It's a Roman Holiday!
The iconic Academy Award winning movie, Roman Holiday, helped to position post-war Italy as a mecca for film, fashion and modern culture. A story of a nemph-like princess, played by Audrey Hepburn, it recounts her one glorious day on the lam in Rome. The 1950's viewer is introduced, possibly for the first time, to the seductive Eternal City through her experiences -- like riding on a run-away Vespa, dancing in a piazza, sitting at a sidewalk café or enjoying a gelato on the Spanish Steps.
But you can't talk of Rome without celebrating its food. Because it lies in the center of the country, the cuisine of Rome draws from the distinctive cuisines of the north and the south, while still retaining a character of its own. As Italy's capital and home of the Vatican, it has absorbed influences from other countries giving it somewhat of an international feel. To taste true Roman cooking, it is essential to eat in it's small "osteria" or "trattorie."
Our menu this week highlights some of Rome's most beloved and popular dishes - dishes that you will find in most every Roman Trattoria today.
Will you join us for dinner and a movie -- and escape with us to Rome?
Homemade long hollow pasta, pancetta, tomato and Pecorino Romano
Chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto with fresh sage and white wine
Mixed salad of eleven greens and herbs, lemon vinaigrette
Poggio le Volpi Rosso Roma DOC, 2018
Obtained from an extreme selection of Montepulciano, Cesanese and Syrah, our Roma Doc is a wine with bright, deep and intense colors, with dark and mineral olfactory sensations, and the aromatic strength of the vines that make up the blend. It also includes a limited edition, aged for a long time in new barriques.
Italy is finally slowly moving towards reopening with outdoor dining. We are even hearing that its government is looking at easing COVID restrictions in a “major way” in May and could even reopen tourism business in June. In the meantime, after fifty-eight weeks of not traveling, it wouldn’t be so bad to get lost in a story from another time with a delightful travel log of “ol’ familiar places” while enjoying easily recognizable comfort foods made from scratch. I know I could use a diversion, even if it is only for a couple of hours.
It really wasn’t that long ago that the world was in shambles after WWII. During Italy’s post war reconstruction and economic boom, the film and fashion industries helped to build an attractive image, turning a nation that was in ruin into one of the world’s most desirable tourist attractions. It was in the early 1950s that the global launch “Made in Italy” took place. Italy had become, almost overnight, a modern and appealing country. And post-war Italy loved anything American! The film, Roman Holiday, was the first American film to be shot entirely in Italy, kickstarting a whole new era of Italo-American cooperation.
This week’s menu could have been enjoyed in 1950s Rome, as it was before then and most certainly still is today in its trattorie and osterie. The cuisine of the centrally located Lazio region, with Rome as its capital, draws from the distinctive flavors of the north and the south, while still retaining a character of its own. As home to the Vatican, it has absorbed influences from other countries as well, giving it somewhat of an international feel. Many traditions can be traced back to some of Rome’s original founders, shepherds who formed their colonies on the seven hills, and who eventually became farmers.
Our first course, Bucatini all’Amatriciana is the Romans’ version of a dish originating in the town of Amatrice, in the Sabine Hills northeast of Rome. This dish relies on the distinctive flavor of the age-old famous cheese, Pecorino Romano, considered one of the world’s oldest. It is a simple recipe using only tomato, onion (in the Roman version), hot pepper and “guanciale” or cured pork jowls, though it is totally acceptable to use pancetta (cured pork belly) in its place. The Romans also prefer to use bucatini, a spaghetti-like pasta with a hole down its middle, which we make fresh in house.
Saltimbocca alla Romana is considered another stalwart of the region. It is traditionally prepared with thin slices of veal, which, for our menu, we have replaced with chicken breast. “Saltimbocca” loosely translated means “jump in the mouth,” which it certainly does with its flavors of fresh sage and salty prosciutto.
Misticanza is another dish well known in the region. It is a mix of at least 11 different wild and cultivated leafy greens with tender fresh herbs. Though many of the greens they use cannot be easily found outside the region, we have included, romaine, red radicchio, chicory, frisée, endive, arugula, kale, basil, tarragon, mint, parsley, chives and more. The dressing is the traditional version of extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon and Italian sea salt.
Crostata di Ricotta, which the Romans affectionately claim as theirs, really can be found as a classic dolce casalinga / homemade dessert everywhere throughout Italy. My first introduction was by Francesco’s Zia Ada. Every Saturday, she would come to the trattoria in Cercina to prepare the week’s desserts and I was appointed her apprentice. She taught me how to make the cookie-like pasta frolla and how to prepare the filling with fresh ricotta that we had purchased from the shepherds the day before. It is a simple, genuine dessert that remains one of my richest memories of time spent with the Italians.
The wine we have chosen for our Roman menu is a great find, Poggio le Volpi, Roma Rosso DOC. Dedicated to Rome and its historical greatness, this wine is a celebration of the richness of its terrior. It includes one of the most important historical territories outside of Rome, with ancient wine traditions and mineral strength shaped by the Latium Volcano. It is a blend of Montepulciano, Cesanese, and Syrah, pairing beautifully well with our Amatriciana and Saltimbocca
In Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn’s character, Princess Anne, evades her protectors and advisors by sneaking out at night to discover how ordinary Italians live. How fortunate was I to have lived so many years with these beautiful people, learning, loving and living their traditions? Watching this movie brought me back to simpler, innocent times when riding a Vespa for the first time, eating a cone of gelato, or even just sitting at an outdoor café was a wonderful adventure.
If you have Amazon Prime, you will be able to watch the new version of Roman Holiday for free. You may follow this link (https://amzn.to/2YmjHYT) or if your TV is enabled for apps you may find it directly on the Amazon Prime app. You may also rent it for $3.99 on Amazon (https://amzn.to/3bOER5O).
Buon appetito and I’ll see you at the Spanish Steps.