Taste of Roma “vs” Taste of London. Round 2!

Again, scroll down for the English version…

…dove eravamo rimasti? Ah, sì. Una categoria che non può mancare:

4 – Fritto misto (o quasi)!

Al Taste of Roma, dal ristorante L’Arcangelo, “Supplizio, Croccante e Crocchetta”: supplì di riso, croccante di mandorla e alici e crocchetta di patate affumicata; il Taste of London si difende con “Balls! Bengali Vegetable Cake, Crab Cake and Lamb Shammi Kebab”, ovvero… Palle! Crocchette di verdure alla “bengalese”, di granchio e di kebab shammi (agnello, ceci e spezie), un piatto del Cinnamon Soho.

Ok… qui ci vuole una premessa. Adoro leggere recensioni di ristoranti. Non è necessario che siano corredate da belle foto o scritte in modo interessante… né mi importa se il posto si trova in una città dove probabilmente non metterò mai piede. Potrei elencare i migliori ristoranti di paesi che sono a stento in grado di collocare su una carta geografica. Le classifiche, poi, mi divertono ancora di più, e da ogni “top ten”, che si tratti di ristoranti, pizzerie, gelaterie o altro, ricavo sempre qualche nuovo indirizzo da visitare. Eppure, so quanto i giudizi e i gusti siano soggettivi, in ogni ambito ma forse in maniera particolare in quello gastronomico, dove un piatto che incontra il nostro gusto può rendere memorabile una cena.

Perciò mi rendo conto che questa sfida non è molto equa. Le palline del Cinnamon Soho sono giustamente diventate uno dei loro piatti più richiesti… ma che speranza possono avere contro uno dei migliori supplì di Roma (e quindi del mondo), se a giudicare è qualcuno che mangerebbe supplì a colazione, pranzo e cena e che coglie ogni opportunità per trasformare una visita a Roma in una specie di tour del supplì? Ecco… non molte. Già solo il supplì basterebbe, per me, a catapultare il piatto di Arcangelo tra gli assaggi imperdibili… Guardatelo, guardate come… telefona!

Pronto? Chi parla?

E che dire della crocchetta di patate? La compagna ideale. Perciò… non voterò. Mi limiterò a ordinare un altro “supplizio”.

5 – Porgi l’altra guancia…

A Londra gli stand che dove si cucinavano guance sembravano essere ovunque.

Guance di bue brasate del Pollen Street Social… Guancia di maiale croccante di Jamie Oliver… Guance di bue brasate con purè dell’Hinds Head – argh… Tu quoque, Heston?!?

A Roma… un momento, niente guance brasate sul menu? Beh, qui è più popolare il guanciale.

Tortellini

“Tortellini di ricotta Funghi, guancia al Cesanese e clorofilla di rucola” (Giuda Ballerino); “Mezze maniche alla amatriciana de ‘Il Convivio'”… Certo, in questi piatti il guanciale non è l’evento principale – un confronto con l’esercito di guance londinesi è un po’ come se agli Oscar attori protagonisti e non competessero nella stessa categoria… ma perché no?

I tortellini non mi hanno particolarmente impressionato, tranne per le dimensioni (va bene che sono ufficialmente porzioni “da antipasto”, però…), ma l’amatriciana del Convivio potrebbe essere eletta a rappresentante della manifestazione, anche se più che rappresentare la cucina romana è l’ideale platonico della cucina romana… e sì, per me riesce a battere la squadra delle guance di Londra.

6 – Omm’ ‘e panza, omm’ ‘e sustanza. Ossia la pancia di maiale.

Guance e pance, difficile evitarle al Taste of London. Pance di maiale, per la precisione. Io ne ho provate due: la pancia di maiale arrosto con plantain (un tipo di banana) fritta e funghi enoki, del ristorante Asia de Cuba, e quella del Launceston Place, con confettura di mele, purè di patate al tartufo e popcorn di maiale.

La prima dall’aspetto quasi imponente, con l’Asia nel “letto” di bok choi e la dolcezza di Cuba nella glassa al rum e miele; la seconda tradizionale ma altrettanto gustosa, complici la croccantezza dei popcorn di maiale e soprattutto il burroso purè tartufato. Nessuna delle due, però, supera quella del Glass Hostaria di Roma, con “fico settembrino, ricotta di bufala, saba e pepe verde” (la saba è una specie di mosto cotto):

Pancia di Maiale, Glass Hostaria

Lo so, è da vigliacchi, ma… un altro pareggio!

