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Stand-up Comedy in Rome with Marsha De Salvatore and Rome’s Comedy Club

3 Dec

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If you’ve never heard of Rome’s Comedy Club, it’s high time you remedied that right now, and I’m here to help.

Marsha De Salvatore is a force of nature to reckon with, in the best possible way.

Before Marsha, Rome had no stand-up comedy in English. Consider that for a moment. One woman who blazed a trail, with the odds stacked against her.

Marsha co-founded Rome’s Comedy Club with Stephanie Tyrell, who she met while they were both performing with Gaby Ford’s English Theatre of Rome. Now RCC is in its 8th season and continues to produce top-notch stand-up shows in Rome on a monthly basis. To get notifications of their show dates, send an email to romescomedyclub -at- gmail -dot- com.

Marsha is an intelligent, sensitive, boundary-breaking woman and she deserves a lot more exposure than she currently gets, so I took a moment to throw some questions her way. You can jump to her full bio here.

But first, a little bit of Marsha magic:

S: Marsha, it’s been nearly nine years now since you started Rome’s Comedy Club in 2009. This September you kicked off your 8th season with your – wait for it – SEVENTY-THIRD, yes, 73rd show – and fifth venue. Whew! Give us an overview of the biggest hurdles you’ve faced and how things have evolved since the beginning.

M: I think the hardest thing has been finding the right venue. The stand-up scene has just surfaced in Italy, and the venues are either super-loud and busy pubs with no real stage, or informal theaters. It hasn’t been easy to find the right fit for a comedy show where you want people drinking and sitting so the performers can connect with the audience.

The second problem is with the venue owners. Italians have a different way of dealing with business. Nothing is ever written or confirmed and there’s often a “we will see” mentality. I am American and that is NOT how we roll, which is why I have been ripped off by venues over money. They have also treated my audience in unfair ways and not followed through with what was decided.

The third challenge is to always guarantee a good show. Comedy is subjective, so not everyone is going to like every comic or every show. Plus, I throw in some new virgin comics in the mix, and sometimes that can create a few moments of not the strongest stand-up pieces. I don’t like disappointing people, so when I hear things like “I can’t stand that comic” or “That show wasn’t one of the best,” it is hurtful. I have had to learn that we have to take in critiques and just move on.

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S: Our society is going through a sort of watershed moment right now in terms of women’s empowerment regarding sexual harassment, and comedy is definitely a male-dominated field. This was particularly highlighted recently when the New York Times broke the story about sexual misconduct by comic Louis CK. Aside from the misconduct allegations, what struck me about that piece was just how much the power structure surrounding comedy seems to be totally fortressed by an army of powerful men, who promote and support other men both powerful and just coming up in the field, where women who even manage to break through still struggle to get taken seriously.

That was made even more evident in a recent op-ed by a one of my favorite female performers, writer Lindy West. I want to share a passage of that piece, “Why Men Aren’t Funny,” with you:

“One of comedy’s defining pathologies, alongside literal pathologies like narcissism and self-loathing, is its swaggering certainty that it is part of the political vanguard, while upholding one of the most rigidly patriarchal hierarchies of any art form. Straight male comedians, bookers and club owners have always been the gatekeepers of upward mobility in stand-up, an industry where “women aren’t funny” was considered conventional wisdom until just a few years ago.”

Marsha, what are your thoughts on Lindy’s comments here? Do they reflect your experiences as a women in the comedy field?

M: Sooooooo very true in my little experience here in Rome. I have an ex-comedian friend, Kissy Dugan, who was a working comic in the the States, but then met her Roman husband and gave it up to live here. She has been my guru in my journey doing and producing comedy. When I complain to her about these things, she often says that we are living in a small bubble compared to what it is like in the comedy scene in the US.

