Osteria delle Commari

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NB:  I received an email from a reader who told me that the restaurant had recently moved! They are now located at Via Santamaura, 23, 00192 in Rome, Italy (still in the Prati District of Rome).

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of dining at an osteria in Rome’s Prati district.  Prati isn’t an area of Rome where I spend a lot of time, but there are a few restaurants there that I enjoy.  My friend suggested this osteria, Osteria delle Commari, since he had dined there in the past to great acclaim (he is always raving about it!), and he surprised me by taking me there this week.

The restaurant isn’t your typical Roman establishment that is crammed with as many tables as possible. The space is well utilized, and I really like this.  Also, even when the place is crowded, it is not so loud inside that you cannot hear yourself think.  I really like the ambiance and the decor.  They go a long way to making the meal more pleasurable.  The staff go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and welcome, and I really appreciated this.

The food… I am not sure that I can find the words to describe how delicious the meal was. The hostess of the restaurant is also a sommelier, and she knew just which wines to pair with the various dishes and appetizers that we ordered.  We began the meal with a glass of prosecco and then this wine:

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This amazing white wine went wonderfully with the sampling of dishes we had — my favorite being the cacio e pepe (a traditional Roman dish)!  We enjoyed also some supplì, fried balls of rice that are combined with various ingredients and another Roman tradition and an eggplant appetizer that featured layers of eggplant, provola and tomatoes.  We ended the meal with dessert.  Below you can see the crema pasticcera with fragoline that we enjoyed:

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The restaurant is just a stone’s throw from the Vatican Museums and can be found at Via Santamaura, 23, 00192 Roma.  You can find out more about the restaurant from their web site: http://www.osteriadellecommari.it/dove_siamo/


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Restaurant Review: Al Grottino

La TropeaFinding restaurants in Rome that serve up authentic fare can be daunting for the tourist. Italians, especially those who live in Rome, will often say to you when asked where to eat that it is difficult to eat well in the city (È difficile mangiare bene a Roma…).  They do have a point:  sometimes it is hard to know where to go, especially if you do not speak the language.  A lot of hotels will push their own restaurants or push for you to visit places nearby.  People will often say that touristy places serve up bad food and are not worth the trouble, but this not always the case as there are quite a few excellent trattorias near the Vatican that are heavily patronized by tourists that are not trappole (traps).

In today’s post, I want to highlight a pizzeria (also a restaurant) in Rome that is pretty good, a bit off the beaten path and seems to be a popular favorite for the locals in San Giovanni.  A friend of mine put me onto it last year: it’s called Al Grottino and is just a short walk from the San Giovanni or Re di Roma Linea A metro stops.  The Italians love it because they are open pretty late! Reservations are always recommended, the staff are very friendly, and the owner speaks a fair bit of English as do some of the staff.

One of the coolest aspects of his pizzeria is the beers that they stock!  Ask for the iPad with the beer selections.  They’ll bring you an iPad that showcases all of the various beers that they carry from all over the world.  Italians tend to prefer beer with their pizza, although there’s nothing wrong with having wine, water, or a soft drink if you prefer, too.  Even if you do not like beer, it is fun just to browse the different beers on the wine list and see what is out there.  If you are a beer lover, then definitely pass by for a pizza!

The pizza is not your typical Roman style pizza nor is it Neapolitan.  It’s something in between and unique (even the pizza crust is different with a lighter texture and unique flavor that is a blend of different flours).  Some of my friends are often put off at first by the strangeness of the pizza, but after a few bites, the taste improves, and you get used to the different flour blends used to make the dough.  One of the best things about the ingredients is that everything is pretty fresh, and you can taste the difference immediately, especially if you are more used to American pizza like I am.  Try La Tropea, one of my favorite pizzas that is topped with mozzarella, prosciutto and caramelized red onions from Tropea that are then made into a form of marmalade that is placed on the pizza in dollops.  Il baccalà is worth trying, and it is served up fresh daily as well as the fiori di zucca which are also quite good.  The desserts are also quite good, too:  they have a varying selection of desserts, too, that are pretty amazing.

