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I Gemelli Gelateria

11 Jun

These days, there are basically only two things left that could motivate me to write a new post: the death of a pope, or discovering a fantastic new gelateria.

Given that Francis is thankfully alive and well, let’s celebrate the latter today as I introduce you to I Gemelli Gelateria — a.k.a., “The Twins.”

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N.B. – My darling 7-year-old daughter took all the photos in this post. That’s why you’ll notice the general height perspective is around four feet tall and some images are blurry.

So, I Gemelli opened in March, but I only became aware of it recently (yes I am basically a hermit mom who types on her keyboard to earn a living in-between taking children to and from school). The reason I noticed is because they had the telltale this is an awesome gelateria crowd hanging around outside the front door. Trust this, especially when you aren’t in the center of Rome where crowds will hang around any old place, including joints that scoop out swill like Blue Ice.

But no, my neighborhood is far removed from the tourist track, and thus, let the locals be the judge of whether gelato is truly worthy or not.

New gelaterie open in my neighborhood about never, because we’re a residential ‘hood with many established businesses that don’t change hands. It’s a beautiful thing, really. But at the same time, it’s all the more special and curious when a new place does hang out its shingle.

I Gemelli is right around the corner from I Mannari, a place I lovingly wrote about five years ago. I still adore Giuseppe and his incredible gelato, but I rarely make it to his shop anymore. If you step in a bit closer I’ll whisper to you the reason why, from behind a cupped hand: my kids fell for another place on the other side of the neighborhood where all their friends go and where they can get—wait for it—sprinkles. These, I learned, are referred to by the gelato ladies as zuccherini (they are those little multi-colored ball sprinkles) and you’d think they were g.d. panned gold or something. Just try and tear my kids away from the shop that offers zuccherini. Not gonna happen. That is, until now.

I’ve been to I Gemelli twice. The first time I went was when we saw it was open and decided we’d put it to the test. “We know what good gelato tastes like” declare my children and I. Step aside, people, and let us through to determine whether this joint deserves a crowd milling about out front. [Yes, we’re quite humble about our tasting abilities, as you can see.]

On that first visit, my kids gave it the big two thumbs up, but really, isn’t it mom’s opinion that matters the most? (Who’s paying?) The verdict was in: I was basically over the moon because they had a flavor they call dolce salato (salty sweet) and can I just tell you what it tastes like? Um, like a whole lot of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup-ness in Italian gelato format, that’s what. It had whole peanuts and swirls of swirly chocolate. In a word? Divine. I’m telling you.

They change their non-classic (read: dolce salato and other eccentricities) flavors often, and the second time I went back, zenzero cannella had taken its place. Cinnamon ginger (or ginger cinnamon, if you like). Um, yes, please. It tasted like a mix between Dutch speculaas cookies and gingerbread houses and it was to die for. SO good.

This all got me to wondering: who in the world are the twins, anyway?

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Here they are in a photo with mom. Simply killing us with cuteness amirite?!

Turns out that these two lovely boys come from a family with a long history of gelato tradition. Their grandfathers made gelato in Emilia-Romagna starting 60 years ago, and their uncles actually teach at the MEC3 International School of Gelato in Rimini that trains professional gelatai (gelato makers). Not too shabby as far as street cred goes.

Hey, want to hear one of those insider tips people always told me about how to spot awesome gelato? This:

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From my daughter’s vantage point. Remember, you’re seven.

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I nabbed this pro shot from their Facebook page because—look how great.

That’s right, folks. It’s the gelato you can’t see. It’s the gelato that’s hidden away in silver tubs with lids. They call them pozzetti, apparently. Old school, yes. There are only two other places in Rome that immediately come to mind that have gelato like this. One: identified by my ex-husband back in the day simply as la gelateria zozza (the filthy gelato shop – and that was a compliment) – it’s that bar over in Piazza San Calisto in Trastevere where all the drunks and punks with dogs hang out front. (OMG wait – I actually wrote a post about this place TEN YEARS AGO.) They have like three or four flavors, incredible panna, and the man who scoops it out is wicked fast. The other place is Carapina, which apparently because I am so updated (I literally make it downtown perhaps 10 times a year max, nowadays) no longer exists in Rome. Mah. It was good, but not as good as I Gemelli.