Italy is a VERY male dominated and sexist country—just turn on the TV. All the venue owners been male, which doesn’t help if you’re a woman and a foreigner here. That has led to many of my problems in the above question. The comedy circle is ALL men. They are not helpful and don’t share their comedy nights with me. Also, when I have asked in the past for suggestions in advancing my career with agents, they are tight-lipped, closed and NOT welcoming. Of course, they are the first ones to charm me into giving them stage time in my show—which I have—and they have gone off to become professional comics in the UK and around Europe.

In the journalistic world, I have been slammed with being a woman with (Italian daily) Il Messaggero writing a full article on me, but then using one of the RCC Italian male comics in the main photo.

Or another example: Brussels Airline contacted me for a piece on a local comic doing stand up in Rome, but the very next day they said they were no longer interested in interviewing me because they were going to go with the MALE local comic instead. That male comic is the same one with his photo on my Il Messaggero article.

It has been bad, but I would think as Kissy said, working on the road full-time in comedy in the US is probably much worse.

S: So, with all the hurdles you have had to face, some of which you fiercely managed to overcome and some which remain incredibly challenging, what keeps you going?

M: Laughter. I love doing stand up. The most challenging thing for anyone: all alone, raw, stressful—BUT once you get that first laugh, you soar to the high heavens. It’s the best feeling in the world when you feel you have connected with a room full of strangers.

S: What advice would you give a woman who wants to break into comedy, or a woman in any field where men have a “rigidly patriarchal hierarchy”? What have you learned and what has helped you?

M: To never ever stop or give up. If you stop, you risk getting comfortable and secure, which could cause you never to get back out there. If you give up, you will regret it, and I am a firm believer that life is too short so NO regrets.

I have gotten through it by screaming, venting and having an amazing support system. And to literally say FUCK IT and keep going.

S: So what new projects are you working on right now? How can we help you to promote them?

M: At the moment I am getting ready to go back to the States for the holidays. But in the new year, you will find Rome’s Comedy Club monthly shows at the Makai Surf and Tiki Bar (January 27th is the next show).

There will be some dates (TBA, in 2018 in Rome) of my second one-woman show, Marsha’s So-Called Life. It talks about the toil and trouble in the life of a Calabrese-Ohioan gal living in Rome.

My first one-woman show, DM55: You Can’t Get Blood from a Stone, will be going on tour for three shows in February. Written/directed by Kissy, in both English and Italian, the message is about my life as a thalassemia major patient and on the importance of blood donating. It has gone from the north of Italy to the south, with interviews on a popular nationwide morning show called Uno Mattina. It was also produced at one of Italy’s most famous comedy stages in Milan, Zelig.

But to help me promote: my show is always available for schools, theaters, conferences and can be adapted to the situation in both English and Italian. I can do comedy therapy workshops, DM55 for educational purposes, perform my one woman stand-up show or organize a few comics to go to any location for a show.

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S: What’s your vision for Rome’s Comedy Club in the near future and the long-term future?

M: The near future vision is to keep going as is, because it is an amazing project. Long-term, I want more and more people to know what has been created by one FEMALE person on her own, with drive, determination and a passion for making people laugh.

 S: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

M: So much to share.

The first: life is hard, and as my father says: “You got two ways to deal with it—you can hit your head against the wall and it’s gonna hurt like hell, and you lose blood, which is no good for you. Or you can suck it up, laugh, and go get ’em, tiger.”

So, world—ladies—go get ’em, tiger.

And finally: I had a show the other month where a male comedian broke down during his set because he had a bad day because his girlfriend left him. The audience was so shocked and understanding. That same evening, we had a mostly female lineup that rocked the house. High-energy, kick-ass ladies.

It was funny, and yet ironic, to see that the women rocked the house, and the sole man had a hard time because he was emotional. In a male-dominated time, whatta strange situation.

MY point in this babble is, it shouldn’t be strange. It should be a normal situation, where a person was having a hard time, and not a male/female thing.

Like everything we do in this world.


Marsha De Salvatore, with a name like that, is clearly from Ohio. To make things interesting, her parents are both from Calabria. She came to Italy in 2000 to find herself,  but got lost and found herself teaching English to pay off her fashion-college debt. She stumbled into acting while she was at it.

