chocolate hippos

rome, part 2

I love pizza, and a great deal of time was put into researching for a few pizzerias to try while in Rome.  You may remember I took a pizza class with Gabrielle Bonci prior to my trip.  And Bonci’s Pizzarium was my first meal in Rome.

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Walking into this small storefront, I knew we were in for a treat.  Rows of rectangular pizzas sat behind glass just waiting to be cut to order and eaten sitting on a bench just outside.

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The pizza that I was most excited to try (and turned out to be my favorite) was the “rosso”, a simple pizza of tomato puree, olive oil and a dusing of oregano.  We also had a rosso pizza that was topped with fresh mozzarella and basil, which I though detracted from the wonderful simplicity of the plainer pizza.

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They had many lovely vegetable combinations (spinach and ricotta, broccoli rabe with zucchini and pine nuts).  We loved them all.  Except maybe the pizza with mortadella and salt cod.  Salty fish topped with fancy bologna….not so much.

With all of the hype about Pizzarium, I thought it would be the pinnacle of pizza in Rome, but I was wrong.  Pizzarium is good.  Sforno is excellent.  Despite the concierge questioning why we would travel so far (30 minute cab ride) for dinner, and a taxi driver that had to check a map at least 12 times en route (making it a 50 minute cab ride), Sforno was one of the highlights of our weekend feeding frenzy.

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In addition to having AWESOME Neapolitan style pizza, they also have excellent starters.  One of the specials of the evening is pictured above, suppli’ all’amatriciana.  Rice with tomatoes, onions, guanciale and pecorino, rolled in bread crumbs and fried.  I could have eaten 80 of these.

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I’m a sucker for pizza margherita, and Sforno did not disappoint.  Chewy-crispy crust, tangy tomato sauce and rich, creamy mozzarella di bufala.  But what we really came to Sforno for was their famous “Cacio e Pepe” pizza.

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Based on the pasta dish of the same name, Sforno takes that same crispy-chewy dough, but bakes it with ice cubes on top to keep the surface moist.  Once out of the oven, it is topped with a generous layer of grated pecorino, then olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.  I will be recreating this for you in the near future.

Now, I’d love to tell you of all the lovely trattorias we spent hours in enjoying food and wine.  But my standards are high.  And I hate tourist traps. Therefore I can’t recommend any of the places that I read about on most of the “experts” blogs.  We had some great laughs about terrible service and mediocre food, but I wasn’t in Rome for mediocre food and waiters mocking the American tourists (shame on you Ristorante La Campana).

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But I will recommend a trattoria that an old friend sent me to, Trattoria Monti.  Small, a little off the beaten path, and a perfect place for Sunday lunch.  Good wine, excellent food cooked by Mama Monti and delivered to your table be her two sons.  And filled with locals.  Perfect.

We ate savory flans, eggplant parmesan, mushroom risotto, lasagna bolognese, and roasted rabbit with potatoes.

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Now, I’m not saying there aren’t other places that are fabulous in Rome….I was there for a weekend, not a year.  Perhaps next time I will have more than 52 hours to stuff my face.  But if you go, eat the gelato.  Eat the pizza.  And go to Trattoria Monti.

Next up, Tuscany/Pienza!

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