TRAVEL

Trattoria V.2: 4 New Rome Restaurants Turning the Tables

Tortellini. Credit: Retrobottega

While Rome will never relinquish the triple threat of carbonara, amatriciana and cacio e pepe, it’s ready to cast off the stereotype that the classic trattoria has to be no frills, no elbow room and absolutely no service. These four new spots are turning the tables on the way you think about the Eternal City’s restaurant scene.

Retrobottega

This budding restaurant has actually been on the block for a few years, but in 2018, a refresh revealed a larger dining space and a moody, minimalist design with a trademark open kitchen and two communal tables.  

Chefs Giuseppe Lo Iudice and Alessandro Miocchi can be found center stage assembling and plating their creations: evolved recipes featuring locally sourced and foraged produce. 

The dishes change so frequently, it’s best to check Retrobottega’s Instagram to see what’s on the menu — typically a five-course, prix fixe format with an à la carte option available, too. If it’s in season, be sure to order the tortelli pasta with Roman broccoli and anchovies, or the blueberry and veal shank risotto. 

Be on the lookout for Retrobottega’s newest addition: Retro Vino wine bar serving bottles as carefully curated as the dishes. 

If you don’t have time for a full meal, stop by Retropasta, the next-door boutique where you can pick up eight types of housemade pasta. Try the stuffed options with untraditional fillings.

Luciano Cucina  

If carbonara had a king, it would be Luciano Monosilio, the home-grown chef who exalted the beloved pasta dish from local recipe to coveted art form. After more than a decade commandeering the city’s fine-dining scene, Monosilio opened this Centro Storico spot to honor his roots in the local trattoria. 

His pioneering take evolves the casual concept from rustic bolthole to a modern, stylish dining room with an exposed pasta lab and open kitchen. Monosilio is emphatically Roman, and he shows it off throughout the entire menu. His antipasti include incredible fritti (fried dishes) like suppli al telefono(fried rice balls stuffed with meat, tomato sauce and basil) and unexpected not-so-Roman dishes such as vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce and capers).   

But carbs are the highlight. The pasta offerings are divided into themes: Contemporanee (contemporary), Romane (traditional Roman favorites) and Ripiene (stuffed), so you’ll be able to cash in on Monosilio’s epic carbonara, while trying some of his more unusual dishes, like fettuccella ajo, ojo e bottarga di muggine — a spin on the classic garlic, pepper and olive pasta topped with cured fish roe.  

Marigold

This trendy newcomer ups the ante on the typical trattoria, casting off yesteryear stereotypes in favor of clean lines and Scandinavian design — a little oasis of hygge (coziness) straight from the oven of pastry chef Sofie Wochner.  

Simplicity is the overall objective at this self-proclaimed “micro bakery.” Focusing on seasonal products and smaller, local producers, Wochner’s pastries and partner Domenico Calabrese’s plates are deliciously sustainable creations, with an ethos inspired by Calabrese’s time in the kitchen of the American Academy of Rome’s Sustainable Food Project. Here, leftovers become delectable, unique dishes.

Wochner’s cinnamon twists, housemade butter (from kefir) and rye bread alone are worth the trip, but you’ll want to stay for Calabrese’s savory lunches and dinners. Each day features a different sandwich dependent on his mood, with made-from-scratch mustard aioli and Wochner’s sourdough, while evening menus (only available on weekends) often feature dishes like stracciatella (a heavenly soft cheese) with grilled, marinated artichokes and marjoram, and slow-cooked Korean pork belly. 

After you dine, peruse the bakery and pick up at least one loaf of fresh-baked sourdough to bring home. 

Spazio  

This Rome eatery from acclaimed toque Niko Romito isn’t exactly your typical trattoria. Rather, the experimental space serves as a test kitchen where chefs from his renowned cooking school can experience the bustle of a real working restaurant.  

Bar, caffè, bistro and dining room, Spazio is many things, in a few different spaces that effortlessly flow into each other. The restaurant, with its contemporary industrial-meets-greenhouse feel, focuses on affordable gourmet with dishes like Rome-inspired cacio e pepe with mezze maniche pasta, and creamy pork belly with savoy cabbage and potatoes. 

Spazio Pane e Caffè is the casual café side, an open, all-day kitchen serving pastries, breads, sandwiches, soups, salads and pasta dishes.