Being bilingual, she has worked the stage in both English and Italian.  She started her acting journey with Gaby Ford’s ‘English Theater of Rome’. where she performed in various plays from To Kill a Mockingbird to monologue shows.

After failing in her attempt to be convincing in drama pieces and coming across as funny, she thought to try stand up. In 2009, she got it together and brought her crazy life experiences to the stage. As a wise friend once told her, if you want to perform it then create it! Thus, Rome’s Comedy Club was born!

Rome’s Comedy Club is in its 8th season and keeps on growing with Marsha also going to Second City in Chicago to improve her improv and writing skills. She performs at Rome’s Comedy Club but also for various university and corporate events in Rome.

Additionally, she is actively involved in the world of medicine. Periodically she organizes blood drives to help the never-ending issue of blood shortages in Rome. Drawing from the work of Patch Adams, she has been formally trained in comedy therapy and has volunteered in the cancer ward of Bambino Gesu of Rome with La Carovanna dei Sorrisi.

She is also a speaker on comedy therapy and how using some basic principals of Improv can help everyday life. An example of her lecture is this recent link from the American University of Rome.

Here’s how you can keep up with Marsha and the gang at RCC:

SUBSCRIBE to Rome’s Comedy Club YouTube channel
LIKE Rome’s Comedy Club Facebook page: @RomesComedyClub

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My Neighborhood Meatball Restaurant

21 Oct

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Yep folks, that’s right: my neighborhood has its very own meatball restaurant.

I know.

I’m ashamed to admit that said restaurant has been gracing my ‘hood for a full two years already without my direct realization, but I will pull the divorced-single-working-mom-of-three-kids card on that one. In fact, it was actually thanks to the ol’ kiddos (indirectly) that I discovered El Borracho in all its meatball-infused (meatbally?) glory, a couple weeks ago when the moms from my son’s 5th grade class decided to have a good old fashioned night on the town.

Let me tell you, it got a bit wild—some of us (ahem) even ordered seconds on the beer.

This little gem is run by the adorable Gabriele, who wins the gold medal for bestest most happiest smile of contentment ever, and for knowing everyone who walks by his little shop and faithfully saying ciao to each and every last one of them. Can I get a woot woot for supporting our local community businesses? Yes.

But without further ado: the meatballs. OH, the meatballs. Mountains upon mountains upon mountains of glorious meatballs, your creativity in concocting your own meatball smorgasbord limited only by the sheer quantity you desire: two, three, or five.

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Can I kindly draw your attention to meatball selection numero uno on the meno, a.k.a. “Cheddar”? Take a meatball, cover it with a small square of cheddar cheese, melt the cheese, then put a little hat of crispy bacon on top, because, in case you haven’t heard: Everyone Loves Bacon.

Personally I’d just like to call that one the Americana, but I digress.

My daughter Paola (who, for you loyal readers, is now a whopping nearly EIGHT YEARS OLD), asked if she could make an appearance here, and I said va bene:

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Sorry for the slight blur. I think I was overwhelmed by the deliciousness of said Cheddar in the lower left-hand corner. Proudly flanked by La Classicona (big classic M.B. doused in delicious red sauce) and headlined by two Campagnole (zucchini, potatoes and scamorza cheese – and that’s all – nothing else to help it all stick – they’re that good at what they do.)

Besides the meatballs as the main event, this little place is desirable on at least two, if not three, other fronts: artisanal beer on tap that rotates weekly, interesting and thought-out decor that gives the place a sort of neo-retro vibe (that’s not a thing, I just invented it), and a wall full of wine selections organized by region plus some fancy grappa and bubbly, too.

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And when I say bubbly I don’t mean run-of-the-mill mass-marketed swill but direct-from-Reims gorgeousness like this here Louis Brochet Brut Premier Cru. Source: El Borracho

Oh, and I did I mention that people really like this place?

