Sunday, May 20, 2012

Frascati, Artichokes and Pecorino

Mozarella and Ham at RomeLiving out of a rented apartment for a week in Rome allowed us to discover several local culinary delights that are native to the region.  Ancient Rome had played a pivotal role in the history of wine-making.  What earlier used to be the privilege of the ruling classes was swiftly democratized by the Romans, who considered wine a daily necessity for life, even for their lowly slaves.

While bottles of Chianti are everywhere in Rome, interesting in their traditional straw baskets, this wine comes from the northern region of Italy.  The most famous local wine of Rome is Frascati that pairs perfectly with fish, appetizers and fresh cheeses.

Hard Cheeses of Rome

Est! Est!! Est!!! wine is another popular one with a story behind its unusual name.  A bishop in the 12th century traveling to meet the Pope in Vatican City sent a scout ahead to survey the villages ahead.  The scout was so impressed by the local wine, he wrote Est! Est!! Est!!! (Latin for 'It is') on the door of the tavern so the bishop would not fail to stop here.

Appetizer at Cavour 313

Finally, the Cesanese wine from the south, a sure winner with Saltimbocca or gnocchi dishes.  Trivia:  this wine earned some publicity several years back when American porn star Savannah Samson decided to get into the wine-making business and chose this rare Lazio grape over others.

Salad at Cavour 313

Rome has several interesting wine bars where you can sample some of the country’s best with a platter of cheese or sausage.  Cavour 313 is one such place that has been around since the 70s.  Located within walking distance from the Colosseum on via Cavour, its rustic interiors, excellent appetizers, and artisanal products are a delight to experience.

Cavour 313 Rome

The menu at Cavour 313 only contains appetizers and desserts.  However, the appetizers are absolutely fantastic!  The organic mix in olive oil from the Rizzeli farm contained eggplant, dried tomato rolls, artichokes seasoned with herbs, small onions grilled, grilled mushrooms, tassel hyacinths, turnip tops and stuffed hot peppers.

Cavour 313 Rome

The Pantesca salad from the Pantelleria Island on the Mediterranean was made with potatoes, sweet tomatoes, red onions, olives, capers and oregano.  Another winner!
The only annoying thing here was a Bangladeshi flower vendor who would come in every 30 minutes at the tables to sell roses.

Dining at the Monti Quarters of Rome

An unique thing I noticed in Rome was the concept of Library Bar - wine and books brought together under one roof.  There were several of them in the winding lanes right behind our apartment, in the Monti quarter of Rome.  We also discovered a delightful eatery at the Piazza della Suburra which served the most awesome roasted veggies and seafood risotto.

Seafood Risotto in Rome

I would frequently go out to buy some cheese and salami from the small store in front of my apartment.  The Pecorino Romano and the Grana Padano varieties were particularly interesting.  Incidentally, Grana Padano was one of the world’s earliest hard cheeses while Pecorino Romano was a staple of the Roman legionnaires.

Roasted Veggies at Rome

Rome also has some good salami for the discerning foodie.  The Romano Salami which I particularly liked  is crafted from a blend of ground pork, garlic, sea salt, black pepper and spices. The drying process and the surface of cracked peppercorn provide this salami with its distinct taste and texture.

Finally, artichokes.  This is probably Rome’s most venerated vegetable.  Its most celebrated preparation is the Jewish style alla giudia in which it is deep-fried whole until its outer layers are crisp and its inside soft and delicate.

Previous in this series:  Piazza Hopping in Rome
First in this series: Roman Holiday


Aathira Nair said...

Lovely... cheese is a huge weakness for me..:)

Roopa Pavan said...

wow very nice...

Shantanu said...

@Aathira: Thanks! And good to see you here so regularly.