4 Places for an Unforgettable Breakfast in Rome

We all know Italians love to do everything to the fullest, especially when it comes to food. Around Rome especially, lunches and dinners are fanciful feasts of antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci, tragically leaving la colazione (breakfast) as gastronomically penurious in comparison.

Caffe e cornetto — espresso coffee and a small Italian croissant — quickly ingested at the local bar is the typical morning routine, but lately languorous sit-downs with sweet and savory menus have been slowly making their way into the Roman colazione scene — almost rivaling the Full English.

Here are our favorite spots for breakfast in Rome.

All’Oro
When chef Riccardo di Giacinto decided to open his own boutique hotel The H’All Tailor Suite earlier this year, one of the first things on his mind was creating a space for his restaurant, All’Oro. And the second? Creating a world-class breakfast menu curated for international travelers and Rome residents, of course.

All’Oro’s à la carte menu celebrates the best of Italy alongside dishes from the U.S. and U.K. The abundant offerings include housemade jams and pastries such as croissants, maritozzi (a Roman bread bun filled with light cream), bombe (deep-fried dough with cream), Italian cheese, sliced-on-the-spot prosciutto and a customizable listing of dishes such as scrambled or poached eggs alongside bacon, toasts, pancakes, French toast and a selection of di Giacinto’s favorite champagnes.

Served in the downstairs dining room or outdoor garden, The H’All’s breakfast is luxurious and relaxed, ideal for a leisurely morning.

Le Panier
For those looking to stay in, you’ll want to click around the website for Le Panier, a gourmet breakfast delivery service that knocks on your front door exactly when you want with your well-curated morning meal.

In the kitchen is Tommaso De Sanctis, a classically trained chef who creates clever (and mouthwatering) dishes like pancos (a savory pancake soft taco) and wellness-focused menus like the Hangover.

De Sanctis and partner Giovanna de Giglio source organic produce, eggs and dairy for all dishes; make juices in house; and work with local artisanal producers for their jams, yogurts, porridge, granola, breads and pastries.

Il Giardino Ristorante
If you want breakfast with a view in Rome, there’s but one proper address for doing so: Il Giardino Ristorante at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Hotel Eden.

Following a nearly two-year renovation of the property, the open-air establishment rebooted its look and gave adored chef Fabio Ciervo full reign to make over every single menu, from the breakfast sides to dinner entrées.

Ciervo chose to focus his new concept on wellness, and you can thank a master’s degree in nutrition and a love for organic, Italian produce for the delectable detour. The breakfast buffet, for example, is a cornucopia of treats, from housemade breads and pastries to eggs, yogurts, jams and a bevy of vegan options.

Those looking to juice need to look no further than chef Ciervo, who continues to squeeze as much deliciousness as possible into his liquid treats.

Caffe Canova Tadolini
Here’s a tip for those whose only breakfast needs are a super-sized caffeine fix: though the true Italian cappuccino comes in only one size (the standard coffee cup), Caffe Canova Tadolini, a posh café in the Piazza di Spagna neighborhood, serves its pours in oversized cups — perfect for those needing an extra boost before heading out in the morning to explore the city.

In between sips, you’ll notice a dash of culture found in the building housing the eatery, which was once the home and atelier to artists Antonio Canova and the Tadolini brothers. Their work can be admired in the café’s museum.

- This article was originally published in Forbes Travel on May 31, 2017.

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

7 New Rome Restaurants Worth Sampling

This article originally appeared in Forbes Travel on March 9, 2017.

7 New Rome Restaurants Worth Sampling - Forbes Travel Guide

One thing is clear: You will never be hungry long in Rome. Almost every street has that typically charming spot with a pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) rotation. Around each corner you’re likely to find pizzerie and trattorie. And eventually you’ll stumble across a produce market. You barely have to lift a finger or move your feet — it is really that easy to eat in the city.

Rome’s culinary scene is in the midst of a food adolescence, a gastronomic transition of limitless expression that sometimes plays around with tradition — or at least it tries to. And though the scene may still have some growing up to do, here are some not-to-miss newcomers for your little black book.

Secondo Tradizione Banco & CucinaThis tiny gastro-bistro in Rome’s Trionfale neighborhood, an out-of-the-way area that is worth the trip, has the feel of a Roman osteria from yesteryear. Chalkboard menus hang on the walls listing Secondo Tradizione’s fare. The I Classici list reveals the classics — the dishes that no honest Roman trattoria would be without, like carbonara and saltimbocca.

