Thursday, July 26, 2012
Food in Rome II: Trattoria Giovanni
As I suggested at the end of my previous post, we didn't have all bad luck eating in Rome. Just the first few days. Then, tired of mediocre meals, we got a little savvier. One of our guidebooks said to look for places packed with Italians and avoid anything with a tourist menu. We'd been dodging pushy waiters along the street our hotel was on for days before we thought to look across the road. Our first night, as I was writing in my journal going to bed, I noticed the persistent background noise from a restaurant across the street, packed with patrons talking, laughing and listening to street musicians. I tucked it away in the back of my mind, but whenever we were in need of dinner, showier places kept attracting our attention first. One day, finally, I suggested going to the place across the street, Trattoria Giovanni.
Good call. This was the real deal, folks. Everyone in there was speaking Italian - many seemed to be locals and regulars. The surly looking manager/owner came out and played his guitar while we ate (still looking surly - I guess that's how you know he's not catering to tourists). And, for once, we had good food. A relaxed good time was had by all.
Prompted by my suggestion (since I'd read about it a few weeks before on Ciao Chow Linda), Jeff ordered the pasta cacio e pepe, a traditional Roman dish. And that's all it was - spaghetti tossed with cheese and black pepper. Simple, but incredibly flavorful. I only had a few bites and I have a whole new appreciation for the flavor of pepper. This is one I'd like to try making at home (ideally with some vegetable accompaniment - half a pound of pasta, however tasty isn't my idea of a balanced meal).
I went with an old favorite: penne al vodka. A delicious pink sauce, with nice bits of ham (maybe prosciutto - wasn't listed on the menu). It was a ton of pasta, but tasty enough that I ate it all (and managed to avoid getting any splashy sauce on my white shirt!). My silly face should tell you that I was in a good mood from the tasty eats.
We ordered second courses as well. I ordered a lemon chicken - thinly pounded chicken breast in a thick lemon sauce. The flavor was good, though not great (I really had no meat dishes in Rome that impressed me). Jeff ordered some sort of scaloppine, which the menu claimed included scallops. It turned out to be thinly sliced veal (as I sort of suspected - the translations weren't great) in a tasty mushroom sauce. I am anti-veal, so I didn't try any, but Jeff took one for the team and ate it without complaint (the deed was done - sending it back wouldn't help the poor calf) and enjoyed it.
So, some lessons were learned. #1: look for the places where the locals are eating. #2: regardless of what the menu says, scaloppine has nothing to do with scallops.