Sunday, March 24, 2013

Arrivederci Bella Italia!

At The Roman Forum
Rome is a city unlike any other city.  It has it's own rhythm.  I would say "Rome dances to a different orchestration than the rest of the world."  After a couple of days here, we felt that we were getting a handle on this place.  By this time, Michael and I have become addicted to the cappuccinos at Sant Eustachio.  They were rich, bold and creamy all at the same time.  (may I have another, per favore?)  We also became accustomed to having an afternoon gelato.  I would try different favors and Michael would stick to his favorite, pistachio. Lastly, we couldn't wait for our "apperitvo" in the early evenings.  We especially liked their "spritz" which was Aperol, Percesco and club soda.  As we had eaten plenty of pasta and meat by this time, we decided to go to a seafood place for a lighter dinner.  We were recommended to try Osteria Der Belli.  It is located in Rome's hip neighborhood of Trastevere.

Osteria Der Belli
Honestly, I was dissatisfied with this restaurant. The service was mediocre. The presentation was flat.  I do confess that the flavors were good and robust.  However, as I am a Spaniard and specifically a "Madrileño", I am very spoiled with seafood.  Madrid receives some of the finest seafood from both the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

After 3 days in Rome, we couldn't get it out of our minds that the best meals we had were at Da Francesco and the meal we made at home.  Naturally, we choose to repeat them both. That morning we headed out to the Campo De Fiori to buy veggies and souvenirs.  We came back with Grappa, Lemoncello, spices, wine, salad, tomatoes, veal and the tiniest but sweetest strawberries you ever saw.  After our second trip to the Vatican and the most special because we got to stand in front of the tomb of Saint Peter. We headed to Da Francesco for lunch and found our friend "Tarquinio" smiling at our return.

Tarquinio and Me

I ordered some antipastos of purscutto and mozzarella (or as Michael's cousin's say Moo-tzerr-rell).  As the famous PBS travel guide Rick Steve's comments "Antipastos are a great and affordable way to fill your belly in Italy."  We both got pasta as our main dishes.  Michael got the famous "Fettucine all tartuffo bianco" which had a subtle but exquisite taste of white truffle.  As a Spaniard, I had eaten many "black" rice made with squid ink, so naturally I was curious to try some "black" pasta with cockles.  My pasta definitely brought to me many memories of Spain...different but similar.  I had to constantly fight off Michael's fork from my plate.  We both left thrilled to have another fulfilling and truly Roman meal.  We then headed on a wild goose chase through the tiny streets of Rome for the 116 bus.  At every turn another dead end but thankfully we found it and off to the Borghese Gardens we went.  We then came back for an evening at home munching on pizza, leftovers and our veal and salad.  The next morning we took the train to Florence.

The Umbrellas of Firenze
We only had one day in Florence and unfortunately it was rainy and cold.  We didn't have many suggestions of places to eat at here. The only sit down restaurant that we had was Cibréo.  After seeing Michelangelo's David, we went to find it.  It turned out to be a real find.  It was of the beaten track, the menu was not very big, but it was affordable with excellent quality food. We started with Minestra in Pane (basically Minestrone made with bread) and sfornato di ricotta e patate (a cheese flan with meat ragu).  Michael loved his "soup" but was surprised it was more like a spread and not soupy at all.  My ricotta felt like a play on deconstructed lasagna.  Our second plate was cod puree and a roast rabbit.  My cod with lentils really warmed my insides on such a wet day.  I was super surprised to learn that my cod had no cream at all.  It was all pureed cod and olive oil.  WOW!  Michael's rabbit was moist and crusty with a variety of herds.  It also had the most savory caramelized onions ever.  We finished with dessert of "cheesecake" (that is exactly as the server said it to us...cheese-y-cakeee (full on Italian accent) and bavarese al caffe.  I couldn't decide so our waiter brought out the chocolate cake too.  So very sweet.

We capped our stay in Italy with a delightful day at Lake Cuomo.  It was a perfect way to end our adventure in Italia.  Ciao Italia...until next time!

At Villa Pizzo in Lake Cuomo

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