WHERE TO FIND:

The pizzera is located on Via Orvieto, 6 in Rome.  Take the Metro Linea A to San Giovanni or Re di Roma and simply walk there.  From Re di Roma, it is about 5-7 minute brisk walk.  Via Orvieto is hard to miss.  The street is separated in the middle by vendor stalls and a market that is open during the day (typically closed at night): you’ll find the restaurant at the top of the hill on the corner of Via Orvieto and Via Voghera.  During the spring, summer, and fall, there is outdoor seating, and it is recommended since inside can get a bit warm with the pizza oven going.  Reservations are highly recommended.  Call after 5:00 PM to make your reservation for that night.  Take note that the restaurant is closed on Wednesdays but open every other day of the week.

You can also check out their web site (you can see the menu, although it is missing a few items).  To make a reservation, call (+39) 06 7024440 after 5:00 PM.

YOUR WALLET:

The restaurant is reasonably priced.  Last night, my friend and I each had a pizza, we ordered two appetizers, a small carafe of white wine, and two coffees.  Our bill came to 36 euro (18 euro per person).

baccala

 

top picture: la Tropea
bottom picture: gli sfizi di baccalà


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“Strike” Zone

image of Campidoglio and the cordonata in RomeI don’t like to get political on my blogs, so for those of you who do not like these kinds of issues, I apologize, but I think that it is important to bring this to your attention because I know that many people who follow my blog travel to Rome regularly.

Today, there is a transport strike in the city.  This means that the metro lines A, B and B1 have reduced service.  The train that runs from Rome to Ostia is not running at all (that means, if you wanted to go to Ostia Antica, you would need to take an expensive cab ride in a lot of traffic because everyone is on the road today).

I live in Rome 11 months of the year, and I tend to go back to the United States to visit family.  This year, I do not intend to return to the United States as I finish up my thesis and begin work in finding a PhD program here in Europe.  I love my experience and the opportunity that has been afforded to me.  I worked hard to get here, and my efforts have paid off.

But the transportation strikes in Rome the last few months have been atrocious.  I live in Ostia so I am not in the city center.  I rely on the train from Ostia to Rome to run regularly enough so that I can get into the city to attend classes and have somewhat of a social life if nothing else: I just like being in the city and exploring it. I am just like any other citizen of Rome except that I do not have a voice — I do not get to vote.  I can complain until my voice is shot, and it will do nothing.

I often wonder what rights do visitors to a particular place have, if any?  Think about your last trip to Rome.  How much money did you spend here?  If we take my numbers — not exact, mind you, imagine that I spent $12,000 here last year on rent, food, books, clothing, travel, and other necessities.  I paid taxes on all of my purchases: none of which I got back (nor did I ever want or ask for it back).  I buy monthly transport tickets for the public transport system: I am not a free-rider.  I pay my way. I pay the necessary local taxes for things like garbage collection, I pay the necessary fees and taxes that go with renewing my residents permit every year, and I recycle.  I contribute to the local economy and buy almost everything I need (apart from my laptop) here in Italy.

The point of my post is that, while an amazing place, Rome suffers and makes those who live here suffer.  Most tourists probably never see or experience these problems unless their stays are long or happen to be here during a transport strike. Most tourists probably get around by foot.  When I lived in the city center, I could walk to my university (3km), but it was doable. I have thought about moving, but I like the idea of living outside of the city because I enjoy being around the local populace and experiencing life the way they do.  I love going to the supermarket and hearing only Italian spoken, or being able to tell the old woman trying to use the broken produce scale that it doesn’t work and to use the scale on the other side of the aisle, or trying to buy shrimp at the fish market, or getting the butcher to slice me up some prosciutto.

The city has ignored its problems far too long.  Cronyism, corruption and apathy are destroying the very city that we love. The transportation system is not free. It should be sustainable through the money that we all pay to use it, yet the system is almost bankrupt. The city recently accepted money from Vodafone which was used to make some refurbishments to Termini Station (and now Termini is like a big Vodafone store…but, hey, money talks, right?).

On your next trip to Rome, keep some of these things in mind as you enjoy your stay because I want you to love Rome and Italy just as much as I do.  Beneath the surface, there are problems with no easy answers.

Thanks for listening!

PS:  In December, I started a petition to improve the conditions of Rome’s transportation system.  Please consider signing if you have been to Rome or plan to come:  tourists pay and use the transport system, too!

 


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Scuderie del Quirinale: Augusto

EktaFrom now until February 9, 2014 there is an amazing exhibition going on at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome that focuses on art and artifacts during the reign of Augustus.  This exhibition recognizes the contribution that Augustus made in terms of making Rome a better city as well as establishing Rome as a major center for arts and architecture.

