Rome, Del Frate


There is little doubt that the most wonderful pool in Rome is situated in the Foro Italica complex. The complex, a premier example of Fascist architecture was actually not constructed until some years later for the 1960’s Olympics. The walls and pool deck are all decorated with marble mosaics and the basin itself is completely clad in white Carrara marble. Membership can be obtained for no fewer than five days and up to one year. If you are planning to be in Rome for a long enough stay and are a serious swimmer it is by far the best place to swim. Be prepared with a doctor’s note stating that you are physically fit for swimming or you will not be admitted.
Tablesetting

On our last swim we headed over to one of our favorite restaurants, Del Frate. It is technically a wine bar and is connected to a shop specializing in wine and fine spirits. The actual bar and restaurant serves an eclectic mix of classical Italian fare as well as some slightly French and Asian inspired dishes. We have been for both lunch and dinner and it has never disappointed.
Cheese Plate
We started with a sampling of two cheeses, a Blu del Monviso from the Piemonte region and Quartirolo from Lombardie, and two glasses of Borolo, Prunotto 2011. The Blu del Monviso is very reminiscent of a french Roquefort style cheese. The Quartirolo, textured somewhat like a goat cheese, had an appealing array floral and fruity notes. The cheeses were served with a condiment of Orange Blossom Honey, pickled watermelon rind and a basket of fresh bread.

For one of our main dishes we ordered the risotto cooked in red wine with Parmesan cheese. It was deliciously garnished with crispy bits of sausage and fresh Thyme. For our second main course we decided to try the chicken cooked in a Wok. The chicken was cooked with an assortment of julienned carrots and zucchini and served in a rich aromatic broth of soy sauce and sesame oil with a sprinkling of fresh ginger. The carrots were perfectly cooked, retaining some of their crunch while the zucchini was soft and mellow but not mushy as can often be the case. It was a startling and very delicious combination of dishes! With friendly service, great food and wine this is a sure bet for lunch, aperitif, or dinner.
www.enotecadelfrate.it

Cucina Romana “For Real”

We have been blessed with fabulously gorgeous weather here in Rome. But there is no denying it Fall has arrived. The nights and mornings are chilly and the afternoons warm and sunny.  Great weather to be out and about in Rome.

Today we went to a restaurant in one of the more touristy areas of Rome, just off Piazza Navona. Actually I am not sure where in Rome isn’t touristy but more about that in a future blog. Anyway we went to a restaurant that we tried with a visitor a couple of weeks ago. She raved about the ravioli and I raved about the broccoli soup with fish which sounded terrible and I hedged on ordering it. With some encouragement from our waiter I went for it and did not for one second regret it. What came to the table was an intensely flavored tomato based soup with chunks of cauliflower and broccoli with a hint of seafood in the background.  Today I was really craving this soup or really any soup done up like the broccoli number so we headed over to Virginiae to give it another try.
Our waiter started us with freshly prepared artichokes Roman style which means whole roasted in olive oil and white wine and garnished with mint or parsley. They were tangy, tender and perfectly seasoned.
Artichokevirginiai
The soup of the day was bean and pasta.  A really great dish and a very Roman one. I have recently purchased two cookbooks specific to Roman cookery and both have some version of bean and pasta soup in it.  BeanandpastasoupIt is what I think of as home style cooking; relaxed, earthy and unpretentious. This one too was basically a tomato base with beans and small thin triangular pieces of pasta evenly dispersed in the broth and beans. I will be preparing this for a future post this coming week.

Virginiaie
Via di Parione, 41, 00186 Roma
06 687 5150
http://www.ristorantevirginiae.com

 

Rome: Palazzo Spada

Saturday was once again rainy and a bit dreary.  But the upside is that the tourist stay in while we venture out.  And, frankly, Rome not unlike Paris is actually quite beautiful in the rain. The cobblestone streets and sidewalks come alive; wet, shiny and reflective.  The green of vegetation becomes exaggerated and enhanced creating a contrast to the otherwise gray smog stained buildings.

We took a nice walk over to Palazzo Spada and spent  a few hours or so touring the picture galleries of this wonderful renaissance palace.  Only one floor is open to the public but enough paintings and period furnishings to keep us occupied for the morning.

