TRAVEL

On the hunt for OneMoreDish in Rome

A Very Personal Food Tour of Rome

Finding the very best dish in Rome is a Sisyphean task. Seriously.  Roman food is well represented, and rightfully so - old school, new style, street food, Michelin - all over the city, and lately, there is always something new popping up so searching for "the best" is an endless journey.  A great restaurant in Rome is an always-changing sum of mood, weather, ambition, expectations, patience, hankering, quality, location, ambience and a few more inexplicables that are relevant often only in that particular moment.  With that in mind, I don't look for the Best, I'm looking for an experience and a surprise, like the perfect plate of puntarelle, a surprise sanguinella (blood orange) gelato or a satisfying sandwich, exactly why I jumped to the task when Alexandra Romanoff of OneMoreDish asked me to create a food itinerary for day trip to Rome.

Full Disclosure:  Alexandra is an old friend.  We've been eating together since she lived in Rome a few years back where I quickly understood her vibe on food- a dedication to experiencing as much as possible.  She's a flyweight with the voracity of a T-Rex, and the more I hang out with her, the more I come to think of her a gastronomic John Anderton/Minority Report, preemptively envisioning dishes, snacks, restaurants, and that one more dish days before the table is set.  And Alexandra is OneMoreDish, a fabulous and intrepid food-centric Instagram profile that has been featured in ExtraCrispy, TastingTable, MeatPacking District,  Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Maxim, amnewyork, Refinery29 and more.  For her upcoming visit, I lined up favorite food groups - pizza, pasta, panini and gelato for a day out in Rome.

8 hours, 6 meals and 2 Desserts

Alexandra only has eyes for eating as much as possible, so I focused on efficiency.  Conveniently for us, my backyard at Campo de' Fiori is the perfect place to start any food quest, a central HQ to walk to all corners of Aurelian's Rome.  Our journey took us to stand-up and sit-down spots in Campo, Trevi, Trastevere and Testaccio, and back,  each no more than a 30-minute light strut from my home base.  Grouped by food genre (so you can pick and choose at your fancy), here's where, why and what we ate:

PIZZA

 La Renella A serendipitous blast from the past.  Long ago, when I lived in the neighborhood, I ate a slice of pizza al taglio from Renella everyday, vowing it was the best.  I evenutally moved out of Trastevere and moved on to other forni and panifici, forgetting about my beloved Renella.  Thanks to our spur of the moment food tour,  we short cut through Trastevere's Piazza Trilussa, I found myself walking up via del Moro and enveloped in that mesmerizing freshly baked pizza aroma.  My recall kicked in and Renella became our surprise stop: a slice of pizza rossa (light tomato sauce) with roasted peppers, a smattering of parsley and flakes of fior di latte cheese, which we took to go, enjoying it as we crossed Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Location:  Trastevere

Baffetto 2  Alexandra asked for something light, easy and near by. Easy enough, pizza romana at Baffetto 2.  With so much talk about "the best pizza" in Rome and waxing poetic on flour, I've lost track of where I'm supposed to eat pizza.  Instead, I stick with old faithful Baffetto 2, a no-frills neighborhood pizzeria. We've known the pizzaiolo for a few years and he knows so we like our pizzas extra thin and crispy, so we are never disappointed.  And it constantly stands up to the Bellardini Test, a centuries-old method of assessing dough quality and consistency by holding out a slice out horizontal to see how well and long its holds out [tried and true pefected by Ettore Bellardini of Antiqua Tours ]. Our choice for the quest was an extra crispy pizza bianca (white pizza- cheese with no tomato sauce) and fiori di zucca, zucchini followers with no anchovies (Alexandra's preference, not mine).

Location:  Campo de' Fiori.

Pizza al taglio, by the slice, at La Renella in Trastevere. Photo by Alexandra Romanoff/OneMoreDish

Pizza romana, at Baffetto 2 in Campo de' Fiori. Photo by Alexandra Romanoff/OneMoreDish

PASTA

Roscioli Everybody loves Roscioli.  Over the years, its name  alone has become synonymous with Rome and its food scene as the not-to-miss salumeria.  Roscioli's popularity means advance booking, usually means a week or more ahead of time, or fall in line with the pedestrian-traffic-stopping queue on via dei Giubbonari.   And with good reason: the pastas are to die for.  We snuck in  seat at Roscioli's nextdoor caffe (ask Tommaso for the restaurant menu) and ordered light, choosing caciopepe instead of its award-winning carbonara.  For those who have never tasted caciopepe, it is the ideal comfort food which Roscioli does it to perfection-  freshly cracked black and red pepper, piquant pecorino and fresh pasta.

