I just returned from a 3-week (too short!!) vacation to Europe, where I ate my way through the endlessly long summer days, surrounded by vineyards and olive trees fading into the horizon, cobblestone plazas, and beautiful churches around every corner. This will be the first in a short series of posts downloading on my epically gluttonous food journey through Italy and Germany.
FIRST STOP: ROME
We were only in Rome for 2 days, but the prospect of diving into a carb paradise totally caught up with me and I didn’t skimp on gorging myself with pasta, pizza, wine, and dessert (I did have one salad so I feel pretty spectacular about that).
Night 1, we had our first of many “family” dinners at a wonderful restaurant recommended by our chef-friend and travel companion, Terrell. After a quick glass of house red and a fried calamari appetizer from the place next door (also delicious!), we met out friends at Ristorante Paris in Trastavere.
Ristorante Paris boasts a large patio immersed in climbing vines and dim lighting. We began by sharing an antipasto of mixed fried veggies, my favorite of which was a zucchini blossom stuffed with ricotta and anchovy, battered and deep-fried. Our second course (my favorite) was a true Italian classic, Cacio e Pepe – a simple pasta dish with a creamy sauce dominated by cheese and cracked black pepper. For the main course, my mom and I shared a turbot filet with a rich white wine & olive sauce. I also poked at my aunt’s flavorful octopus salad, which was delightfully tender and simultaneously fresh and rich. For dessert (a given for the first night in Italy) we shared pistachio semifreddo and a deconstructed crème brûlée – both equally decadent and well-crafted.
We chatted with the owner through the course of the delicious meal. “Would you like to meet the chef?” he asked before bringing his mother out, smiling humbly and totally flattered, from the kitchen. At the end of the meal, he gave Terrell two enormous black truffles, which we used later in the trip for mushroom risotto.
We had cause to celebrate that evening (Michelle’s birthday AKA inspo for the whole trip) so we headed to Freni e Frizioli, a bar with a swanky patio and an even swankier comic book-style cocktail menu. The hand-crafted drinks were thoughtfully designed: my gin drink was spiked with elderflower liquor and an aromatic lime segment filled with lavender floated on top. Every cocktail I tried was uniquely delicious… and potent.
On our second full day, after what felt like the longest morning ever – trapped by 90-degree heat – at the Vatican Museum and Church, we found the shaded patio at Baylon Café to be incredibly inviting.
I felt like I needed a salad after our rich dinner the previous night, so I ordered one with tuna and tomatoes. While slightly over-dressed and heavy on the tuna, it was so refreshing on that hot day! My mom, on the other hand, cast aside the raw shrimp on her salad of black rice, fig, and feta encased in cabbage (raw seafood in 95-degree heat? No grazie)
My last culinary shoutout in Rome goes to the amazing pizza we had at Osteria Pizzeria da Otello. The sizable pizza is easily enough to feed 2 people and costs no more than 8 euros. We chose one with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes and ordered a fried squash blossom on the side. The pizza, which cooks in less than 5 minutes, is blasted in a wood-fire oven, allowing the thin dough to develop an ashy, charred crust while remaining chewy and pliable – a perfect base for bubbly mozzarella and fresh toppings. The squash blossom was crisp, cheesy, greasy — and I mean that in good way! Everything you want in a pre-pizza, soak-up-the-wine-I’m-about-to-drink-too-much-of kind of bite.
Stay tuned for more from my travels!