It’s almost Thanksgiving, I don’t have any plans, and my family is on another continent, so naturally I’ve been feeling a little blah. But I decided to buck up tonight and do a little Italy blogging. I’ve decided to approach my Italy trip in a different way from everything else. I just can’t face the thought of doing a play-by-play run-down of the whole thing, so I’m going to go conceptually. Starting, naturally, with food, as a continuation of the tiramisu post.
The first notable thing that I ate was in Rome, near Roma Termini. (Rome, by the way, has two train lines. TWO. I was baffled. Every time we wanted to go somewhere that was located on the other train line, we had to go back to Termini.) Serena decided that she wanted suppli, which are pretty much fried balls of rice, and we both needed to use the restroom after our train trip and visit to the Colosseum (where we were attacked by two Italian men dressed as gladiators wanting to take pictures with us. We obliged, and then we had to delete the pictures because we refused to pay 5 euros for the privilege. Oh well!). Anyway, after quite a bit of walking, and a quick stop into a fruit market so I could buy a couple of apples, we found a place with both suppli and a bathroom. We decided to share a few different things.
The one on the right is the suppli (actually, that’s plural, isn’t it? My Italian is dreadful, I haven’t the foggiest idea what the singular of that might be!). It’s a ball of rice and cheese that was breaded and fried. In the middle is something the name of which I’ve forgotten, but it’s basically the same as the suppli, but bigger and with mushrooms, celery and carrots in it. It was delicious–actually, it tasted a little bit like my mom’s vegetable kugel! And the one on the left is a potato croquette. All I have to say about that one is, how bad can it be?!
After the suppli we made our way to the Vatican museum, where we saw lots of frescos and gorgeous tapestries, and were slightly underwhelmed by the Sistine Chapel (though amused by the police officers whose job seemed to consist primarily of calling out “NO PHOTOS!” at intervals). But we didn’t eat anything there, so I’ll move on.
We ended up at Campo dei Fiori (we took a CAB, how luxurious!), which is a lovely piazza with lots of wine bars and restaurants, and a big flower market. It was cold, so we installed ourselves outside next to a heater at a restaurant. Serena had wine and delicious spicy nuts, and I had coffee and wafers.
I don’t really like coffee. Which is odd, because I really, really like coffee-flavored things, and chocolate-covered espresso beans, and things like that. But I drank a lot of coffee in Italy, and I think it’s because the coffee is so GOOD. People take their coffee seriously, and restaurants often list as many as twenty different preparations (in Nettuno the first night I was there, we both had coffee with hazelnuts and cream–divine!). Of course, I have to put a fair amount of milk and sugar in mine to make it go down easier, but it really was good. Eventually we moved over to a different restaurant in Campo dei Fiori, where they served aperitivo–a buffet-type snack that was available when you ordered a drink. That night it consisted of several different types of pizza, plus sliced cheese and salami. Alas, I have no pictures of this.
I’m going to come back to Florence in another entry, because we both really loved Florence (if you want more pictures from Rome, you can click on the pictures in this entry and see my Flickr Photostream!). But we ate incredibly well in Florence. My first bite was this one:
Serena had gone to the Galleria Uffizi, but I didn’t want to pay 11 euro for an art museum (yes, yes, I know it’s the Uffizi, and what’s the point of going to Florence if you don’t see it, but still). So I wandered around, took lots of pictures of the Ponte Vecchio and the Arno, and then began the hunt for a bathroom and a snack. I turned down a street that looked like it would lead right to the edge of the river, and I happened to notice cannoli in a display case. It was a pretty swanky little coffee bar, the kind where you stand at the counter with teeny-tiny cups of coffee and pastries–and the kind that would probably have a bathroom, if I ordered something. So I went with a small cannoli, and it was pretty heavenly. The little old Italian lady next to me smiled and told me I should have ordered the big one, but I was perfectly content with what I had.
A little later, Serena and I found a restaurant in a pretty piazza and had lunch. Well, okay, we had something between lunch and dinner, because it was nearly 3 PM by the time we got there. And here’s what we had.
My first course was bruschetta. The front three pieces of bread have just traditional tomato bruschetta on them. The back three were tougher to identify, but I bit into one and discovered it was liver. I was a very happy camper. (Though I’m hard-pressed to pinpoint the moment when I became a liver enthusiast…)
Serena asked the waiter what he thought was good, and he recommended this. I’m not sure even she knew what to expect–I think she was anticipating a meat dish. But this was pretty much two slabs of cheese cooked in some way, with roasted vegetables. That cheese was just unbelievable. I don’t know if it was the way it was cooked, or just the flavor of it by itself, but yum.
I couldn’t leave Italy without having any pasta, so I ordered tagliatelle with sausage ragu. This was a fascinating dish to me, because there wasn’t any sauce. There was certainly oil from cooking the sausage, but the pasta was quite dry, and there was very little salt. The pasta was amazing–almost sweet, which was again reminiscent of kugel to me (I did have to explain to Serena what kugel was–I’m not sure she quite got it!).
Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits, chasing rabbits! This is rabbit. I told Serena that if she ordered this, I would share it with her, and I was so glad I did. This dish was a marvel. The rabbit was tender but the outside was crispy, like it had caught onto the pan, and we picked it up and ate with our fingers. The best part was that I could tell you exactly what went into the dish by how it tasted–rabbit, potatoes, salt (though not much), olive oil, and rosemary. And not much else. It was divine.
Then we both needed a little sweet after dinner. Serena had had her eye on a waffle stand, and I knew I needed gelato.
Chocolate on top, coffee on the bottom. Both light as a feather. The chocolate was almost more like a mousse than an ice cream. Heavenly. Which made me realize that the gelato we have in Paris isn’t quite authentic…oh well.
And that’s about it for this post. Florence tomorrow. 🙂