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Can I just tell you that today at the register after ordering for three drooling kiddos I opened my wallet and realized I had exactly ZERO cash, but mom told me I could bring it by “next time” because she remembered me from my first visit? Swoon. I was back within the hour and enjoying my own cone.

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I’d love to say I was going for some sort of artsy visual here, but alas, this is still my daughter and what it looks like from down there at four feet plus an inch or two. But that there is MY cone, people. To die for.

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I actually think my daughter was going for art on this one. Super cute cones in jar.

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It’s not just a marketing gimmick! They’re the real deal! Excuse the blur but…

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Another from their FB page. Could you just die from the adorableness? Oh, and BTW, that thar is a ginormous Sicilian brioche with gelato. Because you KNOW the Sicilians aren’t messing around. They eat ice cream for breakfast and you better not say anything about it.

But don’t take it from me, folks. Have a look at their pretty much across the board amazing reviews on Facebook (5.0), Trip Advisor (4.7), and Google (4.9). Apparently no reviews yet on Yelp.it so perhaps I’ll get them started there. Haven’t written a review on my Yelp account in years!

They also have an Instagram account so you can pretend your smartphone is a gelato and lick your screen if you feel so inclined.

My advice? Get thee to The Twins if and when you want to venture off the beaten path. And if, God forbid, you have to convince a travel partner that it’s a worthy touristy thing because you’re on a whirlwind Rome tour and have limited time, then just tell them you’re going to EUR to see the square Colosseum and other Fascist-era architecture, or the Fuksas Cloud, or the recently reopened after about a bazillion years Luneur Park, or the pool, or the prehistoric museum.

Or, you could just tell them you’re going to have a damn good gelato and ain’t nobody gonna stand in your way.

Good times, yes?

I Gemelli Gelateria
Via Mario Musco 44/46

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La Taqueria in Rome

28 Apr

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Rome is a small world, and many of us who come from foreign countries and make the city our home are connected not by the proverbial six degrees of separation but generally by one or two degrees at most.

Case in point: Gabriel of La Taqueria.

(Let’s forget for a moment that I’m preparing to write about Mexican-slash-Central American street food right here in pasta-slash-pizza-lovin’ Rome. [Wipes drool from keyboard.] Suspense is key.)

Once upon a time, back in March 2014, I got an unsolicited email from a lovely man who had met a friend of mine (he said she’s his restaurant’s biggest fan) who told him to get in touch with me to tell me that he had opened – and here I quote from his email – “a little taco shop” – in Rome. He invited me to stop in and try it out.

I have no excuses as to why I never took him up on his generous offer, other than good intentions. I hear the road to hell is paved with them, and let me tell you – the last two years for me have felt much like a searing-hot highway.

Anyhoo, here we are, folks, nearly May 2016, and although I can barely get a shower as a single working mom of three school-aged littles, let alone get out to see friends, yesterday there was an unusual sighting of a pig flying past my window and I made it to lunch with four of the coolest girls I know, who also happen to be my friends.

One of them (who shall go unnamed but runs this place and should you ever have people who need a place to stay in Rome you should recommend this place because it’s fabulous but they also have this place with apartments all over Europe end of run-on sentence and shameless friend plug) suggested we meet up at La Taqueria.

The name vaguely rang a bell (wasn’t this the lovely man who invited me to his “little taco shop” a couple years back?) and so, upon entering, said lovely man warmly greeted my friends, and I said: “I think you contacted me a couple years ago” and promptly did a Gmail search. Sure enough – it was Gabriel in the flesh!

Back then, his “little taco shop” was in Piazza Fiume, but folks — his success has gone far beyond expectations and so, now he inhabits an infectiously festive place near Piazza Bologna.