The Dal Banco (“from the counter”) board highlights the specialty cured meats and cheeses, while Dalla Cucina are the daily and seasonal creations from the kitchen and pans of chef Piero Drago. Drago came on board earlier this year, training under the wing of award-winning chef Anthony Genovese, who joined up with Secondo Tradizione to celebrate and innovate traditional cuisine, while keeping it simple.

7 New Rome Restaurants Worth Sampling - Forbes Travel Guide

Ercoli 1928Growing up means experimenting while looking back at tradition, so it’s no surprise that a contemporary crop of alimentari (“gourmet deli”) restaurants are open. Dual delicatessen/dining spot Ercoli 1928 in Parioli is both an over-the-counter food boutique showcasing a cornucopia of Roman and Italian delights — prosciutto, cheese, bread, caviar, wine and more — and a chic trattoria where chef Andrea di Raimo literally has the home-team advantage by masterfully using local and seasonal products in his recipes. Expect variations of Roman favorites, including a carbonara with fried artichokes.

La Tavola, Il Vino e La DispensaLa Tavola, Il Vino e La Dispensa is the new baby of chefs Oliver Glowig and Salvatore de Gennaro. Located in the newly opened Mercato Centrale, a food stall opus in the 164-foot arched corridor of Rome’s Termini Station, La Dispensa turns the mezzanine terrace into a chic food bottega with counter and table service.

Like Secondo Tradizione, La Dispensa focuses on the gems of Italian regional cuisine and artisanal producers. Here you’ll find incredible cheese, delicious rosticini (tiny lamb skewers) or a rigatoni al bacalà (cod). Daytrippers should look out for the lunch menu for lighter fare, while the dinner menu is a little richer.

MadreDown the road in the Monti neighoborhood, chef Riccardo di Giacinto gives you a little bit of motherly love with Madre, his version of fusion cuisine. Madre’s menu is a crazy and tasty mix of Roman fritti (fried foods) and ceviche. It’s hard to spot the traditional Roman influences until you taste the savory maritozzi, fried sweet buns filled with bollito e salsa verde (boiled beef in a parsley-based sauce). The garden restaurant is also a popular hangout for its cocktail scene.

7 New Rome Restaurants Worth Sampling - Forbes Travel Guide

PiperoPipero is the newest contribution from the fabulous carbonara master Luciano Monosilio and sommelier/restaurateur Alessandro Pipero. The duo first worked its magic at Pipero al Rex inside of Rome’s storied Hotel Rex. The newest spot, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, offers such varied courses as red shrimp risotto, T-bone steaks and a chocolate soufflé.

RetrobottegaExperimental kitchens are trending in Rome, and one of the best is Retrobottega, a closet-sized restaurant and self-proclaimed “gastronomic lab.” The overall style is rustic simplicity — in other words, a perfectly curated menu in a no-frills, counter-service setting.

A team of chefs creates daily specials in an open kitchen. The menu changes more than seasonally, so pop in for a quick read of its chalkboard list — you’ll find enticing spice combinations and savory game dishes.

Taverna VolpettiKeep your eyes on Taverna Volpetti in Testaccio, a specialty food shop, wine bar and restaurant in the re-opened space. The menu offers charcuterie and cheese selections and delightful dishes like truffle tonnarelli. Round out your meal with a tipple from the impressive by-the-glass wine list.

Trippa, Milan's Other Last Supper

Photo: Paolo Zuf

There are restaurants and then there are Restaurants, a food sanctuary that says Home, and from that very first bite convinces you to drop everything in your life just for an opportunity to bus tables so that you can hang out in the kitchen.  This is the kind of place that you keep secret for as long possible, making friends vow to never reveal any details and praying to yourself that you never mention the name in your sleep.  But I think it's time I let you in on my little secret since Italian food writers have been scribbling up a storm about it - -  Trippa, Milan's other Last Supper

Photo: Paolo Zuf

Familiar, nostalgic and beckoning, Trippa is designed like an old school trattoria, a single and clamorous room of vintage-inspired wooden tables and chairs, with authentic vintage lamps, fans, and posters.  The room is enveloped in a gorgeous mustard color that I later find out is "Milan tram yellow", as in the city's beautiful (and refurbished )1930s trams.  The vibe is chatterbox hang out.  Everyone knows everyone else, and are constantly playing table hopscotch, while owner and chef Diego Rossi holds the floor both conceptually and gastronomically.