Mi dicono che c’erano anche piatti di pesce. Può darsi. Io mi sono limitata a gamberi e molluschi, perdendomi, a quanto pare, un fantastico tortino di baccalà, ma beccando no dei piatti migliori della giornata, le capasante ripiene di mozzarella di bufala con sedano e tartufo nero (ristorante Imàgo dell’Hotel Hassler), e lo spiedino di gambero con spuma di mortadella del Giuda Ballerino. Spiedino buonissimo e ottima l’accoppiata gambero-mortadella, anche se la “spuma” era diventata praticamente succo di mortadella da bere per accompagnare il gambero.

Capesante ripiene di mozzarella

Spiedino di gambero

In conclusione, quindi… Taste of Roma meglio di Taste of London? Non proprio…  difficile battere la qualità e varietà dei ristoranti dell’evento londinese. Di certo, però, mi è venuta voglia di visitare qualche “romano” che ho assaggiato al Taste! In più, per quanto Regent’s Park sia una location fantastica, gli inglesi sono sempre troppo ottimisti per quanto riguarda le previsioni del tempo, ostinandosi a organizzare eventi completamente all’aperto solo perché è estate. Se proprio ho voglia di sguazzare nel fango a un festival me ne vado a Glastonbury… mangiare in piedi in un piatto di carta una capasanta pagata £10, cercando di ripararsi da pioggia e fango, ha qualcosa di surreale…

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English!

…where were we? Ah, yes. One of my favourite categories.

4 – Mixed fried thingies!

At Taste of Roma, from L’Arcangelo, “Supplizio, Croccante e Crocchetta”: supplì, almond brittle and anchovies and smoked potato croquette; at Taste of London, “Balls! Bengali Vegetable Cake, Crab Cake and Lamb Shammi Kebab”, from Cinnamon Soho.

Now, I love reading restaurant reviews. They don’t need to have nice pictures or be written in an interesting style – I spend so much time reading random reviews that I would probably be able to name the best restaurants of cities where I’ve never been and that I have no plans of visiting. Whether it’s restaurants or pizzerias, bakeries or ice cream parlours, I keep adding names to the list of places where I want to eat.

And yet, I know how subjective reviews are, especially food reviews. That’s why I realize that these “clashes” are a bit unfair… The Indian “balls” from Cinnamon Soho are one of their most well known dishes, but what hope can they have against one of the best supplì in Rome (which means best in the world), if the judge is someone who would eat supplì for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and who takes every opportunity to turn every trip to Rome into some kind of “supplì tour”?

For me, the supplì alone would be enough to make Arcangelo’s dish unmissable – come on, look at how it… telephones! And the smoked potato croquette? The ideal companion. So… I’m not gonna vote on this one. I’ll just order another “supplizio”.

5 – Turn the other cheek…

In London, cheeks seemed to be everywhere. Slow-cooked ox cheek from Pollen Street Social… Crispy pigs’ cheeks from Jamie Oliver… Braised ox cheeks with smoked mash from the Hinds Head – tu quoque, Heston?!?

In Rome… what, no braised cheeks on the menus here? Well, in Rome guanciale is more popular. That is, cured pork cheek, the fundamental ingredient of many classic Roman dishes like amatriciana or carbonara. Here, it was in Giuda Ballerino‘s ricotta and mushroom tortellini, with wine cooked guanciale and rocket salad clorophyll, and in the Amatriciana from restaurant Il Convivio Troiani. Of course, in these dishes guanciale is not the main event – comparing them with London’s cheeky army is a bit like merging the “best actor” and “best supporting actor” categories at the Oscars… but why not?

The tortellini (filled pasta parcels) didn’t really impress me, apart from their size (ok, these are supposed to be “starter-sized” portions, but this is a bit too much… and what is “rocked clorophyll” supposed to mean?), but Convivio’s amatriciana could be chosen as a symbol of an event called “Taste of Roma”. Although more than representing Roman cuisine, it’s rather the platonic ideal of Roman cuisine… and yes, for me it manages to beat all those English cheeks.

6 – The belly of the beast.

Pork belly, another popular item at Taste of London. I tried two: the roast pork belly with fried plantain and enoki mushrooms, from Asia De Cuba, and the slow-cooked pork belly with apple jam, truffle mash and pork popcorn from Launceston Place. The former, quite… imposing, with Asia in the bok choi “bed” and the Cuban sweetness in the honey-rum glaze; the latter more traditional but just as tasty, helped by the porky popcorn and the buttery truffle mash. Neither of them, however, beats the pork belly from Rome’s Glass Hostaria, with “roast Mission fig, buffalo ricotta, must and green pepper”. I know, I’m a coward, but… another tie!