I mean it, people: you enter this place and, like Dorothy might have said— “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Rome anymore,” —had she lived in Rome and not Kansas, mind you.

Bright colors, Spanish everywhere, party bus wallpaper (party bus? what is this party bus of which you speak?), PLASTIC BANANAS HANGING FROM THE CEILING.

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This is what I am talking about. Ain’t no Kansas ’round these parts.

So, after Gabriel was exceedingly charming in not making me feel like a complete tool for having neglected his generous invite for two entire years, I started asking a few questions to get the lowdown on just how one decides to open a taco shop in Rome.

Gabriel speaks great English. How is this possible? He tells me, “I went to an American school in my country.”

“My country” turned out to be Honduras, from where Gabriel emerged into Rome seven years ago as a diplomat.

[I’ll give you a moment to try to wrap your head around that. No, really—I can wait. In the meantime I will re-read this extraordinary feat of journalistic narrative by Oscar Martinez, and then, I’ll breathe a quick sigh of relief that this city no longer has the dubious distinction of being the murder capital of the world.]

Ok, so. Now that you’ve got a better idea of what amazing stories Gabriel must have hidden away in his invisible life baggage, I’ll fast-forward you to when his tenure came to an end at the Honduran Embassy in Rome and one fine day he said to himself: “How is it possible that there’s no street-food taco stand here in Rome?”

How, indeed, Gabriel.

And thus was born another entrepreneurial success story wherein a clever observer and ambitious go-getter decides to scratch an itch, perhaps one that locals didn’t even know they had until La Taqueria first popped up in its “little taco shop” incarnation in Piazza Fiume.

Gabriel tells me that despite the extra room in his current space, lines on Saturday go out the door and people are willing to wait even an hour and a half for the food.

And so, I give you: La Taqueria in all its glory.

Now, I can’t compete with the official website photos, which are gorgeous, so I won’t even try. Look:

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Like I told you: BANANAS ON THE CEILING.

And, water-jug ceiling lamps, too.

Gabriel tells me that the bananas symbolize the importance of that fruit in the economy of Central America (not in the pejorative, 1904 O. Henry way, but in the “for better or worse this fruit is the foundation of an entire economy” way). And that the water jugs are also steeped in local symbology, both as containers for H2O as much as makeshift gas cans for the aforementioned party buses (I’ll try to get to that).

But, shall we? The food?

The menu is eclectic, mixing Mexican (“because in Rome you have to call it a Mexican restaurant”) with Guatemalan and Honduran specialties (“a sort of Mesoamerican fusion”).

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I ordered the Catracho burrito—you had me at “fried plantain”—and when two of my vegetarian friends got excited but then not so much when they saw it had chicken sausage, Gabriel made it vegetarian for them. A+ for customer service.

By the way, if you are wondering what a Catracho is (as one often does) allow me to refer you to the fearless bloggess La Gringa.

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The salsas are made in-house, almost all with locally sourced ingredients, except for the chipotle, because frankly when’s the last time you saw a Roman eat a smoked jalapeno? That’s what I thought.

Gabriel has big plans, people. Cutting through endless red tape to import Honduran beer. Hosting regionally themed brunches for a taste of super-local cuisine. And of course, continuing to shake up delicious margaritas and pour out tamarindo juice. Yes, you read me right: agua de tamarindo.

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Gabriel said Hondurans are more of a beer-drinking people, and hence came our chat about Honduran beer and the difficulty in importing it, but, there are pinch hitters:

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(Can we, however, pause for a moment on the fact that one of the major Honduran beers is called “Lifesaver”? Let’s, please.)

Below photo does not represent current beer selection at La Taqueria, but rather, the absolute ingenuity for beer-naming with which Hondurans are apparently possessed:

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Oh, and as a casual aside: there are churros. Churros for dipping in dulce de leche.

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I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this place transports you. Try it and you’ll see. It’s delightful. I can’t wait to go back.