Photo: Paolo Zuff

I stumbled across Trippa thanks to my friend Sara*, an intrepid food and travel writer.  Sara knows where to eat, so the table's always up to her which is probably why she is co-founder and bosslady ofSauce Milan, the site for Milan's food and restaurant scene.  Of course, Sara was spot on.  Trippa was perfect - for me and for the evening, which initially began with a viewing of the Last Supper.   Next thing I know, a kerchiefed Diego is bombarding me, Sara, Laura and Darius with vegetables-  crunchy white turnips (were they slightly breaded?), grilled raddichio with roe, a leek panella, fried artichoke and a trio platter where all I remember is the broccolo. And that was just the beginning.  We had a fabulous fassona tartar, a valorous vitello tonnato (perhaps the very best I have ever had), and a perfect grilled polpo.  It was almost as if I needed nothing more until the bone was brought out.

Marrow on the half bone.  I could write sonnets to this salty masterpiece that we spread over warm bread.

Beatific. Gastro-terrific.  Mind-blowing, belly showing.  A half-bone beat with a salty treat. Bone marrow, I'm yours.

Life Imitates Art.  That's the only thing I was thinking about it as I looked across the table at Sara (left), Diego and Laura, my culinary trinity, who brought me and Darius from enamoured to enlightened.  Trippa was a masterpiece, and then I noticed that they were too.  Just like Da Vinci's fresco.  Nothing is a coincidence.

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Via Giorgio Vasari 3

Reservations only 327 668 7908

The Factory: Milan's Pirelli Hangar Bicocca

Don't laugh, but Milan is my Breath of Fresh Air.  My Mind Clearer and my Get Back to Reality. As much as I love Rome and its ever-permeating chaos, every now and then,  I need to get of my head, literally and metaphysically, and I need Milan like some people need that morning meditation, coffee, workout, cigarette or shot.    Just 2 hours and 55 minutes on the FrecciaRossa and I've got my fix.

Grab your Milan map and head seven or so kilometers slight northeast of the Duomo.  Likely a lot of the city's outer-lying neighborhoods, Bicocca is a Vonnegut setting -  town build up up on the remains of Borgo Pirelli (Pirelli Town), Italy's early 20th century City of Industry. Back in the day, Bicocca was the headquarters and hub to some of Italy's top automotive and mass transit companies- tires, trains, engines, cars, war machines and more made the hamlet an industrial landscape of  factories, warehouses, and workers' housing.  80 years later, the landscape has evolved into Tetris of low, red brick building, midsize angular hangars to form a mini, gridform city of administrative and financial offices, factories, state university, shopping malls and Pirelli Hangar Bicocca.

Only in Milan would you find an incredible art foundation on the grounds of a tire factory, especially when it is one of the world's largest.   10,900 square metres of exhibition galleries with a  California campus vibe mixed with brick warehouses and concrete gardens, Hangar Bicocca is the Pirelli's love letter to site specific art installations.   Comprised of three buildings - the Shed (a series of connected, low brick buildings), the Navata (an amazing and huge hangar), and the Cubo, Hangar Bicocca is free-entry, interactive art space for permanent and temporary exhibitions.  All projects are large scale, and meant to be experienced not just looked at, aside from Efemero, a mural project by Brazilian artist Osgemeous on the external facade of the Cubo.  And Hangar Bicocca is a combination of interior and exterior spaces, whose enclosed garden is playground (on any day there are school visits),  social scene (the caffe has an outdoor seating area) and post-apocalyptic Instagram background - Fausto Melotti's enormous La Sequenza (1981) - a sequence of oxidized iron sheets 22 metres long, 7 metres high and 10 metres wide surrounded by tumbleweeds - is a permanent resident.  The other permanent resident is    Anselm Kiefer's The Seven Heavenly Palaces, an interior landscape within the Hangar landscape and a walk around Kiefer's pysche through seven fragile cement towers and five, large scale mixed-media paintings.