I’ve been told there were fish dishes as well. Were there? I stuck to shellfish, missing (or so it seems), a marvellous codfish cake from Acquolina Hostaria, but finding one of the best dishes of the show, the pan fried scallop stuffed with buffalo mozzarella with celery and black truffle (from the Imàgo Restaurant at Hotel Hassler). Giuda Ballerino‘s shrimp kebab in phyllo pastry with mortadella cream was also very good, but the mortadella cream was more like drinkable mortadella juice (and I think that’s not how it was supposed to turn out).

So, was Taste of Roma actually better than Taste of London? Not quite… the quality and variety of the participating London restaurants were difficult to beat. Surely, though, it made me want to visit some of the Roman restaurants I tried at Taste! Also, Regent’s Park might be a fantastic location, but I always find the English too optimistic with their “alfresco” (?!) events, as if it were reasonable to expect sunny days in London only because it’s summer. There’s something slightly surreal in paying £10 to eat a scallop from a plastic plate, while trying to find shelter from the rain and mud…

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Taste of Roma “vs” Taste of London. Round 1… Fight!

For the English version… scroll down! And click on the pictures for a more drool-inducing size.

Grazie alla generosità di Dissapore, sono entrata gratis al Taste of Roma. Hanno regalato un bel po’ di biglietti, e per averli bastava dire “Io io io!!! Posso averne uno? Per favore!!!!!!!!!!” Anzi, il “per favore” non era nemmeno richiesto! Quindi, niente spesa per il biglietto = più sesterzi da trasformare in cibbbo.

Può darsi che il Taste of Roma sia davvero “il più grande restaurant festival mai visto a Roma”, come sostiene il sito ufficiale – per quanto ne so, potrebbe anche essere il primo restaurant festival mai visto a Roma. In ogni caso, ci vorrà un po’ perché raggiunga le dimensioni del fratello maggiore londinese, giunto ormai alla sua nona edizione. Tuttavia, anche se non è paragonabile al Taste of London per numero di ristoranti, di eventi organizzati o di visitatori, la cucina dei ristoranti partecipanti può sicuramente reggere il confronto… chi vincerebbe uno scontro diretto? Anzi, chi vincerebbe uno scontro diretto se a giudicare fossi io – non esattamente un’autorevole critica gastronomica – e lo scontro fosse su un campione di piatti a caso? 😀
Vediamo… per foto di dimensioni più sbavevoli, cliccateci.

1 – Il quinto quarto!

Beh, mi sembra giusto partire da qui 😀

Per il Taste of Roma, il “Rocher di coda” (€5, Ristorante All’Oro); per il Taste of London, il “bheja fry: lamb brains in mince curry” (cervella di agnello con curry di carne tritata) del Cinnamon Soho… Il Rocher è una rivisitazione di un classico della cucina romana, la coda alla vaccinara, ridotta a una specie di polpetta e poi ricoperta da uno strato di cacao e pinoli. Non sono mai stata una fan della coda alla vaccinara, ma il Rocher mi ha quasi convertito.

Cervella di agnello (in realtà non ho mai capito se si parla di quinto quarto anche per l’agnello)… Credo di aver mangiato cervello di qualche animale una sola volta nella vita – era di bovino, in un fritto misto, proprio a Roma. Ero piiiiiccola, poi quando si è cominciato a parlare di mucche pazze me ne sono tenuta alla larga, ma diciamo che non è stato un grosso sacrificio. Questo “lamb brain” ha una consistenza meno… ehm… cervellosa, il fritto non è unto, ma il curry copre quasi completamente gli altri sapori, oltre a rendere molliccia la panatura. Perciò 1 punto per Roma!

2 – Il panino posh

E come si fa un panino posh? Ma col foie gras, ovvio!

Per Roma – Panino artigianale con maionese al passito e fegato grasso, patatine fritte e ketchup al mango (€5, Glass Hostaria). Per Londra – Iberico Pork and foie gras burger with truffle pecorino (hamburger di maiale iberico e foie gras con pecorino al tartufo, Opera Tavern).

Il panino artigianale di Glass è un panino alla liquorizia con una fetta di foie gras troppo grande per lui. Le patatine sono di tre tipi diversi: dolci, normali (forse) e… viola? Il fiore di non-ricordo-cosa è “da mangiare alla fine, per togliere il grasso”. Ok, il fiore lo mangio alla fine, ma tutto il resto? Incerta, prendo un po’ di maionese con una patatina; la maionese è ottima, il finto ketchup pure – magari il vero ketchup fosse così. Addento il panino. L’accoppiata pane-foie gras è perfetta. Tutto molto buono e bello, ma un po’ complicato da mangiare, specialmente in piedi e con delle posate finte.