Muchas gracias Gabriel, for bringing some real sunshine and spice into this city.

(Oh, right: the party buses. Are these what people call chicken buses: a.k.a. “the beautiful afterlives of American schoolbuses”? Maybe not, but fascinating nonetheless.)

!Que pinta esta pequeña tienda de tacos¡
Via Giacomo Boni 26, Roma (Metro B: Bologna)

Bedda Matri and Francesca the Artista

17 Aug

As long-time readers of my blog can attest, I love to be swept away by the magic of this city. It is everywhere, it’s just that so many people don’t open themselves to it. So here you go, another little sparkle.

Yesterday I was coming home from a meeting with a friend, and I was walking because my bus wasn’t coming. It’s August 16 in Rome, folks. This means it’s worse than, well, let me give you an audio-visual comparison:

Metaphorically speaking, allow me to say that if you stay in Rome in August, especially in the period just before and after August 15, you are essentially “digging your own grave” because you are going to be a bit alone. This city is deserted.

Oh, the joy of wordplay. Yes, desserted indeed. Because as I was walking home yesterday, past door after door after door of closed and barred up saloons, I spotted a beacon of light on the horizon. It was this little shop I’d seen hundreds upon hundreds of times from the bus window, but never stopped at because I had no need to. Bedda Matri. A Sicilian gelato and pastry shop. It caught my attention because, not only was it the only shop open for blocks, but it had a cute little crepe stand out in front, and I hadn’t eaten for hours, and suddenly, a Nutella crepe sounded just heavenly. I had to have one!

I ducked in and you can imagine my delight at finding this adorable, sparkly ragazza right about my age behind the counter, wearing all black, including a truly delicious black fedora. I was instantly attracted. As you may know, I love hats. And, as I am increasingly discovering, wearers of hats are very often very very interesting and singularly spectacular people. Witness. Trust. Sing it. Francesca, much like the compelling and mysterious Clint Eastwood in our opening credits, was certainly no exception.

I complimented her on her hat and I could see by her face that had caught her a bit off guard.

“What?” she said.

“I like your hat. A lot. It’s great!” I said.

She beamed. “Oh, ok. Grazie!” Love at first sight.

I told her I wanted a crepe, she said she’d have to heat up the machine. I said that was fine because I was in no hurry. “Where the heck am I going to go today?” I said. “No one is open!”

Oh, people. She and I start to chat. I don’t know how our conversation twisted and turned over valleys and hills in the span of minutes. We were enamored of each other. I know it was the hat.

Francesca whipped me up a delectable crepe, but first we talked like two long lost sisters from another mother for like 20 minutes. Twenty minutes in which I discovered that she’s also a painter, and I “confessed” that I read the tarot. (Like many people, she beamed with a curiosity that you know wants to be sated, but then immediately followed that glimmer of hope with “that’s interesting but the tarot scares me” which I hear so often now that I’m starting to believe it will ultimately become my swan song: Shelley translated images so that people no longer had to fear small pieces of colored cardboard.) Holy crepe, Batman!

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Seriously. I am dying of the gorgeousness here.

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Um a yum yum, three men in a … nevermind.

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Francesca tells me that the “setteveli” cake is their best-selling item. Sara had a fantabulous post about the setteveli years ago, check it out.

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No Sicilian pastry shop worth its ricotta would be without a cannolo fatto espresso. A “cannolo” is like a straw and they fill it with ricotta. You might know it as a kuhKNOWly.

Love this place, will be going back, again and again and again. You should stop in and say hi to Francesca. She is, in a word, delightful, and so is her shop.

Bedda Matri
Via Alessandro Severo, 240
Tel. 06 594 2104

Organic Sunday Brunch at Ketumbar

6 Aug

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I had a delightful Sunday brunch this past weekend with my friend Carla and her OH. Carla is a lovely Canadian member of our expat community here in Rome, with a blog called Love & Luce, as well as her site for her reiki practice.