#ARTTOTHEPEOPLE

Appearing every now and then in the dark hued palette of greys, whites and black, are uniformed members of Hangar Bicocca's pit crew, young art monitors wearing Pirelli red jackets with the clever hashtag #arttothepeople, treading on trend as much on Borgo Pirelli's famous 1943 workers' strike.   Off to the side of the shed is Dopolavoro, a beautiful caffe restaurant with chalkboard walls and open seating that seemed as much the hip meet up as the perfect business lunch spot.  It is-- the menu is seasonal,  Italian regional and organically curated by chef Lorenzo Piccinelli.  So yeah, this is how I get my contemporary fix... Milan + art, with a glass of Arneis and tartar.

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Pirelli Hangar Bicocca

Via Chiesa 2 (+39) 02 66 11 15 73

Thursday through Sundays, 10 am to 10pm

Free entrance

Ercoli, Ercoli! Prati's new gastro hub

One of the reasons I love living in Rome is because life is all about the neighborhood.  The mentality of Rome is that everything needed should be within a 500 meter radius.  Here's my mental neighborhood checklist anytime I move - outdoor produce market? Around the corner.  Good butcher? Three within a four-minute walk.  Alimentari?  Maximum 5 minutes by foot.  And the more one gets involved in the neighborhood, more amazing necessities can be found.  My local black book book puts me on a first name basis with  a magical cheese guy, an incredible tailor, a funny plumber, the entire Roscioli trifecta, my flower guy, gym and contact lens gal. And since this is Rome, I also get to enjoy a 2200-year-old archaeological site at my bus stop and a bizarre crypt on my bike path.   Essentially, I have no need to ever get out but when the time calls, I love a good adventure.  This time it's  Parioli and new neighborhood hub Ercoli al 28.

A hybrid delicatessen-restaurant, Ercoli is an intensely curated food specialties boutique that first and foremost offers counter service much like the local alimentari where my zio Romano gets due etti di prosciutto e un po' di pane every single day.  Note to the wise:  a good alimentari is fundamental to any neighborhood-  it becomes not just your food shop, but part of your daily social routine.  You can be having an incredible crap day, and Luca, the guy behind the counter, will ask how you are and remember to slice your prosciutto incredibly thin, turning a bad day into better.

Counter service.  Check.  Ercoli's huge wrap-around banco is an overstuffed cornucopia of Roman and Italian expectations and delights- prosciutto, cheese, bread, caviar, and more, that can be packed up up for porta via (to-go service) by the white-cloaked staff.  I counted at least six white cloaks and chatted up two of them who will happily talk about lunch and dinner plans.  For them, porta via also includes advice.

Turn away from the banco and you've walked into a restaurant - a Roman version of  a gastro-bistrot-  clean design with a "home" feel.  Wall are lined with regionally organized bottles of wines (instead of books, but that's better) and an each table is unique, creating an overall charmingly mismatched ensemble that is less hipster and more nonna chic.   Chef Andrea di Raimo plays around with Roman recipes and literally has the home team advantage with all of the banco at his disposal along with seasonality.  In other words, thanks to seasonality and di Raimo's flare, expect variations of Roman favorites.   So far, my favorite dish has been the carbonara (as above) with fried artichokes.

Did I mention the vermouth bar?

Head to the far back, and say hi to Federico Tomaselli, one of Rome's original mixology revivalists. Standing over a huge wooden plinth, Federico has set up a delicious vermouth bar.  As Fede says,  vermouth is Italy's signature drink, so it's about time Rome celebrates it.  His bar menu lists at least nine different Vermouth labels from the expected Martini e Rossi to Cocchi, Carpano and Mainardi, and each vermouth has at least two variants.  25 different vermouth cocktails make the menu, with several created specifically by Fede for Ercoli.  And if you don't like vermouth, it's okay, the bar tome has classic cocktails, artisanal beers and bubbles, lots of bubbles.

Je sais, je sais, je sais what you are thinking.  Ercoli isn't anything new.  Nope, the gastro-bistrot concept has been present in Rome for ages, but one is never enough.  I personally love to see a great gastro-hub in every neighborhood.  And technically, Ercoli is old news.  The uber-gastro group helmed by Gino Cuminale and Dany Di Giuseppe acquired the original Ercoli, a Prati food institution (which was immortalized by artist Giacomo Balla in his 1942 La Fila per l'Agnello, a painting that is coincidentally found down the road in Parioli at La Galleria Nazionale) and decided not just to renovate the original Ercoli but to bring its little sister, or better yet, granddaughter to the Parioli scene.  Great job, Ercoli.

