Believe me when I say that I worship at the altar that is the CARBOHYDRATE. I light candles, mumble prayers, and hope for a day when my doctor tells me that I can eat carbs to my heart’s content. Lying on my couch, I am free to mainline paninis as I please and gorge on bottomless bowls of pesto. What dreams I’d have! What I revere most about Italian fare is its unapologetic simplicity. You combine the simplest, freshest ingredients, and tend to it as if each dish were your own personal harvest. Every meal is a bloodletting of sorts, where part of you melds into the food that you’re making. This connection is symbiotic, visceral, emotional, and I prefer it over the cold, austere complexity that is the French and Japanese cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, I love French + Japanese food, but I want my meals to feel like home, not mathematics, so I tend to cleave to dishes that are simple and comforting. Perhaps this is why I never went in for the fanfare of patisserie, rather I cloak myself in yeast and bake the warmest of loaves, the sweetest of cakes.
Call it serendipity when I met up with Arlene + Erica, two great, shining lights, and conversation quickly turned to Italian food. After a few hours I felt a kinship with them because we’d always fall rapturously in love with the cacio e pepes of the world and shirk away from the nine-course meals whose ingredients might very well include foam.
Rome was meant to be a quickie, a layover to the glory that is Florence, but I made a point of hoovering pasta at every single meal, and save for one horrific encounter with raw sausage — the smell of which still has me reeling — every dish was exquisite from presentation to taste. For lunch I stumbled upon di qua, located on Via delle Carrozze 85/B. Oddly, I can’t find a single listing for the restaurant online, but I assure you, it’s good. Tucked away from the busy Plaza de Espagna, you’ll not only fawn over the pasta and greens, you’ll also swoon over the rustic interiors. When someone serves me bread in a leather basket and the dishes are charming, I have to believe a lot of love goes into cultivating a sweet dining experience. The staff were so hospitable and took care with inquiring about my satisfaction that I didn’t want to leave. And the pasta? DIE.
Can we talk about Pierluigi, please? The very charming brother to New York’s Antica Pesa, I loved everything about this eatery. Perhaps I’m biased as my sweet friend Arlene is a frequent patron, but I honestly felt a bit like a celebrity. The staff are attentive, effusive and passionate about food. My homemade ravioli was stuffed with pumpkin and dressed in a light sauce and amaretti cookies. After the prosciutto pile-up, I honestly felt I couldn’t consume one more bite, but I gathered all my strength to make a clean sweep of every plate. And while I’m not fond of fish, I was impressed by the handsome display of fresh catch that is presented to patrons before their dishes are cooked. If you ever find yourself in Rome, I implore you to drop your bags and RUN TO PIERLUIGI.
I firmly believe in the power of the leisurely breakfast, the kind where you feast from a succession of thin, delicate plates and conversations ebb and flow. After a magical dinner, I met up with Erica. From barking in Italian to Alitalia to discussing what it means to mother to shifts in Italian politics, we dined and dished for hours at Ciampini, whilst savoring hot cappuccinos, fresh yoghurt and granola and tasty mini-donuts. I was going to opt for the cornetto, which bears a striking resemblance to my beloved croissant, but Arlene wisely relayed that cornettos are made sans butter (quel horror! que lastima!). PASS.
After a long day of walking, I was set on returning to Pierluigi, when I discovered RJ Numbs Campo De Fiori on a lark. Everything about this spot was perfection. Lots of Italian to be heard so I knew that amidst all the tourist traps, this is a spot that the locals still patron. I opted for the prix-fix menu, which included buffalo mozzarella in a bed of prosciutto, my beloved cacio e pepe and a feather-light tiramisu. To say that my meal was exquisite would be an understatement. Terrific service + a bevy of people-watching made this a delightful afternoon spot.
As I walked home, I received a text that my luggage had been found. Naturally, I stopped for gelato.
Tomorrow, I’m off to Florence!