There are also off-menu items (like on a recent visit, a pumpkin meatball—eat your heart out, Starbucks pumpkin spice latte) and pasta dishes, some truly delicious bruschette (try the sauce and pecorino cream one, you won’t be disappointed), and, I hear, a killer tiramisù with whom I haven’t yet had the pleasure of making an acquaintance. Plus, plenty of selections for vegetarians who desire a ball sans meat.

Oh but for the love, love, love of meatballs! On my recent visit, a man even came in and ordered a meatball sandwich to go!

The meatballs are made espresse, meaning they cook them after you order them. Nothing frozen around here, folks. And they are generously portioned. But if your eyes end up being bigger than your stomach, like mine and my daughter’s, Gabriele will wrap everything up for you in a stylish doggy bag that looks like you went shopping, and you can continue the meatball love in the privacy of your very own home.

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Just another satisfied customer.

The only thing I forgot to ask was the story behind the name. I mean, OK, drunkard in Spanish, but the owl? In any case, I’ll have plenty of chances to find out because I will most definitely be going back. And so should you. You heard it here first (after two years, that is). Long live the meatball!

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And it’s Cheddar for the win! Source: El Borracho

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20171018_202405El Borracho
Via Fontanellato 73
00142 Rome
Tel: 06/5430902
Reservations: The Fork

 

 

Grassroots Neighborhood Clean-up in Rome

12 Jun

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Rome is suffering a real crisis in public services, and has been for quite some time. News on this city’s problems is abundant, and I’ve even written about it myself (The Fall of Roman Civilization – April 28, 2014; 5 Ways to Be Roman Without Moving to Italy – May 13, 2016).

There are also abundant sites that aggregate Romans’ frustration with the problems they face each day, which, although useful in highlighting the difficulties, don’t necessarily serve as catalysts for positive change.

However, a group called Comitato Parchi Colombo, in collaboration with Retake Rome, is gaining momentum as a grassroots force for citizen activism. In my neighborhood (as evidenced by the picture above), one initiative they take on is the big job of clean-up in our local parks, which can then be frequented safely and enjoyed by all.

I take my children to the park pictured above all the time, and can tell you that the sense of community there on the weekends is tangible. There are often dozens and dozens of people gathered for hours while children rollerblade, play on the park equipment, and parents chat on the benches or picnic on the grass. For those of you who have lived in Rome, you already know that neighborhood parks (as opposed to the city’s big green spaces like Villa Borghese) are often impossible places to have picnics, because of their sheer lack of upkeep and accumulation of broken bottles, cigarette butts, and all manner of trash. As a single mom with no local extended family, having a clean, spacious park to enjoy with my kids and other families is a godsend.

This group is completely voluntary and runs entirely on donations, but they lack bigger equipment to get more work done. They’ve launched a campaign to raise the 500 euros needed to buy a lawnmower. In an appeal to the 500 online members of the Facebook group Retake Roma Montagnola they noted that if each member donated just one euro, they could reach their goal.

But I want to extend the reach of the campaign to my readers as well—to those of you who have a piece of your heart here in Rome, but can’t drop by to give your euro to the doorman Andrea at the building on Via Badia di Cava 62 where he’s collecting donations.

Have a look at this two-minute video to see what this dedicated group of park volunteers did together with their families to make our park beautiful again:

If you’d like to help us reach our goal of buying a lawnmower, you can donate online at the “Good Cause” website (in Italian) – Comitato Parco Colombo “Compriamo il tagliaerba” (Let’s Buy a Lawnmower).

Don’t worry if you don’t speak Italian! I’ll guide you through it.

On the first page, click the green button. It says “Contribuisci” which means “Contribute”.

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Next:

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  1. Choose the amount you want to donate. The default is €25 but you can choose any amount you wish. The last option, “offerta libera”, lets you specify the amount you want to donate. Remember, even one euro—roughly $1.13—makes a difference.
  2. Choose the payment method: credit card or Paypal account. In both cases, the transaction is handled through Paypal’s secure system.
  3. Fill in your first and last name and your email address (or access using Facebook by clicking the blue Facebook button) and click the green button to proceed.

