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Tag Archives: montagnola

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

 

 

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The Fall of Roman Civilization

28 Apr

I’ve been wanting to tackle this issue for quite some time, not really sure how to go about it. Last Wednesday, I took my annual birthday trip to see my best friend in Amsterdam, and as I left my neighborhood, this is what was happening, just a block from my son’s elementary school:

If those scenes of an urban war zone aren’t bad enough on their own, then this video shows the violence that later erupted, when riot police started beating activists with batons.

The police vans, first 5, then upwards of 10, came out on April 16 to remove squatters who had broken into and illegally occupied an empty government building nine days prior. My neighborhood is generally unknown to most, as it is well out of the historic center, and yet it took center stage last week as the violence broke out. By the time I had landed in Amsterdam, I had 56 messages on my phone from the mom’s group on Whatsapp that is usually used for asking questions about what homework pages have been assigned. This time it was filled with anxiety-ridden exchanges from moms deciding whether or not to take their kids out of school early, should the situation escalate. Luckily, it didn’t affect the nearby businesses or schools, other than the road blocks and general commotion. Once the squatters were removed, however, they MOVED IN to the MUNICIPAL building across the street and next door to the elementary school.

I was told that this was a move by the municipal president (Municipio VIII, ex-XI) who was hosting them. I haven’t researched that. It’s irrelevant now, because the squatters then moved to an abandoned building in nearby via di Tor Carbone once the municipal offices had to open back up to the public on April 23. According to this article from La Repubblica Roma online, there were about 200 families in all.

Two days prior to the police raid, I took the photo below and posted it on Twitter. In retrospect, it’s embarrassing to me to think that I sent out a plea to Rome’s mayor via social media. In fact, Marino has been battling with the AMA (waste collection company) problems for a while now, especially brutal during the holidays, when a photo of a pig eating garbage in the Boccea neighborhood (inside the ring road, not in the middle of nowhere) showed unequivocally just how bad the situation had become. But you see, the question is, who in the world can citizens turn to when their city is becoming a toxic waste zone and seems to be quickly sliding more and more into total chaos?

As those of you who follow my blog know, I truly love this city, and in my writing I do my best to try to make light of the difficult situations around here. But lately, even I am reaching my limit. I thought maybe I was just imagining things, or having a particularly difficult “culture shock” coming back after a week in Amsterdam, where things are so civilized, but it’s not just me.

This article by Der Spiegel‘s Walter Mayr is absolutely, positively, a must-read for anyone who cares about Rome at all. It’s excellently written and covers this topic from a number of perspectives.

Mayr’s piece also helped me to understand the person behind one of the sites that I have been wondering about for quite some time now: Roma Fa Schifo, translated loosely as “Rome Sucks.” The blog, founded in 2008, is a hub for sharing everything that is filthy, corrupt, and shameful about daily life in Rome. The corresponding Facebook page has a following of nearly 34,000 at the time of writing.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Roma Fa Schifo for some time, because I thought it was simply another way to collectively complain about this city. But after reading Mr. Mayr’s article, I came away with the understanding that the blogger behind the page, 35-year-old Massimiliano Tonelli, is aiming to create awareness as a catalyst for change. Tonelli manages another blog called Cartellopoli, which documents the illegal sign-posting that goes on and creates untold mountains of litter throughout the city.

A bit more research on Tonelli revealed this recent interview with the free daily Leggo, in which he describes a new type of citizen referred to as “Roman 2.0,” a social activist who documents the problems of the city online. In fact, Mayr’s article says that Mayor Ignazio Marino keeps a file of certain posts from Roma Fa Schifo, so in that sense it certainly is working as a vehicle for awareness.

The Roma Fa Schifo blog inspired a bit of an online movement that’s sprung up in recent years, with a network of sites loosely known as the “Coordination of Anti-Deterioration Blogs.” These sites, such as Degrado Esquilino and Riprendiamoci Roma (Let’s Take Back Rome), document the current deterioration of Rome.

The question Mayr poses in his article: “Can a New Mayor Stop the City’s Decline?” is left unanswered. He mentions that Marino bikes to work, and Marino himself explains that his personal wealth and outsider status (he’s not a Rome native) mean that he can make unpopular decisions.

Perhaps it’s true what Marino, a surgeon by trade, says in the article: “Removing the abscess is the easiest part. After that you need to get everything patched up and then get the organism going again. I was left with a city full of potholes, a school system that is falling apart and poverty that is rising dramatically. Add to that €14 billion in existing debt, some of which is still left over from Rome’s preparations for hosting the Summer Olympic Games in 1960.”

Rome is not in a good way right now. As much as I try to show this city in its most positive light, the fact of the matter is that things are definitely going downhill, as far as I see it, especially when I have to walk my 6-year-old son past riot police to take him to his 1st grade classroom. I’m not complaining or trying to play the victim, but I’m starting to seriously question what kind of activism a citizen of this city can take part in, to try to make a system that is so profoundly broken, get up and working again. We are lucky to have a tourism economy that keeps things moving, and tourists who continue to come and enjoy the open-air museum that is the Eternal City. But for those of us who choose to live here for any length of time, the situation continues to become more trying. As Mayr says in his article, “Seasoned Romans are heroic when it comes to getting through daily life,” and as he quotes 91-year-old Roman novelist Raffaelle La Capria, “We’re all disappointed and a little depressed to see Italy’s decline before our very eyes.”

Indeed.