Monday, February 27, 2012

Porta Portese Market

Every Sunday morning, from 7:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., three street blocks just off the Ippolito Nievo tram turn into the most jam-packed and slightly overwhelming flea market in all of Rome. Vendors line the blocks with everything from antique postcards, to laptops and cameras (definitely stolen), to clothes and kitchen wares.

(I wish I had a better picture, it was so hard to photograph everything)

Many of the stands were full of junk - definitely just trash picked up on the side of the road. But if you searched through the piles and pushed your way through the throngs of people trying to haggle down a price, you could find some pretty interesting pieces. 

Like these phones. Who knows if they actually work (doubtful) but they're so colorful and nostalgic. We walked down the entire street and worked our way up the other side, which was much more similar to the flea markets that we know (Festival in Boca!!). There were tables of jewelry, scarves, random assortments of clothes (some vintage, some just old). I found this beautiful bangle, which the guy said is from India, though there's just no way (most likely Made in China). Some cool British girl helped us haggle, because clearly we were the Dumb Americans (ugh). 

(Why would I take pictures of what I bought when I could take a picture of this...)

Naturally we had to stop for a snack, which 99% of the time means a pastry. This one was layers of flaky pastry filled with custard and chocolate cream (surprisingly not nutella). YUM. Sorry not sorry waistline, I have no full-length mirrors and pasticcerias galore, you're just going to have to expand.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Can't Stop Won't Stop

I would say that I've eaten a lot of good food in my life. Which may just be because I've eaten a lot of food. But as far as good cuisine goes, I think I'm a pretty decent judge of taste (since I stopped only eating baby food and chicken nuggets at the age of seven, my palate has drastically expanded). I've only met two foods that I don't like (broccoli and lamb chops) and I'm willing to try anything. So when my food writing professor told us that we have to do a restaurant review for class, it was the perfect opportunity to get out there and taste the un-tasted. Originally, I wanted to adventure out of the Monteverde and Trastevere regions of the city, because that's where we always eat and this would give me an excuse to drag my friends somewhere new. But then, yesterday morning when Alex and I were wandering around in search of hangers (they only give you five per closet! I'm sorry Rome, but I just have more than five shirts), we stumbled upon this interesting looking restaurant called Ristorante Al Casaletto on Piazza del Sacro Cuore. I checked it out online and it looked worth trying, so we made a reservation for 9:00 and were on our merry way.

(carpaccio di chianina, or beef carpaccio with burrata mozzarella and arugula)

The restaurant was packed when we walked in. Families, babies, high schoolers, couples, old people, it was a local scene. An older man, who we decided was definitely the owner, beckoned us over to a table set for three. He apologized that he didn't have menus for us, since they were all in italian. We looked at them anyway, but obviously didn't understand anything besides "mozzarella" and "spaghetti," so we asked him for suggestions. Clearly, this guy had been waiting for someone to let him choose their meal all his life. He asked if we wanted appetizers, we said yes, he said pasta, we said yes, and he asked if we had any food restrictions, so we said no pork (wah my friends don't eat it).

(caponatina - a sicilian eggplant dish with pine nuts, tomatoes, celery and raisins)

After placing our food order, he comes back over to offer wine suggestions. Usually we just order a half liter of the house red, but since we didn't know what food we had coming, we asked him to pick the wine he thought paired best. He brought over a bottle of Argento Chardonnay 2010, his favorite white, and had us taste it. It was bright and crisp and surprisingly refreshing (I was comfortable drinking the wine in place of water, which I can never do). 

(appetizer of the day: shredded chicken salad in a garlic aioli with zucchini flowers)

After only 15 minutes (which is quick for Italian restaurants), our appetizers came out (the three above pictures). I honestly can't decide which of the three I liked best. The beef carpaccio reminded us of corned beef, which was oddly comforting to a group of misplaced, tri-state-area jews. The burrata was probably the best I've ever had; the creamy center went perfectly with the chewy texture of the beef. The caponatina was such a blend of interesting flavors - I would never think to put raisins with eggplant and celery, but I'm glad the sicilians did. The last appetizer was, to our surprise, chicken salad! It was solidly the best chicken salad I've ever had, with the addition of garlic and zucchini flowers (which are really popular here, I'd never eaten them back home).

(ravioli ricotta e spinaci alle noci - giant tortellini with a spinach ricotta filling in a gruyere and parmesan cheese sauce with walnuts)

After waiting for a at least 45 minutes and watching the waitresses stream out of the kitchen with dozens of dishes, one finally came over to our table with that raviloi (which was actually tortellini). At first I was disappointed. Raviloi just seems so simple and I was expecting him to surprise us with some crazy Roman dish. But once we tried it... omg. My food writing professor says that we're not supposed to use words like delicious or yummy to describe food, but this was DELICIOUS. It was an inverted raviloi, as Alex put it, because the cheese wasn't on the inside. The dish was cheesy and slightly sweet from the gruyere and walnuts but savory from the ricotta and parmesan and I could eat it every night. 