Con l’Opera Tavern sì che si ragiona: tutto nel panino, e un bastoncino di legno a tenerlo assieme. Per Londra questo è stato un po’ l’anno degli hamburger: snob e raffinati, quasi da sentirsi in dovere di mangiarli con forchetta e coltello, o sgocciolanti formaggio, cipolle e chissà che altro; come street food o da accompagnare a una pinta al pub. E ancora in versione slider, o mini hamburger per i puristi. Quello dell’Opera Tavern è uno dei pochi hamburger di maiale, ma riesce a essere incredibilmente succoso. Gli altri strati sono insalata, marmellata di cipolle, foie gras, cipolle rosse fritte, salsa aioli e, solo per il Taste, pecorino al tartufo (o per chi lo preferiva, jamon iberico). Questa è dura, ma lo scontro va all’Opera Tavern!

3 – L’anatra!

 

Ok, questa è un po’ forzata. Ma c’è l’anatra (di nuovo) in entrambi i piatti.

A Roma, raviolini di mascarpone con ragout di anatra e riduzione di vino rosso (€6), Ristorante All’Oro. A Londra, basque spicy confit duck with crazy popcorn (anatra confit speziata con… popcorn?!) del Club Gascon. Un morso ai ravioli è un’esplosione di mascarpone, che il ragout d’anatra avvolge con la complicità del parmigiano e di un delicato olio d’oliva aggiunto a crudo. Lo chef prepara e descrive il piatto sotto l’occhio di una telecamera e quelli affamati di noi che aspettiamo pazientemente di assaggiarli. Una volta assaggiati, finiscono troppo in fretta. Il piatto del Club Gascon non sembra neanche un “assaggio”: due cosce in un francesissimo confit con il tocco piccante della salsa e quello folle, ma stranamente appropriato, dei popcorn caramellati. La reazione è la stessa: vorrei il bis! Ma con 40 ristoranti (!) al festival, non se ne parla. Un delizioso pareggio.

Tra un po’ la seconda parte! Intanto…

Cioccolato!

Per quanto lo stand fosse bello, io ero decisamente più attratta da questo banco…

E incuriosita dalle spezie…

Spice Girls

Distratta dal banco delle meraviglie non mi ero nemmeno accorta di stare fotografando anche Cristina Bowerman, la chef di Glass… Chissà quali sono le sue spezie preferite…

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English version!

Thanks to the generosity of Dissapore, I got to enter the “Taste of Roma” for free. They gave away a number of tickets – we just had to be quick and say “Can I have one? Pleeeeaaaaase!”. No, actually not even the “please” was required. This meant I could spend more on food, wine and food-related shopping!

“Taste of Roma” might be “the biggest restaurant festival ever seen in Rome”, as the official website claims (for what I know, it might even be the first restaurant festival to ever take place in the capital), but it will take a while before it gets as big as its older brother, the “Taste of London”, now looking forward to its tenth edition. However, even if the two cannot be compared for number of visitors, restaurants and events, the cuisine showcased at the Roman event could surely hold its own in a competition… so, who would win in a direct clash? Well, who would win if it was decided by me – not exactly a renowned food critic – and the match was based on a random sample of dishes? 😀
Let’s see!

1 – Il quinto quarto!

For Taste of Rome, the Rocher di coda (€5, All’Oro restaurant); in the opposite corner, for Taste of London, “bheja fry: lamb brains in mince curry” from Cinnamon Soho… The Rocher is a twist on a classic Roman dish, coda alla vaccinara (a braised oxtail dish), here resembling a truffle and covered in cocoa and pine nuts. I was never a fan of coda alla vaccinara, but the Rocher almost made me change my mind.

The lamb brains… I think I only ate brains once – fried calf’s brain, in Rome, among other fried things. I was little, so I don’t remember much. Then, during the BSE fear, I kept my distance from stuff like that, but it wasn’t a huge sacrifice. These lamb brains have a less… brainy texture (if one can have an idea of how brains taste like by eating them once), the fried crust is not oily, but the curry covers most other flavours, besides making the outside soggy. So, first point for Rome!

2 – The posh “burger”…

And how do you make a posh burger? With foie gras, of course!

For Rome – Homemade bun with passito wine mayonnaise and foie gras, crisps and mango ketchup (5€, Glass Hostaria). For London, Iberico pork and foie gras burger with truffle pecorino, from Opera Tavern.

