, I had a roasted veggie panino with generous slices of fresh mozzarella, a bottled bubbly water and a macchiato.  13 euro, a cool breeze, a well-needed break, win win.

We descended the huge old staircase I’d pointed out to him when we arrived in the city, and walked home through the Jewish quarter, stopping of course at Punto Gelato for a cone.  While back at the apartment for a little siesta, I called and made reservations for dinner. It’s always fun to call and speak the native language. When my part of the conversation is clear enough that they reply in Italian, I’m a little bit flattered that they understood me, but always left wondering if they really did. Do we have a table for 6 at 8pm tonight? or a table for 8 on the 6th? or did I just order take-out? Without the advantage of in-person hand gestures (a significant part of the Italian language), it’s a bit of a challenge.

The call must have worked. We arrived at Flavio al Velavevodetto in Testaccio and they had our table waiting.  We were one of the first tables seated but alas, travelling with kiddos, the 10pm seating wasn’t going to cut it.  Our guide Katie had recommended this place, and I’d read a lot about it lately. The menu looked something like this…

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Pardon the poor picture quality…I didn’t want to be too much of a geek taking a picture of the menu. We had several selections…

Bottle of House Red, One glass of Prosecco, One Coke in a glass bottle, Still and Frizzante waters

Carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish style fried artichokes) – Fabulous

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Frittata con Fiori di Zucca – OK. Reading this now I get it – I was thinking it was fried zucchini blossoms, but really it was a zucchini blossom frittata. It was a fine frittata, but due to my own poor translation, I was just expecting something else 🙂

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Rigatoni alla matriciana – with tomato, pecorino and some crazy delicious guanciale which, as it turns out, is cured pork jowl…and tasted sort of like bacon, but better. Think guanciale is to bacon, like bacon is to bologna.

Rigatoni alla carbonara – with guanciale, pecorino, egg and pepper – very good, perhaps a little sharper and less creamy than some of the other carbonaras we’ve had….but ooh that guanciale!!

Ravioli all velavevodetto – with fresh buffalo ricotta (wow!!), tomatoes, herbs, deliciousness

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Tonnarelli cacio e pepe – with cheese and black pepper – loved it

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Polpette fritte di bollito – fried meatballs made of savory shredded beef, served with sauteed chicory and roasted potatoes. “They were fanTAStic” says Joe. Well, I had the chicory, which I loved (sort of like collards. sort of)

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For dessert we went with the tiramisu (amazing), the zabaglione (good, but served frozen, was expecting creamy), and what they called a dutch chocolate cake….more of a brownie, seemed to be a good quality chocolate, and better with a scoop of the frozen zabaglione on top.

Finished the night with a couple of espressi, one refreshing glass of house white, and all in at 139 euro. Not bad for 3 adults, 3 kids, apps and desserts. I really liked this place….Roman classics done well, reasonably priced, unpretentious, and not a word of English on the menu. It’s probably a toss up for me between this and da Franceso for my favorite restaurant in Rome. Da Francesco is more accessible to the historical center, but “Velavevodetto” is more fun to say. Both have great vibes. And here I got to ask for extra spoons with our desserts, giving me the opportunity to use one of my favorite Italian words, “cucchiaio” (coo-key-eye-oh).It’s the simple things. It’s all good.

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