(cheesecake with strawberries, chocolate lava cake, deconstructed tiramisu)

You'd think that by this point, we would have been full. But no, this is where the "can't stop won't stop" mentality comes in. We had been at the restaurant for at least two hours, which I think is why Italians eat so many courses; dinner is their night activity, so it lasts for hours. Our mystery waiter/owner/best friend came over and asked if we wanted dessert. We said of course (it was purely for research purposes, you know, for the review), and asked for the creme brulee and the tortino al cuore tenero di cioccolato (chocolate lava cake torte). Unfortunately, he said, they were all out of creme brulee, but he would surprise us. A short while later, we see a waitress coming our way with this long black tray. She sets it down in front of us, and the owner comes over to explain. They made a tasting plate, just for us, of their three best desserts. Shockingly, our favorite wasn't the chocolate (even though it was phenomenal). The tiramisu was so light and whipped, not so laden with espresso powder as they usually are, that it was the dessert winner. The cheesecake was great too, with a flan like center and a thick, buttery shortbread encasement. We decided that we need to eat here at least once a month, just so we can try more things on the menu. And, even better news, the owner is moving to New Jersey!!!! I'm crossing my fingers that he opens a restaurant there.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Oh Barc

I'm back from Barcelona! Or Barthelona as they so lispingly call it. I have to say, it's a pretty cool city. A lot like South Beach or Tel Aviv (or Baltimore's inner harbor), except it sort of smells funny and has terrible food (more on that later).

(view from Park Guell)

 Our goals for the weekend were simple: see our friends (check), not get pick-pocketed (fail), not get taken (check), see the major sights (check), and have tapas and sangria (major fail). We arrived Friday night and went straight to our hostel (HostelOne), which was just so much like a dorm it was so odd. Turns our where we were staying was no where near downtown barc, it was more by the airport in its own neighborhood (which was fine because we mastered the public transportation system in our 36 hours there). We immediately set out to try to find the delicious, traditional Spanish meal we had all been dreaming of. Strangely enough, all we found was a wide array of middle eastern cuisines (from pakistan, lebanon, syria, iran...). We settled on the lebanese restaurant, and it was gross (sorry Lebanon). I'm not even going to post a picture it was that bad. Anyway, we went out to a cool club on the beach Friday night, and unfortunately my phone was stolen. Nothing else. Just my phone. Which is weird, because everyone has a blackberry. My 10 year old cousin has a blackberry (hi Gigi!). Just such a pain, but a new phone is already making its way across the ocean to me (unless that gets stolen before it makes it here, gotta love Europe). 

(Sagrada Familia, it's just so big)

Saturday we got up and out as early as we could (so 1:00 p.m.) and took the metro to Sagrada Familia. It is so gorgeous and so big and detailed and I just don't understand why they can't finish it already. Gaudi died almost a hundred years ago. The lack-of-work-effort would just never fly in the US. Afterwards we trekked on over to Park Guell. And I literally mean trekked - I've never climbed more stairs in my life (except maybe for when I visited Lehigh).

(Gaudi lizard)

Saturday night we went to a Syrian restaurant and then to a bar called Dow Jones. It was stock market themed, obviously, so the more one drink was bought, the more that price went up, and then other drink prices dropped. Quirky idea. Sunday we (finally!) ate real food at this place called Milk, which is essentially an upscale American diner. I've never been so happy to see pancakes and sriracha in my whole entire life. We walked around by the water and went to this unreal mall (I'm just so american) and then headed over to the gothic quarter and La Rambla (huge shopping street).

Then we packed up our backpacks (literally, you could only travel with one teeny bag when you fly Ryanair), took the train to the airport and kissed the ground when we landed in Roma. It was weird that I felt homesick for Rome when I was away. The saying's just so true, you don't know what you've got till it's gone. Even though I speak the language (kind of) in barc, and they have big malls and everyone speaks english and they take credit cards (!!!), I wouldn't trade my city for all the pancakes and ocean front malls in the world.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cooking Class a Roma

Finally, I've accomplished what I came here for. Well, that might be a bit dramatic, but I took my first, official cooking class! It was at this adorable cooking studio in Trastevere, run by Chef Andrea Consoli and his wife (who actually attended AUR!). There were 15 of us, so it was a pretty big class, but he split us up to make the four courses so it wasn't so crowded.

(Me and Amy with our bruschetta)

We started on the bruschetta, which was your pretty standard recipe except that he includes chopped, raw garlic. Personally, I would have left that out, but when in Rome...