The bun in the Glass dish is a liquorice bread that goes surprisingly well with the foie gras, apart from being a bit small for the large slab it contains (but this can hardly be considered a fault!). There are three different kind of crisps, sweet, regular and… violet? The flower of I-don’t-remember-what (no relation with the forget-me-not, I simply don’t remember) is to be eaten “at the end, to cleans the palate from the fat”. Ok, I’ll eat the flower at the end, but what about everything else? I pick up some mayo with a chip; both the mayo and the ketchup are very good – I wish real ketchup was like this – and the pairing of foie gras and liquorice bread is perfect. A gorgeous and tasty dish, but not the easiest thing to eat with fake cutlery while standing.

The Opera Tavern puts everything in the bun – as it should be, fine dining or not. In London, the past year has been the year of the hamburger (and I doubt hot dogs will manage to take their place) and burgers are still popping up everywhere: posh burgers, that almost look offended if you try to attack them without a knife and fork, or dripping with juice, cheese and sauces; you can grab them from a stall in the street, accompany them with a pint at the pub, or even go for two sliders and a cocktail. The Opera Tavern burger is one of the rare pork burgers, but it still manages to be incredibly juicy. It has salad, onion jam, foie gras, aioli, fried onions and, only at Taste, truffle pecorino cheese (or jamon iberico, if you prefer). This one is tough, but the victory goes to Opera Tavern!

3 – The one with the duck

I admit this one is a bit forced. But they both have duck (again)!

Rome’s dish – raviolini filled with mascarpone, with duck ragout and red wine reduction (6€), from Ristorante All’Oro. For London’s team, Club Gascon with its basque spicy confit duck with crazy popcorn. The ravioli are a explosion of creamy mascarpone, contained by the duck ragout, helped by a sprinkle of parmigiano and olive oil added at the end. The chef prepares the dish under the eyes of a TV camera and the hungrier eyes of the customers who patiently wait to taste it. Once tasted, it’s over too soon. The dish from Club Gascon does not even look like a “small plate”: two confit duck drumsticks with the spicy touch of the sauce and the sweetness of the popcorn. Same reaction: I want another one! But with 40 restaurants at the festival, I quickly (but reluctantly) abandon the idea. A delicious tie.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Pizzeria Lazzaroni, Rome

(Scroll down for the Italian version – Versione italiana alla fine del post…)

I am not sure why, but it seems that, in Rome, pizza is a nocturnal food. Or at least the most popular among bloggers/foodies & co. are (luckily, it’s still possible to get good pizza by the slice at lunchtime). La Gatta Mangiona, La Fucina, the pseudo-Neapolitans Sforno e Tonda, Bir & Fud… they all only open for dinner. A coincidence? Hmm… It does seem a bit odd. I can almost see them, these pale pizza makers, who sleep in their wood-fired ovens during the day, and only come out at night to attract the Romans with the smell of their pizzas…

After all, according to Wikipedia, vampires were said to have once been witches or people who had rebelled against the Church while they were alive. Maybe, when it was a pizzaiolo who rebelled against the Church, his destiny became to make pizzas for eternity, hiding from sunlight and feeding on tomato puree… If anything, that would explain the density of night pizzerias in the centre of Christianity.

Anyway, having read a lot of good things about Pizzeria Lazzaroni, I convinced a Neapolitan friend to try it. When we got there, at 9 pm, the place was almost full. Read the full post »

Pizzeria Salvo: montanara + genovese = LOVE!

There you are. Sorry if you were looking for Pulcinella. Ok, let me explain…

A while ago, I looked at how people found this blog. And I felt a bit guilty that in the top three search terms there are two things I barely mentioned in one of my posts: Pulcinella and mandolino. I mean, what if someone with a really slow connection was looking for info on Pulcinella… I figured someone in a remote town, maybe with an old 28k modem, waiting for the home page to load, only to find a bunch of useless posts on random food places?

At least the second most popular search was “pizza fritta”, and I did write a post (mostly) on that.

So, for all the pizza fritta fans out there, I’m going to celebrate a crazy version of that… the “montanara alla genovese” from Pizzeria Salvo!

In Naples, a montanara is a small fried pizza with tomato sauce, parmesan, and smoked mozzarella. I say “small” because it is considered street food; it can also be found restaurants and pizzerias, but usually in an even smaller version (finger food size) as part of a fried antipasto, with crocchè, arancini, fried courgettes/aubergines…
Oh, and when I say “fried pizza” I mean a small disc of dough, fried and topped with tomato & co. – different from “pizza fritta”, which indicates the filled, thinner fried pizza.

Genovese is one of the most traditional Neapolitan dishes and not, as the name suggests, a dish from Genoa. There are various theories on why it has this name. One of the theories is that merchants from Genoa, who lived in Naples in the 16th century, imported it from their city – but they should have developed it on their way to Naples, as there is no such dish in Genoa; or it might have been created by someone called Genovese. Whatever its origins, I like to think it was invented before the Eighteenth century, when tomatoes became a staple of Neapolitan cuisine, as I much prefer it with little or no tomato (which is sometimes added with a touch of “concentrato di pomodoro”, a thick tomato puree).