Location:  Campo de' Fiori

Pipero You knew this was going to be on the list, because I won't let anyone leave Rome without tasting my favorite pasta dish. At this point in life, the only person who I trust to make it is Chef Luciano Monosilio of Pipero. Luciano is a rockstar and magician.  His carbonara is perfectly balanced with pecorino and parmigiano cheese, egg yellows, and guanciale smoked and grilled separately. And Pipero the restaurant is like no other- gorgeous, high ceiling space with Flos lamps and design chairs. What I love best are the tables spaced just enough apart from each other that you can't accidentally eavesdrop, and I feel like the carbonara is all mine.

Location:  Campo de' Fiori/Chiesa Nuova

 Al Moro Okay, I lied.  I also love spaghetti al moro, a piquant twist on carbonara that makes me think of yesteryear dinners with my great aunts, and Jonathan Gold, the LA Times food critic who once dined at Al Moro for 10 days in a row.  I have a routine at Al Moro- carbonara followed by a freshly made zabaglione with melted dark chocolate, but this time happenstance placed a dish of ovoli, those seasonal, crimson-lined mushrooms that Julius Caesar loved, served thinly sliced with shards of grovière, on our table.

Location:  Trevi

Caciopepe from Roscioli Salumeria by Campo de' Fiori. Photo by Alexandra Romanoff/OneMoreDish.

Carbonara at Pipero by Campo de' Fiori. Photo by Alexandra Romanoff/Onemoredish.

Ovuli from Al Moro by Trevi.

PANINI

Volpetti  Alexandra is a New Yorker, which means she has at least one top notch alimentari/ salumeria (delicatessen) in her rolodex.... for every city.  For Romans,  the alimentari is usually sottocasa, (just below the house) or within close walking distance.   While she lived in Rome,  her alimentari was Volpetti, a historic salumeria in Testaccio, slightly out of my comfort zone but worth the walk.   Alexandra customized a prosciutto crudo, mozzarella and pickled artichokes on pizza bread sandwich with a dash of balsamic vinegar.

Location: Testaccio

Panino from Volpetti in Testaccio.

GELATO

 Corona  I love Corona, my tiny neighborhoood gelateria that often is overlooked with all of those overly artisanal ice cream shops populating the city.  The shop is simple, no bells and whistles, just a dozen flavors. Each season and micro-season, owner Alesandro creates new and unique flavors like marron glacè, along with the old staples including stracciatella and cioccolato al latte.  Our choice was a triple scoop of lamponi banane (raspberry banana), cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate) and sesamo (sesame), a bizarre and extraordinarily satisfying combination. 

Location:  Largo Argentina

Fatamorgana is one of those gelateria that has about at least twenty artisanal flavors at any given time, but the difference is that MariaAgnese's recipes are all natural.  Recent unforgettable tastes are wasabi cioccolato, black garlic, lavender,  and peanut.  Fatamorgana is the place if you are looking for variety and unique flavors.

Location:  Trastevere with several locations around the Eternal City as well as an outpost in Studio City, Los Angeles.

Three scoops at Corona in Largo Argentina.

A cone from Fatamorgana in Trastevere. Photo by Alexandra Romanoff/Onemoredish.

 

- by Erica Firpo.  Want to know more about who I am and what I do?  Check out my website ericafirpo.com.  And then click over to Twitter and Instagram  for your Rome and Italy fix. . .

Pipero and the art of Carbonara

Carbonara.