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The check-box below the green avatar asks if you want this to be an anonymous donation; if so, check the box, but you still have to enter your name and email to make a donation.

That brings you to a Paypal access screen.

If you have a Paypal account, click the yellow button:

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I donated using my US Paypal account, and at that point the language changed to English and my donation went through in one step.

If you don’t have a Paypal account, you can use a credit card by clicking on the link above the credit cards. I don’t have a tutorial for that because I didn’t use that method, but perhaps if you need, you can use Google Translate or Chrome’s page translator.

I’m so pleased to see grassroots civic action in Rome. So many people complain here without taking any real action to change things. Here is just one example of neighbors who want to take collective responsibility for keeping public spaces enjoyable.

For more information, visit Retake Roma’s main website or Comitato Parchi Colombo.

The next park clean-up is scheduled for Sunday, June 18 at 4:30 pm with a pizza dinner all together after the work is done.

Homelands: The Case for Open Immigration

10 Aug

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In June, I wrote about the launch of Deca, a cooperative of award-winning journalists, and their extraordinary online success with a Kickstarter campaign that, in less than one month, raised more than double their original funding goal (a grand total of $32,627 against the original $15,000 goal).

I highlighted Deca not only because it’s an innovative model to showcase world-class writers at the top of their game, writing long form journalism that delves into the heart of important stories, but also because one of their members, Stephan Faris, is a local friend of mine. I can’t say enough about his writing talents, but I try here.

Deca’s second story and Stephen’s first piece with the cooperative came out on July 25 and is titled Homelands: The Case for Open Immigration.

Reading this piece did what I think really great journalism should do: it opened my mind, expanded my horizons, and inspired me to learn more, think more, and want to do more.

Honestly, have you ever considered the radical-sounding idea of a world where borders didn’t exist? A world without restrictions on immigration, where people wouldn’t be deported simply for trying to change countries, where people could freely choose the country that they wanted to be a citizen of, rather than it being a chance “fluke” of birth or happenstance?

These are questions and issues that are more than timely right now, and Stephan brings forth well-constructed arguments for the case, by skillfully weaving together his sources, which range from diplomats to families, politicians to philosophers, and of course, the immigrants themselves, including children.

In June, UK’s The Guardian reported on the refugee crisis in Italy in their piece Europe faces ‘colossal humanitarian crisis’ of refugees dying at sea.

Also in June, President Obama declared the surge of immigrants arriving at US borders a “humanitarian crisis.” More than 57,000 children have fled Central American countries and arrived at the US southern border since last October, according to this article in The Guardian.

The interest that was sparked by reading Stephan’s article led to me picking up a copy of the book The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging the Narcos on the Migrant Trail, which details the treacherous trip north through Mexico that Central American immigrants go through, including riding on top of a freight train known as the “train of death,” The Beast, La Bestia.

This is the power of journalism, especially when it is given free reign to delve deep into timely topics. It opens minds, educates, builds a case for revolutionary new ideas. I can’t speak highly enough about Stephan and the contribution that his reporting makes to this very relevant world issue.

To order Homelands: The Case for Open Immigration, click here (Kindle Single, $2.99).

From the Amazon page:

“As a child, Stephan Faris nearly failed to qualify for any country’s passport. Now, in a story that moves from South Africa to Italy to the United States, he looks at the arbitrariness of nationality. Framed by Faris’s meeting with a young orphan as a reporter in Liberia and their reencounter years later in Minnesota, Homelands makes the case for a complete rethinking of immigration policy. In a world where we’ve globalized capital, culture, and communications, are restrictions on the movement of people still morally tenable?