Genovese is made by slowly stewing beef or pork meat with *a lot* of onions (1 kg of onions, or even 1,25, per kg of meat) and other ingredients – carrot, celery, pancetta and/or salami… It is a bit of a cliché to say that every family has its own recipe, but I suppose it’s true. That’s why it would be better to cook it at home than to order it at a restaurant and find out that it’s not your ideal genovese, which in my case would be done with beef round and finished with a ton of parmigiano cheese. However… although I love genovese, I rarely do it at home, as the result of stewing 1 kg of onions for 3 to 5 hours is that your kitchen (or your home) inevitably smells like onions for a few days. So, I usually have it somewhere else, and by now I have learned which places do it the way I like and which ones don’t.

While the sauce is used to dress pasta (usually ziti or paccheri), the meat can be eaten on its own. Pasta alla genovese is probably my favourite pasta recipe from Naples (it’s a tight contest between genovese and a good pasta e patate con la provola… nicely azzeccata, of course – but that’s another story), so, when I read on Salvo’s menu “montanara alla genovese”, the other pizzas suddenly became less interesting. I mean, fried pizza and genovese!

Montanara alla genovese

The montanara alla genovese is a recent addition to Salvo’s menu; the sauce is not actually genovese… more genovese-inspired: it’s made with onions, caciocavallo cheese, tomato and black pepper, but no meat (altough there is a “traditional” version of genovese sauce without meat: finta genovese – “fake genovese”, born when meat was more expensive and people were poorer).
The Salvo brothers are rightly proud of their quality ingredients, bought mostly from local (or semi-local) suppliers, all listed on the menu. The onions from Montoro on the montanara are juicy and sweet, the pungent flavour of the caciocavallo providing a perfect contrast, despite being, once melted, visually undistinguishable from the onions. The sauce is a bit too “red” for me, I would prefer a bit less tomato, but this is obviously a matter or taste. What is not a matter of taste is the perfect crunchiness of the fried dough, which is just tough enough not to become limp and squashy after a couple of minutes under the hot sauce.

The menu suggests you order one for the table to share, as it might be a tad heavy. I always pretend not to read that line; I don’t eat there very often, so I can’t leave without having at least a whole montanara and another pizza. Which might be a testament to the capacity of my stomach, or to the lightness of the dough; either way, humans have confirmed that their pizzas are indeed very light.

I’d strongly advise anyone who likes pizza to try Salvo’s – you don’t need to like onions as well, their traditional pizzas are just as good. After all, it is considered one of the best pizzerias around, and I certainly won’t disagree. Still, I need to add that… they were not the first to put genovese on fried pizzas! Starita a Materdei also does “genovesine”, little montanare topped with genovese (with no trace of tomato – obviously, I never fail to order them). They also do a mean classic montanara… the best I’ve ever tried, actually. So, if you are in Naples and you have no way of getting to San Giorgio a Cremano, you can just hop on the metro and stop in Materdei  😉

Pizzeria Salvo,

Largo Arso 10/16

80046 San Giorgio a Cremano (Napoli)

Rome’s supply of supplì – Gabriele Bonci’s Pizzarium

A lot has been said about Gabriele Bonci’s pizza. He has ben called the “Michelangelo of pizza” … Ok, he can be considered an artist of pizza, and I suppose his Pizzarium is close enough to the Sistine Chapel, but I was born in the 80s, and for me Michelangelo + pizza =

Cowabunga!

Anyway, when it comes to pizza dough, the guy is rightly considered some kind of genius – and I love how he seems so passionate about what he does. Pizzarium is now the destination of choice for pizza al taglio in Rome and it has become almost impossible to talk about pizza without someone mentioning Bonci.
Still, while the pizzas are obviously the main event at Pizzarium, as the name might suggest, his fritti (fried… stuff) are not to be missed. True, his supplì have placed among the best in Rome, but I still think they do not get the recognition they deserve.

When you enter Pizzarium, your attention is inevitably drawn to the display of pizzas. Misterious toppings stare boldly at you; «Ask what we are, if you dare», they seem to say, and you blindly obey, causing a 5 minutes long explanation from the poor guy at the counter, who patiently talks you through that array of delights.