(pan searing the steak)

I apologize for: a. my leprechaun ears, b. the poor quality of the picture (wasn't taken by me, obviously), and c. the creepy guy in the background. I couldn't figure out a way to crop him out. Anyway, the class was three hours - two hours for cooking, one for eating. Chef Andrea also runs a restaurant (Le Fate) with his family, and he shops for both the restaurant and the school every morning at a local market. So basically, his menu changes daily depending on what he finds. For our dinner, we made bruschetta al pomodoro e basilico (bruschetta with tomato and basil), fresh homemade tagliolini all'amatriciana (pasta with bacon, tomato sauce), straccetti di manzo con pachino, rughetta e scaglie di parmigiano (paper thin beef with arugula, cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese), and for dessert (and since the class was on Valentine's Day) canestrelli alla nutella (nutella filled cookies), and they were heart-shaped (aw).

(yay so much food!)

(homemade pasta is just so much better than, well, not homemade pasta)

No shocker here but Italian food really is just so much better in Italy. Lucky for you guys (and by "you" I mean my family and Chris), I have all of these recipes and will be attempting to recreate them once I come home (in exactly three months from today). In other news, I'm traveling to Barcelona tomorrow! I'm not bringing my laptop for fear that it will get stolen so you'll all just have to wait for those pictures when I get back!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Buon San Valentino

Valentine's Day makes me want to puke. Really though. I'm the least sentimental/sensitive/mushy/generally warm person that I know, and I know a lot of people. But being in the land of love and passion and delicious chocolate, I didn't mind it as much. All the high school girls on the bus had roses to give to their guys (interesting twist), and I might have even gotten teary eyed as I watched one particularly cute old couple sharing heart shaped chocolates with their morning cappuccinos.

But then, after seeing these guys selling "I love you THIS much" balloons on every corner, I decided that I'm bitter. Ah well, my sensitive morning was nice while it lasted.

But I guess I can't be that bitter, cause I got these sent to me from a pretty cute/great guy back in the states (who's name may or may not rhyme with Shmris Shmart...)

And I ate these delicious little morsels after class. Well, not the orange, Amy ate that. Why would I eat an orange when I could eat chocolate covered chocolate with chocolate on top?!

Oh and then there was the homemade shortbread nutella heart-shaped cookies that we made in my first cooking class! I'll blog more about that tomorrow, I'm waiting until the chef e-mails us the pictures that he took of us in action (prepare yourselves, I look fab in an apron with my hair tied back). Anyway, Happy Valentine's Day to all, whether you're with someone or not, or whether you're stuffing your face with as much chocolate as I am (I swear I'm training for Man vs. Food, Italian edition), I hope you have a love-filled day (*gag*).

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Pantheon

I've officially been here for over two weeks and only just made it to the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. I haven't seen the Colosseum (Coliseum?) yet, or the Roman Forum, or Villa Borghese, or the Spanish Steps or any of those other really old, important sites. But I'm getting there. I do live here after all, and four months is plenty of time to visit all the ruins and then some. Not to worry though, I've seen (and eaten) plenty of pizza, gelato and pastries (they're Roman too).

(Alex, Amy, me and Marielle in front of the Pantheon)

Oh, it's snowing again in case you were wondering. It only snows on the weekends here, which makes sightseeing and walking miles to find things really easy and fun!

(Trevi Fountain)

The Trevi Fountain is only a short walk from the Pantheon so we popped over there for a bit to throw some coins in and take some pics. It really is so gorgeous, the picture doesn't even do it justice.

(This one's for you Nana)

Sorry for my general appearance, I look like a wet dog (and my fur hood actually smelled like one), but this is as good as it's going to get when it never stops sleeting. Anyway, less about the sights and more about the gelato.

(this is just the chocolate section - which is the most important - the flavors went on for miles)

I have a terrible sweet tooth. I like salty and savory but if chocolate is an option, no matter what the circumstances are or the time of day, I will always pick it. However, I'd rather a good cookie, or a cupcake over ice cream. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike ice cream by any means, I'd just rather something warm and gooey. But gelato... gelato is different. My knees go weak for gelato - it's a compulsion. If I see someone walking around with a cup I have to get it. Well this place, Gelato Della Palma, is a gelato-lovers heaven. There's easily over 80 flavors, ranging from Kit-Kat to pear cheesecake, to canolli to chocolate rum (which would totally get you wasted off a small cup). The guy told us we could only try one flavor, so we had to think strategically. I ended up getting nutella-caramel, dark chocolate and profiteroles (cream puff).

I'm going to come back broke and 5,000 pounds, and I'm totally OK with it. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I realized I never told you about my classes! I have international law and italian on Mondays and Wednesdays, then business law, food writing and images of Italy in Anglo writings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And no class on Friday! I have the same professor for both my law classes and the same professor for both my english classes, which I think is strange but it is a small school. Surprisingly, I actually have homework, which I wasn't really expecting. Everyone says, "omg classes abroad are so easy, they know you're just there to explore and travel." False. I have 11 books and approximately 50 pages of reading a night (just for international law). The way I see it though, even if I spend a lot of my time doing work, I'm doing work in Rome, and that's significantly better than doing work in College Park. 