At a time when the immigration debate dominates the headlines, Homelands follows in the tradition of George Orwell’s “Marrakech” and, more recently, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s case for reparations in The Atlantic. Drawing on more than a decade of international reporting for magazines such as Time, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The Atlantic, Faris takes readers on a ten-year journey along the borders separating war from peace in Liberia, opportunity from deprivation in Kenya, and safety from disaster today in the deadly waters off Lampedusa, an Italian holiday island that has become the scene of a refugee crisis. On the way, he uncovers a series of unsettling but ultimately redeeming parallels between modern immigration practices and the policies of South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Could we really have a world without borders? What would that look like? Based on dozens of interviews with philosophers and diplomats, aid workers and small-town mayors, and a cabinet member of South Africa’s last apartheid government, Faris’s work of fearless frontline journalism also functions as a kind of futurism. Confronting questions inflaming borders in California and Texas, France and Greece, Morocco and Spain, he takes us into the depths of one of the modern world’s most complex moral dilemmas—and returns with an answer.”

Deca: A writer’s cooperative with one of Rome’s own

18 Jun

I am very, very excited to share this with you. Honored to have as one of my readers and friends the exceptionally great journalist Stephan Faris, who, by way of introduction in his own words: “Since April 2001, I have written from Africa, the Middle East, China and Europe for publications including Bloomberg Businessweek, Time Magazine, and The Atlantic Magazine. I have written about war in Iraq, refugees in Darfur, and Internet censorship in China, and the Eurozone crisis across the continent.” Currently we are lucky to have him based in Rome as a contributor to a variety of world-class publications.

Seriously, folks, Stephan’s reporting and writing is amazing. Literally the only reason I have a subscription to TIME is because I wanted to finish reading one of his pieces there (they only let you get so far without a subscription, just when you’re hooked). And, trust me when I say that I was totally unbiased at the time, because it was even before he and I met through mutual acquaintances and realized that we appreciated each other’s writing. But hell, don’t take my word for it; check out some of my favorites and judge for yourself:

And now, drumroll please…

Stephan and eight of his award-winning journalist colleagues have banded together to form Deca, a global writer’s cooperative, as a vehicle for reporting and writing long-form stories. Long-form, sometimes known as creative nonfiction or narrative journalism, brings forth in-depth stories that are longer than a traditional article but shorter than a full-length book.

Check out their introductory video:

Introducing Deca from Deca on Vimeo.

The exciting news is that in LESS THAN FOUR DAYS, the group reached their initial Kickstarter goal of raising $15,000 to cover the costs of reporting and producing their monthly stories.

The even more exciting news is that they still have over twenty days to continue gathering contributions to fund their project, bringing us examples of what high caliber writers can do when they’re working at the very top of their game from an innovative, collaborative model.

Just $10 gets you a subscription to their first three stories, while a contribution of $350+ is like purchasing a master class in journalism, where you can edit and work side-by-side with the writers. Aspiring journalists and accomplished writers alike should jump at this chance. The campaign is receiving such a warm reception that some of the incentives to work with the writers have “sold out,” which prompted them to add additional spots.

Understandably, Deca is getting a lot of press:

Together with Marc Herman, another Deca co-founder, Stephan spoke at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, last month. You can view their talk here:

The only question I still have is whether or not long-form is hyphenated? (Clearly, my intuitive choice favors the hyphen. But, you see, personally I’d even hyphenate non-fiction if I could get away with it.)

I should just sign up for an editing gig with the Deca team to get the insider’s guide on journalistic style.

Actually, if we want to use most venerable The New York Times as our guide, we can go with Jonathan Mahler’s style in When Long-Form is Bad Form (hyphen!), where he finishes by saying:

What, then, is the function — the purpose — of “long-form”? To allow a writer to delve into the true complexities of a story, and also to bring readers closer to the experience of other people. Whether a long-form story is published in a magazine or on the web, its goal should be to understand and illuminate its subject, and maybe even use that subject to (subtly) explore some larger, more universal truths. Above all, that requires empathy, the real hallmark of great immersive journalism.

So now, please: run—don’t walk—to subscribe. Incredible, mind-blowing, memorable storytelling awaits. And, as Stephan recently noted, “I defy you to find a cuter editorial process than how we do things at Deca.”