Pro tip:  take a walk around the newly-opened Balla exhibit at La Galleria Borghese, and then head to Ercoli for aperitivi and dinner.

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Viale Parioli, 184

06 8080084

From 9am to 2 am

Milan: Your eyes are bigger than your Bouecc

Te gh'ee l'oeucc pussee grand del boeucc

- Milanese dialect "Your eyes are bigger than your mouth"

For me, my boeucc and oeucc are a complimentary tag team in my spying out must-try restaurants.  This time, they took me to Boeucc, a tony and historic spot in Milan's Piazza Belgioso, the well-heeled neoclassical square near La Scala and the Galleria.  Boeucc ranks high in Italy for its history and tradition-  the restaurant is over three hundred years old, it is both a historically registered building as well as business- it has a beautiful neoclassical dining room with high ceilings, Murano glass chandeliers, hardwood floors and marble columns and Boeucc is known for its strict adhesion to Milanese dishes.

Up until a few weeks, I was not at all interested in stopping by because Boeucc seemed, well, predictable and maybe even a recipe for disappointment with its Duomo-adjacent address that suggested a price tag that might overshadow the meal- catering to finance's finest and trend-hungry tourists. But since, I couldn't resist taking a peek at the menu, and I'm glad I did or I would never have known about the bistrot, which from this day forward, I call the Best Of Boeucc.

I'm right.  The bistrot is the best.  Essentially, it's like dipping your toe in Boeucc'sthree-hundred year old history and tasting a few of its signature dishes, without worrying about the wallet or any stuffy attitude.  The bistrot menu is pared down from Boeucc's more serious dining tome,  in other words, a basic culinary idea, though my advice is to order by looking (and smelling) what the other guests are having.   I did just that: tortellini di carne with panna and prosciutto, and then a costellotta di vitello alla milanese, the typical breaded fried cutlet.  Did I mention Darius was with me? He chose a tuna tartare, followed by octopus in a red sauce with peas, but thought the pasta was the best.

Style wise, the Bistrot's dining room decor is same refined style as the main dining room- with its columns, chandeliers and charming waiters in ecru jackets, but the vibe is far more laid back-- more chatter and a eclectic collection of modern and contemporary art sketches, posters, vintage photos covering sections of the walls.   Yes, there were several business lunches going on, lots of fitted black and navy blue suits, but overall, it was light hearted and luminous, kind of like theperfect spot to start a very casual affair.

My take away:  Boeucc Bistrot is fun, affordable and flirty, with just a touch of gravitas to remind us we were in Milan.

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Piazza Belgioioso, 2 02 7602 0224

Kimchi and Me: celebrating kimjang in Rome

Kimchi.

Two syllables that can easily put me into a dream state. For several years, I was spoiled-- living on the edge of Los Angele's Koreatown, I was used to having bulgogi, galbijjim, bibimbap, seolleongtang and soju on a weekly basis.  And, if anything, kimchi was my comfort food for ridiculous dates, bad break-ups, broken hearts and the flu.  It was a curative, metaphysical experience, and by the end of my days in Los Angeles, kimchi was mythical- in other words, everything is better with kimchi.  So of course, it was an easy "Yes",  when I was invited to celebrate kimjang at Galbi Roma, a new Korean restaurant in Rome's Pinciano/Salario neighborhood.

Kimjang:the making of a large amount of kimchi before or soon after the onset of winter

In 2013, Kimchi and kimjang were inscribed onto UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage items, joining cultural practices including Azerbaijan' copper craftsmanship, Lebanon's Al-Zajal (recited or sung poetry), Mongolia's knuckle-bone shooting, Indonesia's batiq and Sicily's Opera dei Pupi.   Kimjan, a late November, early December festival, is celebration of kimchi and community, where the people come together to create enough kimchi to last through the spring for everyone.   Galbi chef Daniel Kim carefully explained he Kimchi process, (simplified by my rough vernacular)  where cabbage is spiced (ground pepperoncino, fish sauce, salt and more) and then stored in a kimchi-specific refrigeration system for several weeks.  Traditionally it is stored in underground jars, though often no longer the case.  Kim shared, to my delight, that some of the very best kimchi are three or four years old and there are more than 150 varieties.