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have no class from 12 to 3:40, so we walk to this nearby sandwich place to get un panino (a sandwich), and the "deli guy" (for lack of a better term) makes the most beautiful sandwiches. That sounds weird, because sandwiches aren't typically called beautiful. But these are. He speaks some english, and I attempt to use my Italian (panino con pollo, prosciutto, pomodoro e ricotta - not so bad!) but he never understands me (maybe because I speak Italian with a spanish accent). He always makes my sandwich with such love; it takes him 5 minutes just to properly layer the slices of meats and cheese to his liking. I usually just tell him to surprise me and create whatever he thinks is the most delicious. It usually involves some combination of hot salami, prosciutto, sliced smoky chicken, pesto, fresh soft ricotta, mozzarella, and tomatoes, all sandwiched between the softest-on-the-inside-but-crunchiest-on-the-outside, freshly-baked roll. I wish I had a picture to show you but when that sandwich is in front of me I forget that I'm supposed to take pictures. But I can show you this...

It's a nutella roll-up. And yes, it's as delicious as it sounds. It's a light, slightly citrusy sponge cake with globs of nutella piled on, then rolled together. This great pasticceria (pastry shop) down the street from school makes the most interesting desserts, but this is the one to get. Don't worry Dad, I'm not eating this every day. Maybe once a week, or twice...

I do eat healthy sometimes though. Tiny baby clementines, like this one, grow all over Rome - in fact, there's a clementine (tangerine?) tree right in the AUR garden. They're still too sour to eat (we've tried) but they'll be sweet and delicious soon.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

So Much Food

At home, I don't even really like italian food. Everything is too red-saucy and oiley and fried and the pasta is never cooked right. If I'm going to go out for italian food in the states, it better be the best italian food I've ever tasted. And pizza? I'd never eat it plain. But here, it's starting to get ridiculous. I can eat pasta for every meal. Pasta for breakfast, pasta for lunch with some bread and olive oil, pesto pasta for snack, pizza and pasta with wine for dinner. That pizza in the above picture, with it's crispy thin crust and perfect sauce-to-cheese ratio was only €3. That's approximately $4. $4!!!! For that whole delicious pizza! 

(gnocchi with mussels, clams and fresh tomato sauce)

Since we've been locked up in our apartments with no trams or busses running and nothing open, we've been getting a bit nutty. We decided to venture out to a new destination along the Tiber (the big river in Rome) and slipped around on the ice a bit before we found this surprisingly big restaurant set back from the main road. Everything on the menu was between €3 and €10, which is just so cheap. We shared pretty much everything on the menu. I'm actually not kidding (you'll see all the pictures to follow). We shared a cheese plate (mozz, parmigiano-reggiano and some other soft cheese), a grilled veggie plate, the above pizza, 2 gnocchi pesto, the above gnocchi, a lasagna, soup, tiramisu, tartufo, fruit and a litre of their house pinot noir (which amy really thought was just "the best wine she's ever had" - it was really good).
(Just the most delicious italian cheeses, which they served with olives and arugula)

(Soup with pasta, chickpeas and rosemary)

(gnocchi with pesto - dad you would love this)

(house made tiramisu)

Sorry for making you all hungry. And sorry for the terrible quality of these pictures. I really should have listened to everyone and gotten a real camera with manual focus and a zoom lens and yada yada yada. If my food blogger career takes off I promise I'll invest in a good one. 

Friday, February 3, 2012


So, um, it's snowing. In Rome. For the first time in like 100 thousand years. It didn't snow at all in New Jersey, or Maryland, or anywhere else this past winter, but it snows here. Luckily I didn't bring my puffy winter coat, because why would I need that when it's supposedly beautiful and sunny every single day?? The Italian kids are so happy, they were flinging the most pathetic, sleety snowballs at each other while we're tromping around in approximately 10 layers of clothing and umbrellas, angry that now we can't go out. 
(just so much snow)

I'm sounding super complainey. It's not all that bad, I got to do some homework, watch two movies in bed and make nutella hot chocolate. Oh, and I got this at dinner:

It's called a camicie, which means shirts, but it's not a shirt. it's a pizza pocket pie with cheese and mushrooms inside. Don't worry, I shared with Marielle. I've decided that I wanna do a post on the Italian kids here, like the highschoolers. I ride the bus with them (public bus, not a school bus) every morning and afternoon when we all come home for nap-time. They're just so funny; their clothes, their hair, the colored hair scrunchies that the girls wear to match their eyeshadow. I'm going to have to try to secretly take a picture of them on the bus - I'll letcha know how that goes.