The fritti lie in a small case on the side, on an upper shelf. They look almost afraid that someone might suddenly realize they are not pizzas and therefore not supposed to be there. A large block of “primo sale” cheese, breaded and fried, stands proudly among them, as if asserting its right to be there. «He will have us all kicked out», an arancino whispers disapprovingly to the supplì next to him, who is leaning on one side, trying to look inconspicuous.

Do yourself a favour, do not overlook that little case. The last time I went, they had “mini arancini”. They were not so “mini”, though. Like this mini arancino with pumpkin (squash?) and gorgonzola:

Arancino zucca and gorgonzola @ Pizzarium

Look at this perfectly round fried globe of deliciousness… he may be the Michelangelo of pizza, but he is definitely the Giotto of arancini.

Zucca and gorgonzola – inside

And two other ‘cheesy’ specimens – broccoli and taleggio

Arancino broccoli and taleggio @ Pizzarium

and radicchio and gorgonzola:

Arancino radicchio and gorgonzola @ Pizzarium

While I admit that “the cheesier, the better” is a rule I could apply to most dishes, Read the full post »

I could have eaten all night and still have begged for more @ MEATmarket

Covent Garden is a strange place. Even its own tube line appears to be afraid of it. It has a warning that reads “Covent Garden station gets very busy at weekends and in the evenings, but you can avoid the crowds by walking there from Leicester Square (6 minutes) or Holborn (9 minutes).” If you really must get to Covent Garden, seems to be the unspoken message, get there from somewhere else. Gradually. Otherwise, be prepared… It’s hell out there. I raise my head and almost expect to find a sign saying “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate“. Instead, I see a sign that seems to suggest that the nearest toilets are a 24 hour walk from the station – which I suppose may sound quite discouraging as well.

Read the full post »

Tongue ’n Cheek (’n more) @ EatStreet

If you happen to live/work near King’s Cross, you have probably seen one of the newest additions to London’s street food scene, EatStreet (or eat.st). Or maybe you haven’t, as it is located behind KC and St Pancras, on King’s Boulevard, a strip of road that at the moment runs in the middle of what looks like a working site – meaning that it runs between two nicely painted walls, and I’m not sure what’s behind them.

Every day there are four or five different traders (the website has a calendar specifying who can be found at the market on each day). I haven’t tried all 40 of them (yet), but from Tongue ’n Cheek I bought one of the best takeaway lunches I’ve had recently. I love a good burger as much as the next person, but someone who makes Italian street food with these often forgotten cuts of meat deserves at least praise for originality. They do ox tongue (or cheek) and pork cheeks, and you can choose to have them in a roll or on a plate with various toppings like salsa verde, a horseradish and apple sauce or coleslaw. Or with polenta, which you can also have on its own, also topped with cheese or vegetables. I chose the ox cheek with coleslaw, grilled bread and port reduction:

Ox cheek from Tongue ’n Cheek

Nice charred bread (and not burnt bread, as it is often the case), Read the full post »

Taverna Estia, Brusciano (Napoli): tradition, invention.

I didn’t think I would ever write anything new on this blog. Actually, I didn’t even think I would be able to recover my password!

So when the folk at Taverna Estia asked whether I had a blog (I had asked whether they minded if I took pictures of the food, they replied that they didn’t mind at all), I said I didn’t because, well, I assumed they meant if I had a food blog where I would post the pictures/review the restaurant – but I sincerely didn’t think would do either thing. But then, why not? Maybe someone will see this post and decide to check out this amazing restaurant. It’s not exactly on the tourist path – or any path, really – but very easy to reach and well worth a visit from Naples (or even farther).

What “triggered” this post was a British friend asking me about the Neapolitan “wedding soup”. I replied that I didn’t know any such thing – before we realized that this is how the minestra maritata is sometimes called. Wedding soup is actually a mistranslation, as “minestra” means “soup” and “maritata” is “married” – it refers to the perfect marriage between the meats and vegetables that make it up, as this picture effectively illustrates…

Mixed marriage?

Now that I think about it, here it looks like the meat is married to the pot… anyway, the slightly disturbing picture comes from the cover of this wonderful Italian book by Lejla Mancusi Sorrentino about the twelve masterpieces of Neapolitan cuisine, which include the “minestra maritata”. The book explains the history of the dish and includes all kind of fascinating information, from recipes to poems. Who thought there were so many poems and sonnets dedicated to a minestra?

As it is often the case, each family has a different recipe for the minestra maritata, which typically include hen broth, various parts of beef, pork, sausage, escarole, savoy cabbage, broccoli, chicory and other stuff, like onions, carrots, celery, and ham bones and sometimes parmesan or pecorino cheese.