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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

The Food Police and a Cross Pollinating Beehive

1 Jul

I was just telling a friend of mine the other day, actually my former aupair-turned-Rome-expat-herself, that one of the things I love most about living here in Rome is that pretty much every single one of the expat friends I’ve met here has a really amazing and interesting story to tell. It’s one of the fringe benefits of living in a country that’s not your own: you tend to meet other adventurous people who are living in a country that’s not their own, and each and every one of them generally has a story that’s worth writing if not an entire book, at least a little short story about.

Well. One couple of friends could easily fill multiple volumes of expat lore and literature, part of what I consider my Old Guard of Roman expats. These are people who came here just a bit before me, and who I’ve been able to see grow and thrive through the years.

Steve and Linda of The Beehive were “known to me” before I actually knew them personally. That’s how it tends to go around here. The English-speaking expat community is a rather small world and we’re all just a degree or two of separation, often having heard of someone before even meeting them in person. And so it goes in my relationship with the Brenner-Martinez clan.

Back in, oh, probably 2003 or so, a friend of mine whom I had met through the school where I was teaching ESL, lent me a paperback written by a woman who had spent time living in Rome. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the book, the author, or anything, as these books do tend to pop up like mushrooms, and this was before the big blog explosion (many of us Rome bloggers had our start circa 2005-2006 when blogs were just becoming a bit more prevalent). But one thing I do remember is that whoever-she-was specifically mentioned she had worked for Steve and Linda. The Beehive was just under the surface of my consciousness, as it seemed like a sort of destination/checkpoint for expat travelers and people who wanted something richer than a standard cookie-cutter experience in Rome.

{Post-script: Linda helpfully clued me in to the book I was talking about. Penelope Green, “When in Rome.” Brilliant. Why didn’t Julia Roberts play her in a movie? I don’t know. She wrote two more books about Italy-go here.}

{Whoa. Double post-script. I did a Google search for the When in Rome book and, lo and behold, holy crapoly man, I actually WROTE AN ENTIRE POST ABOUT IT back in 2007. That was when my blog used to be called At Home in Rome, when I was renting out the tourist apartments I mention in the paragraph to follow. Jesus, people. Even the story I told you about how I got the book was wrong. That must have been another book another expat lent me. This one I actually got on my HONEYMOON at the Sydney airport. *shakes head in mock disbelief* Senility sets in at age 36. This is what happens when you try to raise three preschoolers as a single working mom while holding down a blog and moonlighting as a tarot consultant. For the love of God.}

A few years later, I started my own tourist lodging business in Trastevere (I left that business in 2008 when I started a family) and got to know Steve and Linda as local colleagues, but never in person and was just sort of aware of them and of their by-now almost legendary B&B that was pretty much booked solid all the time. I’d always recommend them to my guests if I was booked (I only rented two apartments and my premise around travel was based on the “Slow Travel” movement, so we generally had guests with similar travel “tastes”).

Come full circle to 2011 when I finished my three year odyssey of living back in the States, and serendipity had it that Steve and Linda were just moving back to Italy after having had a sabbatical as well. Linda and I became fast friends through mutual acquaintances, finally met in person, now each of us with three children a piece, and I am happy to say that our friendship has grown over the last couple of years.

Steve and Linda are full of creative ideas, projects, community spirit, and have filled a void in this city by offering wonderfully eco-conscious and stylish accommodations that are still within reach price-wise in this exorbitantly expensive city, as well as providing a dietary-sensitive alternative for travelers, with a cafe’ and vegan buffet three times a week open to guests and non-guests alike.

Gush, gush, I love them, can you tell?

But the whole point of this post wasn’t actually to be an advertorial, if you can believe it. The point was actually just to share something super fun with you. Steve and Linda have three vibrant young daughters who are the stars of a homegrown video series called “The Food Police,” and I love it.

You have to see their lastest episode with Rick Steves. And then go “like” their FB page for Cross Pollinate, their website with hand-picked and inspected cool places to stay across Europe.

Who knows where their adventures will take them next?

The Food Police – The Rick Steves Episode from Cross-Pollinate Travel on Vimeo.