After the picture galleries we headed downstairs and out the back into a wonderful courtyard to view the perspective colonnade by Borromini.  The rain was pouring but nothing could take away from this fascinating three dimensional perspective.  Be sure to check it out here: http://www.artbabble.org/video/ngadc/empire-eye-magic-illusion-palazzo-spadas-corridor-part-5

 

After spending some time photographing and pondering the genius of this architectural wonder we headed back out into the wet city.  Not far from the entrance to the gallery there is a restaurant, La Quercia, that we have passed many times but had never tried.  This time with so much rain and no other place in mind for lunch it seemed destined for a first try.

laquerciaI
La Quercia Interior

We were the first to arrive for lunch. This is typical for us. Somehow we have not gotten accustomed to eating lunch as late as the locals do. Lunch here does not really get started until at least one and really even later on weekends. The interior is very warm and cozy; the perfect place for this rainy day.

LaquerciaII

We started by ordering a bottle of Poggio Dei Gelsi. This was the least expensive bottle on the menu but the only white from the Lazio region which is to say a local vineyard. The wine was fairly dry and went well with everything we ordered; the perfect table wine.

PorciniI
Sauteed Porcini Mushrooms

Our waiter soon arrived with a basket of fresh Porcini mushrooms and suggested we try them in one of two ways; either sauteed or with fettuccine. We opted to share the sauteed version.

PumkinrisottoI
Pumpkin Risotto with Clams

The mushrooms were sliced and diced into nice size chunks and sauteed in olive oil along with garlic and rosemary.  Grilled whole wheat bread was nestled in for soaking up the sauce.  These were really really good.  So succulent!

Rabbitwitholives
Braised Rabbit with Black Olives

Next we decided on one of the special dishes of the day which was risotto and pumpkin with clams.  Again, a really delicious dish. The salty sea infused clams contrasted nicely with the creamy background of the pumpkin while the rice, cooked al dente, offered texture and balance.

The final dish we ordered and shared as well was the rabbit cooked with black olives.  A beautiful presentation with glossy black olives and creamy puree of potatoes and again some bread nestled in for soaking up the sauce. The rabbit had been braised with herbs and garlic and was super tender and succulent.

All in all a wonderful rainy Saturday here in Rome.

museum and lunch

Since our arrival here in Rome we have been blessed with wonderful warm sunny days (one might even say hot). However, Saturday changed all of that at least in part. We awoke early Saturday morning to downpours like we haven’t seen since leaving the States.  So what better to do than duck into a museum and spend the morning inside while it rains and clears off outside? We headed for the National Museum of Rome which really far exceeded our expectations. The collection is divided into four main categories: Sculpture, Mosaics, Frescoes, and coins. We were able to easily and enjoyably take in the sculpture and most of the mosaics and frescoes before hunger and sunlight from the skylights got the best of us.  We will definitely be returning to finish at some point.

Leaving the museum we headed over to one or our favorite spots for lunch, Osteria Gusto, which actually took more time than expected but it was good to be out and about as it was really turning out to be a beautiful day in Rome.

osteria gusto

Osteria Gusto is one of our favorite places to lunch.  We always start with one of the Fritto Misto plates to share. This time we tried the whole shebang which included fried zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and anchovies, fried zucchini, and the usual fried shrimps and calamari.  The zucchini flowers and zucchini were a little too heavily battered for my taste. The seafood on the other hand were fried in a light tempura style batter which was really delicious.

Frito Misto I

For our next courses I ordered the Tonnarelli with Pecorino and Pepper which is a very classic Roman pasta dish.  The pasta is somewhat like a thicker spaghetti and of course is cooked al dente. It is a sturdy and very filling dish.

 

Pecorino e Pepe
Pecorino and Pepper with Tonnarelli

We then ordered a risotto with shrimp and lemon sauce that was very luxurious in texture and taste. The texture was not like so many risottos that are rich and creamy. The rice/risotto in this dish still had its own identity, cooked al dente, and the sauce applied much like a dressing. It rather reminded me of a pilaf instead of the more creamy risottos that I sometimes find a too creamy and mushy.

Risotto con gamberi e limone