The reason I’ve been so prolific on my blog(s) lately, and able to actually do fantabulous things like Sunday brunch, is because my kids just recently went on vacation in Sardegna with their papà and nonna. I’ll be joining them tomorrow for a week. But before I go, I want to share this experience with you.

Ketumbar is in Testaccio, just across the street from the new market. I had vaguely heard about it in years past—many years past, in fact. I had a notion of it as a sushi bar or something. It’s not. (This is why I am not a food blogger.) In fact we talked to the owner and he said that the format of the place has changed and is trying to be more family-friendly now and cater to a different clientele.

Truth be told? The main reason I’m writing this is for the frazzled moms of little ones out there, like me. Did you hear me, frazzled mom of preschool-aged children? Listen to this, come close:

KETUMBAR HAS A CHILDREN’S PLAY ROOM WITH A BABYSITTER.

Which you see on the sign at the top of this post is referred to in Italy as “baby parking,” which frankly I find endlessly amusing. There are comfy couches, an IKEA crawl tube and car carpet, a bookshelf full of toys, and a wall covered with childrens’ drawings. The owner said that it was such a hit in the winter months that they’re going to expand the hours this coming year. In fact in August it wasn’t crowded at all, so take note all you moms without childcare when preschools are on vacation.

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Now, I could just end the damn post right there, because up until now my only alternative in this genre has been McDonald’s.

But wait! There’s more!

The food is actually delightfully good, and the owner and staff pleasant, helpful, friendly, and passionate about what they do. This was my experience.

Ketumbar is also, like Flavio al Velavevodetto, built into the side of Monte Testaccio, also known as Monte dei Cocci, because it is made up of the ancient shards of the cracked pottery from an estimated 53 million amphorae which are the containers that were used in the ancient world to transport things like wine and olive oil. That being the case, the space where Ketumbar is housed has several plexiglass plates that show the mountain itself as the wall’s inner structure. In fact some of the best shots of those are actually in those kid’s room pics above.

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The most amazing thing I discovered is that these provide natural air-conditioning to the restaurant. A server opened one to demonstrate this to us, as the plexiglass is more like a sliding glass door. In fact, the temperature is such that they are able to use the space in between the sliding door and the mountain of cocci itself as a wine storage area!

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The buffet here is also a hit with me because, for the €15 price tag (beverages not included) you get unlimited trips. This shouldn’t be underestimated. I don’t know what it’s like now, but when I went to Il Margutta years ago, you were allowed only one trip, and that’s lame.

I enjoyed the variety of appetizers at the buffet. The brunch also includes a fresh pasta dish, a second course, as well as a variety of desserts. These all come out successively. Brunch starts at noon but seating is open so you don’t have to get there at any particular time.

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Chilled cantaloupe and carrot pureè with tabasco sauce kick — a crazy flavor combo that worked

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Panzanella, a summer salad dish popular in Roman homes, made with stale bread soaked in tomatoes and their juice, with olive oil and basil

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Cin-cin!

Ketumbar
via Galvani 24 (take any bus that goes up via Marmorata, or go to Metro B Piramide and walk from there)
+ 06 57305338

Pre-Fabricated Italian Diet

19 Jul

There are plenty of great Rome food blogs, many of which are run by people I am very proud and humbled to call friends and acquaintances.

Alas, this is not one of them.

And so it is, without a shred of indignity, that I give you my latest supermarket discoveries and thus evidence to prove that Italians love convenience just as much as the next guy. No shame in my game. Call me on it, I’ll admit it. I’m your big-box Walmart with endless parking in a sea of Nordstrom blogs about Rome. It’s all good. Hell, I nearly killed myself last night carrying my daughter to bed by tripping over a round pillow strategically left by my son in front of his door when I was carrying her out. I hardly have time to shower, for the love of God! I’m a mess! And yet—yet. I care about my readers enough to be the asshat that takes a picture of this package in the dairy section of my corner supermarket:

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Proudly proclaiming “New,” it’s the folks at Buitoni giving us another reason to abandon the joys of homemade pasta, kneaded on Sunday from scratch. You know the type, where you put the big pile of flour on your counter and crack a few eggs in a welled-out space in the middle and presto-change-o, freshly made pasta! (I do, because my Roman ex-husband used to actually do this for fun, and we loved it. I bought him a little hand-cranked Imperia to make pasta and it was good times, let me tell you. Try it, honestly it’s not that hard.)

