January 24, 2013

Tour de Italia - Roma Pasta

View of St. Peter's Basilica
This past year was a rather fail in terms of blogging but fortunately, not a fail in terms of life. Just returned from a 3 week tour de italia….oh and did I mention? I graduated. And I’m employed. Of course, I’m not starting work for another 6 months which means no excuses this year (at least until July) when it comes to updating this blog. Plus, I have even less excuses considering I got an amazingly wonderful and beautiful camera lens from V.

Let me preface these Italy posts. Of all of the cities we visited (Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and some Tuscan towns), there were plenty of scrumptious local specialties, but one of the reasons we went on this trip was for a certain someone to appease his pasta obsession so about 90% of our food consumption consisted of pasta. It was a good thing we walked everywhere, or else I would be needing a whole new wardrobe right about now.

I will say that it was still quite the fun foodie adventure to learn about all of the different types of pasta and  compare the differences and similarities across cities.

First up: Rome.

Rome is mostly known for its pizza and is often viewed as on par with the city of Naples (the origin of pizza itself) in pizza – making, but they also serve up quite a good plate of pasta. In particular, the most popular are the carbonara (cheese & egg), cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper), and Bucatini all’ Amatricana (tomatoes & child peppers). I think we sampled carbonara from about 3 or 4 different places and one in particular really stood out. Guess what the restaurant was called? La Carbonara. Figures. 

Top left: Seafood spaghetti and what a generous portion of it too! The last time I had seafood pasta was in Sorrento last spring and this dish came pretty close to matching it in flavor depth. For some reason, my favorite thing about seafood pasta is not so much the seafood as the sauce the seafood creates when it melds with the pasta water and tomato sauce. Yummers.

Bottom left: Freshly made strozzapreti aka priest choker pasta with white mushrooms. These pastas are like a chubbier version of penne, more chewy and way more delicious. The always reliable Wikipedia offers a quick description on why it’s known as the priest choker pasta.

Top right: Fettuccine pasta (there might have been a ragu in the tomato sauce, but I can’t remember). Trattoria da Lucia, located in Trastevere, came highly recommended by our Rick Steve’s guide book although I have to say we were a bit disappointed by both pasta dishes. Despite pasta’s intense carbyness, most of the dishes we had were still surprisingly light. These however, were drenched in a little too much olive oil.

Bottom right: Spaghetti with tuna in tomato sauce.
Top left: The best pizza topping combination from the trip. Sausage with broccoli rabe. One thing I love about Italy is that the pizza portions are always super generous. I think Mercato tends to cater a little more towards tourists hence the super fat crust. 

Top right: One of my favorite pasta dishes, although V didn’t like it given its spicyness: Bucatini all’ Amatricana. Buccatini is like an udon noodle except it has a hole going down through it. The chili peppers in this dish just takes it to another level and ties the whole dish together.  

Dinner was eaten in the Campo di Fiori, one of the most popular squares in Rome at a restaurant called Mercato. Despite all of the warnings about the tourist traps by the squares, this one definitely did not disappoint.

Bottom left:  Spaghetti alla Carbonara from our first night in Rome from a very popular local eatery. We waited until 10pm before we had our dinner. Despite the restaurant’s popularity with tourists and locals alike, we weren’t blown away by their carbonara rendition, just a little too much of everything.

Bottom right: Pizza with arugula and sausage. I absolutely adore arugula and love how it is so prominent all over Italy. The crust on this was paper thin, which is the more prevalent style in Italy. I myself prefer since it makes the dish 10 times lighter. 
Probably one of the most memorable pasta experiences in all of Italy was La Carbonara. We literally tried coming to this place 3 times before succeeding. The dishes themselves may looking unassuming but they were delicious. 

The spaghetti carbonara here was light and fluffy and steal at just 6 euros a plate. We also ordered the strozzapreti  with fresh porcini mushrooms

Porcini mushrooms, a locality of Italy, only keep for up to 2 days so 90% of what’s available in the US is hydrated. What a huge difference when you eat it fresh! Its almost reminded me of a very very mild truffle taste. 

Next post, I'll attempt to round up the rest of Rome's eats including more pizza, some chocolate shots and an amazing new found appreciation for pork.

For those might eventually feel so inclined to visit the restaurants mentioned in this post: 

La CarbonaraVia Panisperna, 21400184 RomeItaly
MercatoPiazza Campo de Fiori 53RomeItaly
Trattoria da LuciaVicolo del Mattonato, 2b  00153 Rome, Italy

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