Back In The Eternal City – Roma

I’m back in the eternal city and too excited and overwhelmed to sleep. I’ve in fact been up reading since 400am but no matter life is to be enjoyed “anche durante le ore piccole” or the wee hours of the night.

I’ve been in town just two days staying with riends from Italy and hanging out with  friends from the States who were in a Master’s program with me in Bologna. In fact, Zach, Julia and their great kids Sam and Jules but not little Elena and I spent part of our afternoon in Piazza Navona.

We also went to look at the Caravaggio’s in a nearby church, San Luigi dei Francesi. Somewhat overcome with all the emotions of the beauty of Rome, we settled down to have fabulous gelato near the Pantheon. My favorites are always the same, coco e caffe but the chose was difficult.

San Luigi dei Francesi was one of the stops on my dear friend Teresa’s family tour of Rome. Her father, Brunello, loved Caravaggio and it was with Teresa that I first went to that church. I got to spend an amazing day with her family on Friday in Zagarolo.

I was Teresa’s testimonio di nozze in 2008 and I’m glad to be here for her fourth anniversary, more or less. I’m sorry that I will be missing the annual festival of the Tordo Matto. I tried this local delicacy for the first time at Teresa and Filippo’s wedding and while I am against eating la carne equina (I can’t even write it),I must say that this dish was particularly memorable and part of me is sorry to not have the opportunity next weekend but I’ll be in the North.

Teresa and Filippo have introduced me to some of the most incredible restaurants and chefs that I have ever met. Top among them were Sor Anna, Antonello Colonna and the famed sommelier turned restaurateur Pipero. Who you might ask are these people?

A trio of noted Roman food & wine notables. Anna Dente is the owner and maestra of the Osteria San Cesario.

Sor Anna is the “quintessenza della Romanita’.” I know not everyone reads Italian but I just found this amazing entry about Sor Anna on the blog Le Forchettine by the multitalented author of Aglioolioepeperoncino.com. This is such a perfect description of Sor Anna and a beautifully written blog post, worth reading with a dictionary to catch some of the underlying things that make Rome great.

Sor Anna is particularly enamored of Filippo and I have always had royal treatment when I have been at the restaurant. Sadly much of the menu are things that I don’t have nell’anima. Someone who I have always thought was her son but am now less sure asked me if I didn’t like eating the “menu macabro” or a menu of internal meats much to my dad’s chagrin.

I have never forgotten that statement nor have I ventured towards any of the items on that list but if you are in Rome and like those dishes, Sor Anna is a must.

Antonello Colonna I met at his restaurant in a town called Labico outside of Rome. It was the first “ristorante di alta cucina italiana” that I had been to in my many years in Italy. Filippo was the assistant sommelier when interviewed Colonna in 2005 and was fascinated with his conceptual ideas of the kitchen, food and the like. I remember him telling me about his plans to open a resort and I see from his site that his dream has been realized. I will have to check it out. He also runs a famed restaurant in Rome at  Palazzo degli Esposizioni.

Alessandro Pipero, un altro personaggio storico and good friend of Teresa and Filippo’s is perhaps the perfect incarnation of a restaurateur. He also catered their wedding so I have been able to see his work on in the intimate setting of his restaurant as well as at a wedding for 100+ people. This blog post about his new restaurant Pipero al Rex, also in Italian is just dreamy and makes me want to eat immediately, even through it’s only 730am. Not only would I trust all of his food recommendations but wines as well without blinking. Truly a memorable experience, you must meet Pipero at least once in your life and eat in his restaurant drinking wines that he has chosen for you. He also happens to be very funny so it really is a truly memorable evening.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, I’m staying with my lovely friends who are Rome transplants from Emilia and Milan, Cristina and Giuliano and their three delicious children Emma, Camilla and Giacomo who wasn’t born at the time of the photo in 2009.

Cristina is among the loveliest and brightest people  I know as well as one of the best cooks I have the pleasure to count among my friends. It’s always a joy to be in her house with her family and her food. Cristina comes from Emilia, Borgo Taro, specifically which is home to the mushroom. In fact some of the best meals I have had in Italy with mushrooms have been at their houses.

We’ve been friends since 1998 and I went to my first Cantine Aperte  with them to Alba. I had my first Barolo from Oddero and my first Brasato al Barolo with Cri and Giuli, other moments that remain in my heart. Here in the Boggiali house in Rome in the incredible neighborhood of San Saba, I have rediscovered the joy of being with old friends once again and spending time with 2, 8 and 10 year olds and their passions. For years I have visited Cristina and Giuliano in Rome, in Milan, in Levanto, and in Gressoney. Always welcoming and generous, I also was first introduced to wines from the Valle d’Aosta, Donnas Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle ,   with them and the particular varieties from their area of Liguria, Levanto, wines I love from Colli di Luni.

All of these wine and food discoveries have been part of the conversation and experience but never the main event, perhaps that is why I never realized just how many things they have introduced me to during the course of our long friendship. In just two days in Rome, I feel completely back to myself, my Italian life and of course more enamored than ever of this eternal city. Happy that I am just at the beginning of my trip, I may have to leave Rome soon otherwise my friends will have a guest “a vita.”

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