You know, you Americans across the pond might have your “Boboli Italian Breadshell,” but hey! Over here we’ve got Buitoni’s ready-to-make ravioli. Hell yeah, people! 16 pre-cut discs just waiting for you to stuff them into delicious oblivion. [Post-script: I get that these aren’t pre-made discs of pasta all’uovo to make in water. An astute reader pointed this out to me. I call them ravioli by mistake, referring to the fact that they’re mini. They are DOUGH to STUFF for cooking in the oven, a pan, or frying in oil. Aka CALZONI or PANZAROTTI. That being said, please put all your food corrections, observations, or upturned noses in the comments, as again, this is not a food blog therefore I am not qualified to debate the merits of different types of pasta).

Now, I’ll be honest with you. My kids wouldn’t touch the things. Preschoolers with a palate, Dio mio. Which means I ate like 10 of them. Threw my diet into a tailspin, yes indeedy! I don’t think Weight Watchers has this in their points system. Let it be said that I don’t recommend you try any of this at home. That’s why I’m here.

I do so love the package. It’s very DIY.

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Here it tells us that we can either make them into mini fried ravioli (like mini calzoni, really) and fry ’em up in a hot pan of oil for 2 minutes, or, perhaps more sensibly, bake them in the oven for 10 minutes. I made mine into those little gift bag-looking shapes. Really, all that was missing was a tomato-red ribbon tied around the top. Maybe that’s why my kids didn’t eat them.

And, who said we don’t have bacon over here? Move over bacon, here’s something leaner more Italian called fette di pancetta affumicata!

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This for me is rather epic. Since when do Italians sizzle some sliced bacon and serve it up on a plate next to a pair of fried eggs? Since, um, never, as far as I know. I found this randomly placed on top of a package of gnocchi. Like, someone had it in their cart and then had a last minute change of heart and just slyly threw it back in the dairy case on top of a random bag of gnocchi. *no one saw that!*

Now, here’s a kind of a weird yet fun thing that Coca-Cola has going on right now. Don’t ask me to explain it. They just think they’re cute by printing something like “Share your Coca-Cola with…” and then a name, or some cutesy phrase like “il tuo tesoro” – your sweetheart, etc.

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Personally, if they think that’s going to make me buy more Coca-Cola (they don’t say “Coke” around here), well then, they’re sorely mistaken. Because I’ll tell you what: I turned around every damn bottle in that there fridge and none—and by that I mean NOT A ONE—had the name “Shelley” on it. Humph! (Does anyone ever really use that word/phrase in real life, or is it just written to show haughty dismay? This is clearly a completely irrelevant side question. Discuss amongst yourselves.)

But folks, let’s be honest here. When it comes to pre-packaged “Mediterranean” foods, no one does convenience—or Italian stereotyping, for that matter—like the U.S. advertising industry.

Witness “hot sexy Italian man-chef” stereotype:

Witness “grown boy-man totally dominated by overbearing Italian mamma” stereotype:

Witness “Italian before the dawn of the P.C. era” advertising strategy: (and might I add here, oh dear God)

So, you know. We Americans love our Italian imports. Then again, let’s be fair. Bet y’all Americans out there didn’t know there’s this overblown Southern good ol’ boy from Chattanooga, Tennessee who became famous in ads over here in the 80s by hawking Lipton iced tea with an unbearably thick American accent in Italian? No, seriously. Italians asking me if I know all about the mythic Dan Peterson and I’m like, WHO THE FUCK is this Dan Peterson guy, and they look at me like I’ve been living under a rock my whole entire LIFE.