In Naples, it is usually part of a traditional Christmas (or Easter) lunch. As my family doesn’t do “traditional Christmas lunches”, I was tempted to order it when I saw it among the starters at Taverna Estia – minestra maritata “a modo mio” (my way), the menu said. As the chef, Francesco Sposito, is one of the rising stars of Italian cuisine, I was curious as to what “his way” was. When it arrived, it didn’t look like a soup: everything was arranged in a sort of millefeuille with layers of meats and vegetables. The hen broth in which it had been cooked was then poured over at the table – it was Mario Sposito, Francesco’s brother and sommelier at Taverna Estia, who did it, adding that “the chef recommended I poured it right from above”. Although he followed the instructions, soon the pretty tower seemed on the verge of collapsing, so I demolished it to end its suffering – not before snapping a photo of this appetising leaning tower!

Minestra maritata – leaning dangerously…

The minestra was now smoking hot, looking and smelling confident after regaining its soupy identity. Read the full post »

Et Bob… c’est ton oncle

There are people who go to the cinema for the movies. I go for the Orange adverts.

Maybe that’s stretching it a bit too far, but I’m always looking forward to a new one. Yesterday I saw the latest ad, with Macaulay Culkin – it’s quite funny, although I don’t think it’s one of the best – but then the best are incredibly brilliant.

So here they are, most of them.

First, the “greats”:

Patrick Swayze as “the silent hunter”. Pure genius.

Darth Vader. Impossible not to love it…

I don’t care about Orange’s service or tariffs or anything else. If I hadn’t had an Orange SIM already, I would have switched to them just to join the power of the Orange Side.

Michael Madsen – recent entry that deserves a place among the greats. “Hello, Sarah…” I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen it, I know perfectly well what’s going to happen, but I still laugh at the ending:

Steven Seagal’s ad is also very good. Lots of action in this one! Romantic comedy? Lol…

And Sean Astin’s epic romantic comedy…

And some others, in no particular order:
Verne Troyer, John Cleese, Daryl Hannah, Mena Suvari, Roy Scheider, Carrie Fisher, Spike Lee, Val Kilmer

If you go to the movies a lot, you start learning the lines – at some point I think I knew all the lines for Patrick Swayze’s and Lord Vader’s… But give me mr Dresden and the phone box killer a hundred times rather than something like this!!! Yeah, nice ad, but try to watch it a few times and you’ll want to kill yourself. Or Svetlana.

“You can’t hide from the Grim Reaper. Especially when he’s got a gun.”

Today I stumbled upon this article

museum.jpg

Set around a series of galleries in an old monastery, the museum allows death, in the form of human skulls, to stare you in the face from every angle. […] In glass cabinets, hanging from walls, peeking out at you from round corners, deathly creations are everywhere. […] You can also find depictions of skeletons playing basketball, or drunken skeletons engaged in a poker game.

Weird enough to make me curious about this “Mexican Day of the Dead“. I always like to read about different cultures and customs, and I found the Wikipedia entry a very interesting read. But while I thought I knew nothing about it, I kept having a feeling that the Day of the Dead celebration was not new to me. It was odd, because I have never been to Mexico, let alone celebrated the festival of the dead. Maybe a movie? A previous life? Hmm…

calav.jpg

…Why was I sure I knew this guy??? Or at least someone who looked a lot like him…

Then I realized:

GRIM FANDANGO!!!!!

(from Wiki:) “The story unfolds in four episodes, each set a year apart on the Day of the Dead, November 2. It is from this festival that much of the game’s imagery is drawn — most of the game’s characters look like skeletal calaca figures.”

No wonder those calaca things looked familiar!

Released in 1998, Grim Fandango would be Lucasarts’ last truly great adventure game. It had everything: it was fun, touching, with a great storyline, unforgettable characters, witty dialogue and plenty of STYLE. 

There were so many memorable moments, it would be hard to choose just one scene, one line, one character – although Manny Calavera is up there with Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe – only funnier.

“Manuel? Are you… in love with her?”

“Love? Love is for the living, Sal. I’m only after her for one reason… she’s my ticket out of here.”

Eat your heart out, Bogey!

It’s been almost ten years now since its release, but Grim Fandango has lost none of its appeal. Even the graphics – that now are nothing special from a technical point of view – work well, thanks also to the flawless art direction, in giving the game its unique atmosphere. Seeing someone sprout is always a powerful view.

And the voices? Perfect.

“Oh Manny… so cynical… What happened to you, Manny, that caused you to lose your sense of hope, your love of life?”

“I died.”

I’ve no doubt I wasn’t the only one who felt a bit sad when it ended. But, as with a good book, I am not sure I want to “live” it again. After all, Manny, Glottis, Meche, they all will be doing something else now. Enjoying the trip.