Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rome: A Culinary Weekend Treat

Rome…A wonderful getaway for some history, good food and wine!!

Just back from spending Easter weekend in Rome, still  recovering from the wine, cocktails and lemoncello, not to mention the carb feast of a weekend.

We arrived quite late on Friday night and decided to take up my parents’ recommendation of a restaurant not far from our hotel on Via Nazionale. Relatively easy to find Elettra on Via  Principe Amedeo, was definitely worth a seek-out. The staff are falling over you nearly with their friendliness and greeted us with complementary prosecco whilst we mulled over the menu.
I had made a decision to myself to try food I hadn’t tried before and but with all my favourites on the menu, it proved a difficult decision. For starters here I had a classic bresola, rocket and parmesan dish, with Alan going for his favourite, Parma ham & melon; another classic. Both dishes would be a doddle to prepare at home for a dinner party when under pressure. It’s just a quick assembly job, and like this restaurant, provide a rustic basket with crusty ciabatta and good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
I will definitely try to recreate my main course as an impressive dinner party dish…Turbot with Artichokes and Cherry Tomatoes…Divine. I imagine pulling this dish off would be mainly down to having excellent quality ingredients as there was nothing else to the dish. The turbot, perfectly cooked, was beautifully succulent, sweet cherry tomatoes and artichokes with just the right amount of zing! The perfect balance for a truly authentic Italian fish dish.
Alan went for a classic Saltimbocca al Romana, which was Veal, Sage and Parma ham with a marsala reduction.  It was just simple but also pure class. I think I will try this one with either chicken or pork, as veal is not an everyday staple of ours, but I think chicken will work quiet well and a great crowd pleaser. Only one night down and I’ve already 2 great mains to try to create at home Serena Medium Rare style.

Day 2 involved a very fast train (my ears popped going through tunnels), to Pompeii. It would have been the highlight of the trip if only for the constant torrential downpour we got from the moment we stepped off the train. Nonetheless we just grinned and bared it, got our guide and did a 2.5 hour tour. It was utterly incredible and a ‘must’ for anyone in the neighbourhood, or who has a day to spare in Rome.

Both my brother-in-law and my sister recommended we dine and drink across the river in the Trastevere area. So we asked our hotel receptionist to recommend somewhere and they said Sabatini in Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. They said it was famous! So we agreed it had to be tried. Wow!! All I can say is wowzers! It was a fantastic culinary experience and urge anyone visiting Rome to eat there.

Alan had a exquisite cold seafood platter to start, which was quite a pricy €14 so I decided to just get something small like soup and share his starter. I decided on the fish soup in a last minute panic when ordering, not looking at the menu price. What was served to me was truly heaven in a bowl. The soup, had a tomato base, but had baby octopus, squid, mussels, hake and jumbo kind prawn. The soup also had two slices of what must have been once stale ciabatta bread, transformed into a flavour soaking sponge. Great idea actually!!! Gonna give that a go in a soup recipe. This soup was so filling in fact I was very worried I would not be able for my seafood risotto main. Then when I licked my plate clean, I laughed at the thought of me not being able to finish a meal!!! The seafood risotto was mainly shrimp and mussels in a tomato base again and the risotto rice had a bite to it, it wasn’t very mushy like the risottos you might get here at home. Alan’s Salmon Penne was a very rich affair, but the plate wasn’t piled too high, so it left a taste of ‘more’ with it. The salmon was minced which was interesting. I think I’d have preferred it whole, but that’s just me being greedy.
We decided we were too stuffed for two desserts, though the atmosphere looking out of the Piazza we were sitting under our gas heater, we said we’d have coffees and share an ice-cream. When the bill arrived, I nearly died, my soup was €22!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who orders soup costing €22?????!!!!!!!!
Just as well it was amazing, I was rather ashamed I hadn’t seen the price beforehand!!!!

The final evening for dinner we went back to Trastevere, and after much searching for a restaurant, we found an authentic enough one that didn’t look like a total tourist trap. We have to queue (It was Easter Sunday after all)

We had the Parma ham and melon and deep fried baby squid and deep fried courgette flowers. I’d seen Jamie Oliver do the flowers on TV and was eagar to try them. They were really lovely, but I can only imagine the calories!!!! The main course was beef strips in a tomato sauce, delicious and simple served with a large steamed artichoke on the side; and this I imagine will be a doddle to recreate at home. This restaurant wasn’t as tasty as the night before, but felt equally as authentic and half the price!!!

During the day time we flitted between cafes stopping for yummy bruschetta’s, pizzas, more squid, marinated aubergine slices, spaghetti vongoli, and gelaterias for glorious Italian ice-creams, pistachio being my favourite flavour I decide, after yet another ‘cono’!

I’ll be paying for this gluttonous trip I imagine for some time to come on the cross trainer. Was it worth it though!!.........Every single bite!!!!

Top 5 highlights (in no particular order)

·         Ice-cream in Trevi
·         Pompeii, although wetter than wet, was unbelievable
·         Coliseum – a must!!!
·         The infamous fish soup in Sabatini’s
·         The view of Rome from the Cupola in the Vatican (though the journey up is not for the claustrophobic, as I learnt the hard way)

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