Ah, yes. Just stick with me, kids. I’ll teach you everything you need to know.

FE-NO-MI-NALE.

I Heart Gelateria I Mannari

5 Apr

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Baci from Alessandra, one of the super sweet scoopers at I Mannari.

Here’s a gelato shop in my neighborhood, Poggio Ameno.

No one knows where the hell Poggio Ameno is.

It is NOT, as commonly believed, on Mars.

No. It is near another neighborhood which is *slightly* more well-known, called La Montagnola.

If you don’t know where either of those are, then all I can say is that it’s before EUR, on the 30 Express line, just past the ex-Fiera di Roma, across from Garbatella.

And if you still don’t know where it is, then I cannot be of further assistance.

In any case, I Mannari merits a visit. I’m not kidding. It’s worth the trip.

Since it’s my neighborhood gelato shop, and since, as you can tell from the above description, my neighborhood isn’t exactly Piazza Navona, I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t expecting much. I wasn’t expecting, for example, Gelato Fantasia or anything. But I was wrong to have had such low expectations.

Very, very wrong.

The shop has recently undergone a facelift, but the real joy is in the delectable flavors and exceptional taste of this gelato.

The owner, Giuseppe, singled me out because I was telling my friend that the fact that this gelateria uses Valrhona chocolate is kind of a big deal. It’s a super fancy chocolate and who would want to spend money on a fancy chocolate when there’s so much cheap chocolate powder out and about? Clearly, someone with a major passion for quality gelato.

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Don’t get him started–he won’t let you go. He’s so passionate about his work it’s very contagious–and he’ll keep filling you up with more little tastes! He even gave me a Sicilian briochè that he has brought in fresh daily from Sicily!

The other flavors here are creative and unique as well. There’s the Aztec chocolate which consists of dark chocolate and chili pepper (one of my historical favorites, wherever I can find it in the city.) But there was one flavor I’d never, ever come across in all my gelato-eating in Rome. Dark chocolate, lemon, and black pepper. Sounds disgusting. But is strangely compelling.

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Once again, I realize my desperate need for a macro lens and a real digital camera and not my cell phone. Forgive. It’s on its way from someone who keeps forgetting to bring me their old digital camera as a gift.

Giuseppe is like an anti-snob snob. I don’t know exactly what this means, except that, he’s the worst gelato “snob” I’ve ever met in terms of his passion for his work and his exacting standards for very high quality ingredients (organic, hard-to-find gourmet brand names, pistachio di bronte, etc.). And, he is committed to not building his brand or his name through advertising, but sheerly through word of mouth. Which is why he doesn’t advertise and why he tells me he specifically opened his gelato shop here in Poggio Ameno. He doesn’t even live anywhere near this neighborhood. But he told me, after years of working for some of the big-name gelato shops downtown, “if I can make a name for myself from out here, then I know I’m making a superior product.”

I asked him why he doesn’t tell people about the fact that he uses organic lemons, or all the other special touches he uses to make such a great gelato. He says that he specifically doesn’t because “people who know what good gelato tastes like know it when they taste it. I don’t have to tell them.” And in a way, he has a point. Because I can assure you that I was surprised at how much this gelato compared favorably to the best gelato I’ve had in Rome, with nothing else to indicate that to me other than my tastebuds and gelato-tasting experiences over the years. (See Gelato Tour)

Well. My kids don’t know that the lemons are organic or the chocolate is super fancy or the neighborhood they live in isn’t the equivalent of Beverly Hills. But if it can please an SUV-sized stroller and a 4-year old with a major sweet tooth, then I’m happy.

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And despite my kiddos’ non-discriminating tastes, I, for one, can say that this gelato ranks on par with any of the places from the historic center that I’ve rated highly. If you’re ever in this area, make sure you don’t miss it.