If there is one plate that I would go to the ends of the earth for, it is carbonara- my kind of comfort food and Rome's emblematic dish of pasta, egg, grated pecorino (and/or parmesan) cheese, and guanciale.  I will go out of my way, leaps and bounds for just a plate so over the years, I've made it my business to eat carbonara in every Roman restaurant I step foot in,  an ongoing culinary quest for that very best until a fateful Saturday, September 21, 2013, when I sat down at Pipero and ate the last forkful of Luciano Monsilio's carbonara.   The only word to describe his carbonara is perfection - aesthetically beautiful- a sunflower-colored knot of pasta in a serving that was neither too much nor too little with the ideal Italian umami thanks to Luciano's preternatural culinary skills for combining grated pecorino and parmesan cheese, pepper-spiced beaten egg yolk, and pan-cooked guanciale in just the perfect amounts, and Alessandro Pipero, owner of his epynymous restaurantknew it.   Heck, he even made a film about it.  

As I walked out of Pipero, I vowed I would never eat carbonara again, unless Luciano was putting a plate of it in front of me or, and there always is an "or", it was vetted as hands-down amazing by a series of carbonara sycophants including Luca Sessa, Katie Parla, my favorite taxi driver Emanuele and my aunt Graziella.   It was easy to hold back from my carbonara fix.  Pipero was getting a lot of press after receiving a much-deserved Michelin star in November of 2012, which meant it was harder to just pop by, and personally I wasn't keen on its location at the Hotel Rex, andthough it is/was somewhat easy to find other great carbonara, my heart belonged to Pipero.   Fast forward to March 2017 when, while casually strolling down Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, the thoroughfare linking St. Peter's to Piazza Venezia, I noticed that the old and vacant bank across from Chiesa Nuova had curtains.  I took a closer look.  Pipero's moved in.

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Real estate is tough negotiation for a Rome restaurant, and even tougher for a Michelin-starred joint.  Choices are either hotel spaces, which is usually a compromise of interior design and multipurpose like a breakfast buffet, or a private space, sacrificing light for independence.   The new Pipero is neither.  Taking over a former bank in the Piazza Navona/Campo de' Fiori neighborhood, Pipero has location.   And thanks to the architectural demands of said bank, Pipero has light- a luminous space of high ceilings, and full-length windows on two sides of the corner restaurant.  A chic interior, the lounge/restaurant is simply accented with Poltrona Frau chairs, Flos lamps, original parquet floors and absolutely no clocks on the table, a detail Alessandro loved in Pipero's original incarnation but thankfully shelved in 2017.  The ground level area has seven tables, with an open mezzanine hosting three tables, while the subterranean is home to Pipero's wine cellar - a cozy, private dining cave lined with labels hand-picked by Alessandro, who also happens to be a sommelier. 

Let's get serious. Style was the first thing on my mind.  Before sitting down at Pipero's table, my most important concern was the food and whether or not Pipero would uphold or even surpass this crazy idolization I created over the years.  Was it still perfect? On a Tuesday afternoon, I found out by treating myself to a six-course tasting menu.  [Note: I asked to include the carbonara, as Alessandro and Luciano had removed it from the menu, making it available to guests by request.] The restaurant was quiet - just me, a couple, and Achille Sardiello, Alessandro's Numero Uno and maitre d', a man whose dedication to Pipero - owner, restaurant and dishes - is all about poise and professionalism.  Achille charmingly commands the floor.  The mythical carbonara appeared after an incredible duck tartar "panino" of crispy, slim bread with homemade mustard, and a rigatoni with broccoli, sausage and pecorino that playfully innovates tradition and changed my entire life view on broccoli.   It would be an understatement to say I was sated when the carbonara arrived, but I needed to make sure Pipero was still Pipero.  Every bite that afternoon was just as perfect as the first, second and third times I had eaten Luciano's magical carbonara.  Mission accomplished,but to follow was a lambcut which blew my mind with its delicious combination of cottura perfetta (perfectly cooked), anchovies and a raspberry cream.  I could've stopped there, gone home and written a love sonnet to Pipero, but why not make sure? One month later, I organized a private dinner for 30 for the very same six-course tasting menu.  Of course, Alessandro, Luciano and Achille did not disappoint- perfect service, perfect ambience, perfect dishes -- and yep, that carbonara was perfect.

Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 250

(+39) 06 68138022

Above:  Tuna tartar with green apple and mustard.  Here: Rigatoni with broccoli, pecorino and sausage