Yes, I'd like to try them all.

 Pang: Galbi's mini-burger: succulent pork belly, kimchi, picked zucchine, radish

Galbi, marinated beef with kimchi, cabbage, on a basil patty.

The Review:

Rome is not shy to Korean restaurants.  There are few which tend to have a more traditional vibe with both atmosphere and style, and often have menus that cater to the local culture, understandable as cultural authenticity is mutable as it migrates.   Galbi has stepped up the game on the usual "Korean restaurant in Rome".  Galbi's menu is meat and fish focused, both as dishes and table barbecue.  Additionally, it has  four Lunch Box selections (where my favorite bibimbap appears] a kind of combo platter.  Overall the cuisine is straightforward and traditional with no oversimplification nor overt fusion.  Service is polite, helpful, and efficient.

Designed by architect Marco Gaudi, Galbi is modern minimalist-- light, natural woods, simple lines, and black and red accents.   The open plan is luminous- a central room with "social" bar-style table ideal from groups, two flanking rooms with table seating, and a small cocktail bar.  It's easy on the eyes and spacious.

Galbi is located on the border between Rome's Salario and Pinciano neighborhoods, which may be just a dot on a map to you, but to me, it's a great encapsulation of a Rome I love-  old school and new style, (more and more non-Roman restaurants are opening up here), artsy (the MACRO and Cinema Savoy around the corner) and vintage (you can find Nonna's antiques just by traipsing via Nizza).

Galbi Roma Via Cremera 21 06 884 2132

This is Ted.

This is Ted. A few weeks ago when there was a whirl of chatter about some Ted thing. As in "Hey, do you know Ted?" "Moscerina, sei stata da Ted?" The only Ted I knew was an old friend who broke another friend's heart, so just as quickly as it was on my radar, Ted fell off. And then I peeked around on the internet. Ted is a London-inspired, lobster and hamburger joint with a Lobster Roll specialty. The Professor reminded me that whereas his most formulative years included New England winters and lobster rolls, I have had only one bite of experience, at the Plaza Food Hall in a January 2015 snowstorm. True story. It was about time to change that.

Ted is charming. Its location, on one of those quiet Prati side streets leading up to the Vatican and just next to via Cola di Rienzo, is perfect for a Sunday afternoon snack, which is exactly what we did. The windowed facade only subtly stands out from the muted pastel Liberty era buildings that surround it. When inside, it's a cave of wood-panels, soft lights, great floors and a large bar as center piece. Knowing me, I'll probably pass by at night to catch the glow from the Ted sign, its name in Hollywood lights above the bar. The blue, white and red colors give it a slightly French vibe, or that could be because I loved the stripe sailor tees the staff was wearing and the cute guys in rolled Capri pants- yep, I was definitely hoping for a culinary Jean Paul Gautier.

Our order was simple: One Bloody Mary, one Martini, one Lobster Roll and one Shrimp Soft Taco pair. To quote Peggy Lee, "Is that all there is?"

Everything was slightly less than what was expected. According to my Lobster roll expert, the bun was toasted but not hot nor buttered enough. The shrimp tacos-- I should mentioned I lived in LA's East Side for years and ate every taco in the area every day-- were good, but could have been more crispy and the tortilla should have been flipped over twice on a hot griddle. The Martini was a bit weak and the Bloody Mary was just a Mary. Ted could have been a contender, and you know, I am not tossing it out of the ring. I hoping it is just ironing out some kinks.

The arrival of Ted is in no way big news. And yet, it is big news. Over the past five years, Rome has seen food tourism fall-out- a never-ending story of food spots and trends that began with gelaterie and followed with a deluge of panini shops, hamburger spots, designer pizza joints, beer bars, mixology masters, street food and 2015's Amsterdam potato chips craze. Restaurants haven't shied away from evolution, whether redressing no frills mom-and-pop spots to an increased investment in Michelin star-gazers or the more affordable, and Instagram-ready trattorie. Some have been pretty damn good, others just pretty, no good. Recently, I've noticed that the pursuit of food quality concurrent with gorgeous design is finally a main focus. Where Ted falls on this food chain is a gorgeous looking hang out, with an impressive investment in interior design-- the floors! the lights! the striped tees! -- and the hope that the buns are usually toasted and hot, and I was just there on an off day.