Gelateria I Mannari on Facebook
Via di Grotta Perfetta 125

Roman food and culture in Testaccio

2 Apr

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If you want to rediscover old-fashioned flavors, try our typical and genuine products! at the Testaccio Market in Piazza Testaccio

I haven’t been this excited about a post in a long time.

Let me just start by saying this:

I CAN HONESTLY SAY I HAVE OFFICIALLY EATEN THE BEST TOMATOES I’VE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

When’s the last time you were able to say that? Personally, I’ve never said it. Until now.

Not that I’m some kind of wacko tomato connoisseur (whoa, had to look up that spelling), but folks, just: wow.

I also had an amazing dish of cacio e pepe pasta (among others), a lively chat with a gelataio about the worst possible flavor combinations one could ever request (coffee and lemon together, apparently), and a variation on a supplì that was simply heaven wrapped in crispy fried goodness.

Before I start in on this, let me clearly state: I realize I’m not treading new ground here, and that in the three years I was gone from Rome, the blogging scene exploded and food blogging here became a “thing”– a mix of trendy and competitive, in which unearthing the most amazing undiscovered food finds here in Rome has become akin to some kind of extreme sport.

That, alas, is not my game, folks. (end disclaimer)

What is my game is doing fun things that celebrate Roman culture, food, and lifestyle. Which is exactly what my brilliant friend Kenny is doing in Testaccio, and doing quite well, I might add. (Y’all remember Kenny, right?)

Kenny was generous enough to invite me to tag along recently on one of his Rome tours in Testaccio. Having never really explored Testaccio gastronomy beyond knowing the “big names” and having a only a very general idea of the neighborhood, I was intrigued.

Without giving away too many of Kenny’s secrets, I will now share with you some photos from this not “three hour tour, three hour tour,” but–bonus!–four hour tour. (Thinly veiled Gilligan’s Island reference was clearly irresistable. As is my irrational love for parenthetical notations.)

Kenny lives in Testaccio and as his website states, he is a man who wears many hats. On the day I joined his tour, he was wearing a dapper tweed one.

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Isn’t he adorable? I know!

There were 11 happy and hungry souls visiting Rome and anxiously awaiting to discover Testaccio’s many gastronomical secrets. I can attest to the fact that they went away more than satisfied. You see, I was spying. I was like, embedded, you know? I can report back that I heard a bunch of the participants say how much they were enjoying the tour. And who wouldn’t?

We met Carmelo, the man who proportedly sells the largest selection and variety of tomatoes in all of Rome. His whole stand is JUST TOMATOES. Hence where I ate aforementioned most delicious tomato of life. Thank you Carmelo! You’ll have to take Kenny’s tour to find out why the locals call him the “tomato poet.” It’s a good one.

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In no particular order, I also discovered amazing cheeses:

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a still-functioning whipped cream machine from the 1930’s:

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a stand selling horse meat (no, no worries, this is not on the tasting menu):

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and–drum roll please–CHEESE PACIFIERS:

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Not to mention a pretty bizarre statue that the stand’s owner simply referred to as a “work of art.” I most helpfully commented that, IMHO (or SLMO, if you prefer), the squash was the most artistic part of the work. Don’t you agree?

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What to say? I tip my hat (as I, too, love them) to Kenny and his well-organized, informative, professional, and above all fun and delicious tour. We tasted ELEVEN–count them–eleven different deliciousnesses (yes, trust me, that’s a word) which ranged from savory to sweet, traditional to non, and all perfectly planned to introduce visitors to a side of Rome they’ll never get if they go on your typical “herd ’em through” tours, mindlessly following someone waving a flag. This, in short, was a lovely experience, and after eight years in Rome, I left with a wealth of new knowledge.

Grazie Kenny, and I wish you much continued success!

If you’re planning a trip to Rome, I highly recommend joining one of Kenny’s tours. Clearly I am not journalistically objective here. But that’s not why you read my blog now, is it?? I get you the good stuff. Period.

Eating Italy Food Tours in Rome
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