Of particular interest is the statue of the Augustus Prima Porta with its unique iconography, especially on the breast plate.  This work “lives” at the Vatican, but it is not always possible to get such a close up view of the statue so that alone is worth the price of the ticket.

Like much of Augustan art, it is very political in nature and seeks to connect the reign of Augustus to the divine: a pattern that continued even after Augustus’ reign ended.  We can see this in a number of the cameos and intaglios that are on display from museums all over.  Other notable pieces are the Boscoreale treasures (these are at the Louvre so you might have seen them if you’ve been to Paris) as well as a plethora of statuary that shows the various portraits of members of Augustus’ family.

The exhibition is amazing and one of the best exhibitions that I have attended at the Scuderie.  You will definitely learn a lot after your visit.  Also, the signage is in both English and Italian.

How To Get There And Other Practical Information:

The museum isn’t hard to find:  it’s at the top of the Quirinale: just look for the white tents/awning outside.  To get there by public transport get off at Cavour (Linea B) or Repubblica (Linea A) and walk to the museum or simply walk from wherever you are in Rome (which I recommend since Rome is best seen on foot if you can manage it). Other options for reaching the Scuderie can be found on their web site.

Tickets cost 12 euro (full price).

The museum opens at 10:00 AM every day of the week (including Sundays and holidays) but closes at different times depending on the day of the week: 8:00 PM, Sunday through Thursday; 10:00 PM, Friday and Saturday; 8:00 PM on holidays regardless of the day of the week that they fall.

image credits:
Statua loricata di Augusto, cd. Augusto di Prima Porta, 20 d.C.
Musei Vaticani, Città del Vaticano
© Archivio fotografico Musei Vaticani
© Governatorato dello Stato della Città del Vaticano

Special thanks to the museum’s press office for providing me the photo.  Please note that this image is copyrighted (see above)


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Pickpockets in Rome

Termini StationThe newspapers in Rome have been reporting a steady rise in pickpocketing, especially on Rome’s public transport.  A policewoman was attacked by a group of women pickpocketers when she warned unsuspecting passengers that pickpockets were working the platform.  Therefore, it is important to be vigilant of your belongings!

The Italian word for pickpocket is borseggiatore or borseggiatrice, for men and women respectively.  You might hear the word shouted on the metro platform or on the bus so try to take not of the word.  If you need to hear a pronunciation, go here!

It is a common misconception that pickpockets tend to work the major bus routes in the city frequented by tourists.  The pickpockets also work linea A of the city’s metro because this is the line most frequently used by tourists to get to the Vatican, Termini, Spanish Steps and other important sites in the city.  You also need to be careful in the piazzas, especially the Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, the open spaces around the Roman Forum and Colosseum and the piazzas outside Termini as well as inside the station.  Always be vigilant!  Pickpockets also work the squares at St. Peter’s, too!

Here are some tips for protecting yourself:

  • Try to avoid leaving things in your pockets.  If you have to, keep your cell phone and wallet in your front pocket.  Take only what you need for the day and leave the rest of your things in the hotel safe.
  • If you carry around a bag, leave your valuables in your hotel room safe if you can.  Keep the bag close by and avoid getting too close to strangers.  This can be hard on a crowded bus or during rush hour on the metro.  Keep your bag in front of you and watch it at all times.  Avoid distractions like checking your cell phone or reading a map:  this makes you an easy mark
  • Try to dress as inconspicuously as possible.  Avoid expensive jewelry and flashy items that might make you a more attractive target to thieves.
  • When you are waiting on the platform for a train or the metro, do not be so eager to be the first person to get on the train.  Allow the train to arrive, the doors to open and allow the other passengers to get off before you alight.  Try to keep your back to the wall if you can.  Being the first on the train might get you a seat, but you also leave yourself open as a potential target for pickpockets working the platforms.
  • When you arrive on the platform, proceed to the ends of the platform and avoid the crowds that tend to build at the mouth of the entrance of each platform.  Fewer people tend to wait at the ends of the platform, and those cars tend to be less crowded.
  • Try to know where you are going before you get on the train or the bus.  If you are lost, you might find yourself too distracted to notice items being lifted out of your pockets, purse or backpack.
  • If you find yourself a victim, you will need to go to a police station to file a report for insurance purposes.  This is required should you find your passport has been stolen.


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