When I have limited time in a place I am visiting for the first time I get this overwhelming and almost morbid sense of urgency that I don’t know if I’ll ever return and therefore must see, experience and eat everything in sight. The feeling is exhilarating and has led to some wild adventures on the streets of Copenhagen, London, Manchester, Kyoto and Berlin. Perhaps this is a blight on my generation? That we need to see, touch, taste and instagram every moment. We travel to tick boxes. Go to Copenhagen, eat at Noma. Go to Japan, play with the monkeys. Go to Iceland, swim in the black lagoon. To go Israel, see the young and beautiful soldiers holding loaded machine guns. Our privileged lives are fast-paced, exciting, often comfortable and we’re always scraping by to get to the next big adventure.
Scroll through a few social media profiles and you’re likely to find the phrase “globetrotter” “foodie” “whiskey drinker” “wine lover.” How can a 26 year old care about all of these things and truly love them? I’ve recently begun to feel that in 2015 nothing is authentic. Maybe it’s because I just watched that new Kurt Cobain documentary and it depressed the hell out of me? Or, maybe it’s that our likes and loves are based on lists of the BEST. Where are the best dumplings in New York City? If you haven’t been to White Bear in Flushing, Queens you’re a phony.
On a recent family vacation to Italy, I found myself confronted with less than 12 hours in Rome. What to do? What to see? Parthenon? Trevi Fountain (funny story- I went to middle school with a girl named Trevi Fountain)? Pizza? We settled on the beautiful square and market in Campo D’Fiori. Starving and hot, we arrived in Rome by train from Naples and I wanted pasta. With guidebook and Yelp fatigue we decided to wander the square and just sort of fall into some place that looked good. I’ll give my sister credit for urging us to eat outside a restaurant called Ditrambo, just off the Piazza della Cancelleria. I had the wild boar pasta which was heavy and meaty in the very best way. The stand out was definitely the Caccio e Pepe, a simple dish of parmesan, pasta and pepper that I must make.
After a quick nap, we discovered that the airport in Rome had caught fire and our flight the next day had been cancelled. True story. A few frantic hours on the phone with the airlines and we were luckily rebooked on a different flight out the next day. Crisis averted, two precious hours of time in Rome wasted.
Hungry again but not wanting to venture far we ended up back in the Piazza della Cancelleria and were just about to go back to the SAME restaurant where we had lunch. Twelve hours in Rome and you ate at the same restaurant twice?
No, we just popped across the street to Grappolo D’Oro. Definitely the inferior restaurant of the two but Grappolo served what I believe was the best bite of the entire trip: Puntarelle Alla Romana. Puntarelle is a green vegetable that looks like hearty lettuce. It’s flavor is bitter, but the leaves can be sliced very thin and soaked in water to leach out some of the bitterness.
The dish “Puntarelle Alla Romana” can be made with ANY bitter green vegetable. The daringly salty anchovy vinaigrette is delicious on romaine lettuce, radicchio, dandelions, chicory, puntarelle, escarole and even arugula. I love it with common curly chicory.
Chicory Alla Romana
1 small bunch of curly chicory (or any bitter green), rinsed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (the best stuff you can find)
1/4 teaspoon Maldon salt
freshly ground pepper
4 anchovy filets (packed in oil)
Use a mortar and pestle OR a small bowl with a cheap muddler to mash the anchovies, garlic, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil into a nice paste. Add the rest of the olive oil, vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper.
Toss with greens and serve with another pinch of salt.
When in Rome…
Just off the square, Piazza della Cancelleria 74, +39 06 687 1626, ristoranteditirambo.it. Closed for lunch on Mon. Average €30
Piazza della Cancelleria, 80, 00186 Roma