Bene’s back! Here’s the next installment of her visit to Italy:
I kicked off my first day in Rome with some Caravaggios and by lunchtime I was famished. I met a friend at Roscioli, one of my favorite spots. Part general store, part enoteca and part high-end restaurant, with a top-notch bakery around the corner, Roscioli is a place you could eat at every day. [Also, I love that they quote Shake Shack on their Web site: “There are no shortcuts to quality.” – Ed.] Even twice in the same day (more on that later). I ordered caponata to start, and before you say, wow, that sounds boring, even the most boring-sounding, traditional dishes come out of this kitchen like the Platonic ideals of themselves, thanks to Roscioli’s sourcing of the best ingredients from all over Italy. This caponata, sweet and tangy and graced with Sicilian sardines, was amazing, improved only by the addition of a 2008 Coroncino Verdicchio, golden in the glass and buttery on the tongue.
I had to order the carbonara, ubiquitous in Rome but rarely even nearly as good as Roscioli’s version featuring thick spaghetti from Abruzzo, guanciale from monte Conero and eggs from an obsessive Tuscan farmer. I stuck to my drink local mantra with a 2007 Casale della Ioria Cesanese del Piglio, the Lazio region’s only DOCG, whose acidity helped cut the delicious richness of the carbonara. My companion chose anchovies and butter and toast — the humblest of ingredients coming together to throw a party in your mouth — and a 2003 Frabusco from Tenuta Corini in Umbria, a full-bodied Sangiovese-Montepulciano-Merlot blend that would have been nice to linger over on a cloudy fall afternoon, but, alas, my friend had to get back to work, and I had to….take a nap.
Since I had no plans that evening, on my way out I stopped by the reservation desk to book a spot at the bar for that same night. I also knew that my friend’s brother-in-law was working then, and I figured that would come in handy. My friend, Giampaolo Gravina, contributes to both wine and restaurant guides in Italy and for many years co-owned Uno e Bino, a phenomenal restaurant in Rome, along with his sister. Luckily for me, his sister married someone who went to work at Roscioli. Sure enough, a few minutes after I sat down for my second meal of the day there, Valerio sent over a glass of Franciacorta and a plate of hand-cut prosciutto with a little egg-shaped buffalo mozzarella from Castel di Sasso. Can you think of a warmer welcome? I started with cured Sicilian tuna with grilled artichokes, paired with an interesting Timorasso from Vigneti Massa in Piedmont, peachy and nutty with a nice hint of bitterness. I was still swirling and sipping that when Valerio sent out another bonus plate, this time finocchiona and another type of salame made from cinta senese pigs, a heritage breed that’s currently all the rage. I went from that right into a secondo: pigeon with foie gras and mango confit, paired with a 2004 Tenuta di Pianpolvere Barolo. By this point I couldn’t fit anything else in my stomach: no dessert, no dessert wine, not even grappa could pass my lips. Except for these crazy hazelnut Sartorelli biscotti from Bolzano that Valerio dropped off…thin, delicate, delicious, and nothing like those stale, dry logs that’ll break your teeth.