September 2010


Enough with the wah-wah “I’m not in Kansas anymore” pity party about your Italian vacation and there being NOTHING TO EAT in America.  C’mon!!!

This is how to do it:  get off your vacation exhausted duff (okay, do some yoga first).  Let the airplane headache pass and move on.  Or, just plain move.  I walked to my Weight Watchers meeting and saw that, yes, Virginia, there ARE consequences to your cornetto eating – but basta!  Enough.  Move on.

NYC Italian Coffee Bar

I walked to my favorite coffee bar in NYC — Tarallucci & Vino — a completely Italian place, I presume owned by Italians, but if not – certainly the people who work there are speaking the mother tongue.  And, their customers are.  So, too, the bambini.  I ordered un espresso DOPPIO – figured that being in NYC – I couldn’t just order caffé like in Rome and expect to get espresso.  Squisito!

Greenmarket Goodies

A short stroll away: our version of the Campo dei Fiori – without the statue of the executed guy.  The Greenmarket at Union Square.  I filled my market bag to overflowing: beets with succulent greens still attached.  Radishes, broccoli, cauliflower.  I love fall greenmarkets with its squashes, pumpkins and potatoes.

There you have it.  Pure food: the American way.  Now, start cooking.

Vacation is over. Home again and I have to admit: I have no idea what to eat!!

Janet Eats without a clue? How can this be? It is certainly more than just that “now the party is over” feeling.  It is more the realization that eating good, pure food in the U.S. is just so damn hard.  The idea of another serving of factory chicken from the NBC Commissary — well, it just makes me sick thinking about it.  The Italians really know how to make simple food.  Even with something as indulgent as a cornetto – you know the ingredients do not come from a chemistry lab.

Time to pull out my Food Rules again.

This morning before leaving, I spent some time speaking with the young banker who rents me a room in Rome with un bagno privato. We don’t always converse that much. She speaks virtually no English. I do all right speaking Italian with her.

Really, think about how few words we use in a conversation with someone we barely know: weather (il tempo), food (il cibo), politics (Obama. Hahaha – these conversazioni can get a little more compicato. People I know in Rome really wanted to talk about Obama and, interestingly, the Nobel Prize! which they, like most of us, did not understand. “Couldn’t he just say no to it?”)

After we completed our short chat and I packed, I proclaimed I was going to walk for awhile, then get my ultimo caffé and cornetto. Ha! My ultimo cornetto! Of course, I have the photographic evidence of my cappucino — with a heart, as in I left my heart in San Pietro — and oh that ultimo cornetto. Nothing tastes quite as sweet as that first and last taste on a foreign shore.

It was both restful and invigorating: this Roman Holiday. I am fortunata to have friends in la cittá who know all those little osteria & trattoria that cook simple Italian cuisine. I had meals in at least three restaurants — without menus. Just more places to put on that list of consiglio – advice – I insist anyone going to Roma consult!

Allora! As the receipts say: ARRIVEDERCI E GRAZIE. Goodbye and thank you.

Parco Oppio

I sit at a small cafe in the middle of a park — in the Colle Oppio.  We are just steps away from the Domus Aurea and a short walk above the Coliseum.  That means this was once part of Nero’s gargantuan Villa. An estate that in its time was even too much for the indulgent ancient Romans (my knowledge of the history of this area is superficial at best).

In this century, I am drinking una limonata, which the Italians also call – oddly enough – Lemon Soda. Not that it sounds anything like lemmin sew-duh, mind you.  It is a Roman indulgence of mine.  I don’t usually drink full-sugar (or “light” for that matter) sodas.  But, this is so good.

What I love about this park:  it is all Romans, just a few turisti like myself.  Otherwise, it’s grandmas with the little ones.  Or, old folks out for a stroll and a sit on the bench.  And, oh my goodness, the children yelling “Fabio” “Giovanni”,  kicking balls,  terrorizing the pigeons, and chattering in their perfect high-pitched “va bene”s.

Having said that,  it is very peaceful, a universal oasis in the midst of honking horns, purring scooters and German tourists screeching for attention.

For lunch on una bella giornata – a beautiful day – I purchase a prosciutto sandwich on pizza bianca from my favorite forno in the Campo de’ Fiori.  What apparently makes it a specialty of Rome is the inclusion of fichi – figs.

Prosciutto & Fichi Panino

It was incredibly rich. And memorable. Just like the cittá for which it had been deemed a specialitá.

Funny. As I sat on the bench of the Palazzo Farnese to eat my ham and fig sandwich, a pigeon shat upon the British man next to me. It is probably time to go before it happens to me. Although, knowing the Italians, it is most likely a sign of good luck!

It’s always strange that last day (or at least last FULL day in Roma).

On one hand,  I want to eat everything I think I won’t be eating for awhile.  Although,  in fact,  it will be as if tomorrow when I will be here again.  It has been soltanto — only — a week that I’ve been here (or as the baristas in the coffee bar across from “my” apartmento said:  “poco, poco“).

In Piazza San Pietro

And – as you have read — I have eaten many wonderful Italian delights.  I am certain at no cost to the avoirdupois because I have eaten like the Italians.  Nothing in between my basic,  albeit indulgent,  repasts.  Un caffé and pastry in the morning.  Pasta, panino or pizza for lunch.  Usually one,  okay,  sometimes two,  gelato per day.  And light dinner if it was a heavy lunch and vice versa.   In between: camino, camino, camino. Walking walking walking.

So, on this “last” day,  I shall treat it like any other day in Roma.  Mangia bene and camino.

Oh, wait. I think it’s time for gelato!

It was an international polyglot of women:  an American from Manhattan,  a former New Yorker who lives in Roma,  a Parisian who has called Rome home for over 20 years,  and my Finnish friend who lives in Italy by way of Brooklyn and Amsterdam.

We met for lunch – local local – at a trattoria in Trastevere called Augusto.  No menu.  Just cute waiters who rattled off the pastas of your dreams:  arrabbiatta,  cacio e pepe, melanzane.  The four of us split 2 pastas two ways.  Followed by a secondo (2nd course, the “meat” course) that I shall not soon forget.  You’re just lucky that I took the picture of the dish before I’d devoured this Brasato (braised) Veal with Potatoes.  Fall-apart tenderness with monumental, yet simple, flavors — redolent of rosemary.  And, a basket of bread with the perfect balance of crusty and chewy!

The four of us regaled one another with our childhood experiences of soaking up the juices with bread.  From “no-no” to “hidden scoops” to “of course you can’t let the sauce go to waste!”

Dolce:  a Tiramisu that was still trembling from the tender touches in the kitchen. Four forks,  four mouths.  Devoured.

Along with the spoken menu, the check — il conto — written and calculated on the paper covered with oil, crumbs and escaped driblets of sauce.

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