A cruise leaving from the port of Civitavecchia was a perfect excuse to arrive early and spend several nights in Rome, a city I had been missing for many years. Here are some note from my visit.
I knew that I wanted my first meal on a recent trip to Rome to be in the Jewish Ghetto. So I researched restaurants and had gotten recommendations and made my choice and my reservation. But shortly after we were seated my companion and I had an uncomfortable confrontation with the waiter. We hadn’t ordered food yet and knew that the encounter would mar the rest of the evening – not how we wanted to spend our first night in Rome – so we left. Across the street we found BaGhetto, which was bustling with diners but agreed to seat two people without a reservation.
And here we were greeted by a waiter with a much cheerier disposition, even though he was quite busy and servicing several tables, including one 10-top. When he finally came to our table we mentioned exclaimed how busy he was and he just smiled and said, “I love my job.” What a difference, huh?
Like most of the other restaurants in this neighborhood, BaGhetto is kosher. If you didn’t know that already you’d get a clue from the front of the menu where a directive from the Torah is printed in large letters: “You shall not cook a lamb in its mother’s milk.”
We started our dinner with the Gran Fritto BaGhetto, a mixed platter of fried delicacies including battered vegetables and chunks of cod that also included the Roman specialties stuffed zucchini flower and carciofo alla Giudia, or Jewish style artichoke. The latter is deep fried so that even the leaves of the artichoke become as crispy as potato chips. All delicious and filling.
For our entrees we had the baked lamb and potatoes – no dairy – and Osso Buco alla Romana, a different style of braised veal shanks served in broth with peas.
What started out to be an unpleasant evening turned into a wonderful welcome to Rome.
Our best meal and best overall dining experience was at Roscioli, just east of the Jewish Ghetto. Roscioli is part deli, part market, part wine bar and part ristorante and packs all of those elements into a small space. If I were to have a notion of what a quintessential Italian restaurant should be – and I do – this would be it.
Here I had an unusual appetizer of three balls of buffalo mozzarella, each draped with a luscious anchovy from the Calabrian Sea.
And an entree of Ragu di Cortile, stewed white rabbit tossed with pinwheel pasta.
We also had the Polpette della Tradizione Romana, beef and veal meatballs in tomato sauce.
The next afternoon we returned to the neighborhood to take a cooking class at Rimessa Roscioli, a few blocks away, closer to the Tiber. Our chef/instructor, Davido, taught us the techniques for making pasta – linguine, cavatelli and ravioli – then we sat down to eat our efforts and enjoy some wines. A wonderful Rome experience that I recommend.
Aperitivo is a thing in Rome. It’s sort of like a happy hour where you go for a drink around sundown and the bar serves complimentary snacks, like plump olives, chips and gourmet nuts.
The rooftop bar at the Hotel Eden was a favorite space. A welcoming staff, a gorgeous view and a well-crafted negroni.
Also good, the also-rooftop bar at the Cavalieri Hotel where we spent our last night in Rome. It had the largest macadamia nuts I’ve ever seen.
Walking back to our hotel one night just before midnight after a late dinner, we came across a venue that looked oddly familiar. It was called Baccano and its owners most certainly modeled it after Balthazar in New York.
Our young and affable bartender confirmed that after we’d asked if he’d ever been there. It was one of the few places still open at that hour so we stayed for a nightcap of limoncello.
The next evening as we walked home again, about the same hour, we again came across Baccano, quite by accident. We shrugged and both said, “Why not?” We walked in and when the bartender saw us he pulled out the limoncello bottle.