Saturday – April 29, 2017 – last day in Rome

May 4, 2017

After wrapping things up at the dialysis clinic, including a marathon session with three staff members trying to figure out how to process a credit card, we headed back to the Minerva to pack. It’s amazing how quickly are stay here has gone. The Minerva has been wonderful – unbeatable location, great staff, fantastic room, a couple of nice nights on the roof top with views over all of Rome. We would recommend it to anyone.

We finished packing and headed out for a light lunch. We strolled to one of the streets that heads to the Piazza Navonna that we go down on our return from dialysis. It has several small restaurants on it that look nice, so we decided to check them out. After passing on the first couple of spots (one turned out to be a gelataria, another a coffee bar) we perused the menu at a third, and took a table on the street. Our waitress was delightful, recommending wines and specials. David ordered a bottle of Vermentino, and we settled on appetizers of Bresaola, which turned out to be among the freshest we have had so far. I got a text from Darren that they were returning from sightseeing and shopping and told him where we were. He said they would join us shortly.

We polished off the Bresaola and a glass or two of wine, and Darren and Misha showed up and joined us. David’s main plate was veal scaloppini with lemon and white wine, which he said was excellent. I had pasta with Amatriciana sauce, which also was very good. Darren and Misha gave raves to their orders as well.

As is often the case, we went from being the only folks outside to drawing in several other tables, ending up with four or five other tables. The waitress and manager were happy that we were attracting business for them and sent over a few “thank yous,” such as. We think that people are reluctant to dine at a place where all the seats are empty, so when we take a visible table it helps them get business. David calls it the “Bev effect.”  Then, they came up to us and gave us a business card with a note on it, essentially a free bottle of Prosecco if we would come back for dinner and sit outside to help draw people in. Every time we would ask for the bill and try to leave, another freebie would show up until we finally left, saying we would be back – which we would have if we were staying longer.

We finished our packing and met Darren and Misha on the rooftop for wine and some light snacks. We were still a bit full from lunch. The views from the roof were terrific, Rome lit up in all directions from the Victor Emmanuel to St. Peters. A piano player inside the rooftop lounge provided some nice sounds for our enjoyment, then it was time to turn in. All-in-all, a delightful end to a wonderful stay. It meant a lot for David to be in Rome with Darren, who made things enjoyable with his sense of humor and incredible knowledge of all that is Rome. It would be nice to come back again with him, if circumstances allow – who knows?

 

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Friday – April 28, 2017 – Over the top lunch and wine tasting. Great Gelato to polish off day.

May 4, 2017

Every trip needs one day of excess – too much of everything. For us, it was today.

We started off by meeting Tom, Katherine, Darren, and Misha at Malafemmena, a restaurant we like, located a few blocks from the Spanish Steps on the Via Vittorio. Our taxi driver seemed puzzled by the location, or maybe there was bad traffic near the Via Del Corso, or maybe (as is often the case) the Carabinieri had shut down some of the streets…in any case, it seemed to take forever to get there.

When we arrived, the others were waiting at the table, perusing the menus. We had already enjoyed a lunch here with Tom and Katherine, but it was a new spot for Darren and Misha. The menu is extensive, with a focus on traditional Roman dishes and seafood. Our waitress talked us into getting a bottle of red (Montepulciano) and white (Gavi), and we were off and running. David had the involtini of swordfish, while Tom and Katherine shared a lobster salad. The lobster was beautifully presented, with enough meat to feed two people as a main course. For the balance of the table, the choices were basically pasta dishes, with Amatriciana sauce. All of them were excellent. As the wine flowed, we shared laughs and recounted our various adventures of previous days.

The main courses were as good as the starters, with veal for Katherine, Saltimbocca for Tom, a risotto with langoustine for Darren and David, and pastas for the rest of us. Two more bottles of wine arrived, and our enjoyment grew. David ordered a special gelato, fruit flavors with each being served in its natural fruit, e.g. banana in a half banana, chestnut in a chestnut shell, etc.  While David ordered just one, the owner sent us the entire assortment. then, as if that wasn’t enough, he sent us complimentary Lemon cello.

We staggered out the door to the street, and decided to go to the nearby Antica Enotecca, a wine bar that David had sent Darren to many years back. Great wines in a cavern-like setting. We ordered a glass of wine each from the blackboard menu, and proceeded to have a great time. The young barman joined in, helping us take pictures of our group and adding to the merriment. In due course, we went on to a second glass, with David introducing the group to a southern white wine we enjoy, Greco di Tufo. We began a text correspondence with Katherine’s kids at home, including exchanging videos with Tim and Alexis. We bounced out the door at around 5 pm, bringing our long lunch to a happy close. Darren and Misha decided to walk back to the Minerva, while the rest of us grabbed a cab.

After brief naps, we met in the Minerva lobby to determine what we wanted to do for dinner. The consensus was that we weren’t really hungry, so a light dinner would be plenty. we headed for the back of the square adjoining the Pantheon and got a table at da Fortunato, a spot where David and I had a nice meal a couple of years back. The menu had becoming a bit more formal, as was the setting and service, but the food and service turned out to be excellent – Bresaola, Caprese, artichoke Romano, etc. We decided to pass on dessert and headed two blocks further up the street to Darren’s favorite Gelato spot, sporting a 150-flavor selection. We all put together a small cup with two scoops gelato and devoured it as we walked back to the hotel.

Then, it was off to bed, as tomorrow is my (last) dialysis day which means getting up at 4:30 am. Tom and Katherine will be leaving for London I the am, and Darren and Misha will use the day to see some new sights.

 

 


Thursday – April 27, 2017 – The Basilica of San Giovanni – Tom finds a nice dinner destination – Darren and MIsha introduce David to their Gelato hangout

April 28, 2017

The day started out with showers. Our drive to the dialysis clinic was through glistening streets – light scattered showers with more to come.

David dropped me off then headed back to the Minerva. I am becoming a bit more conversant with my dialysis team and fellow patients. They try to speak a few works they know in English, and I respond with the few Italian words I have learned. David returned at 10 am, with one of the drivers we have had before. Turns out he used to be with the Carabinieri, both a police unit and part of the military, unlike the Polizia who function just as local police. Our driver said he had been shot twice in his duties, and after the second time decided to retire from the Carabinieri. He has a 17-year old daughter, who he said gives him all the stress he can take. “Last year I was a hero,” he said, “now I know nothing.” I guess it is the same with children everywhere as they grow up. He gave us a nice explanation of many of the things we pass each day on our way to/from dialysis, including the imposing Basilica San Giovanni, a place where may Popes were crowned. We had decided to visit it earlier, but his description closed the deal. They are building a big stage for a May 1st concert there, which (thankfully) we will miss – May Day in most European countries is a mess. Tom and Katherine will be in London for it, which is one of the worst places to be in our past experience.

We headed off to San Giovanni with Katherine and Tom – Darren and Misha were at their painting class. The taxi dropped us off at the main entrance, which was closed, so we headed around to the piazza and found that entrance open. The Basilica is enormous, and furnished with impressive statuary and gilt. The massive altar may only be used by the Pope, and the Basilica is the burial place of many of them. We spent over an hour taking it all in, and could easily  have spent more time. The artwork is endless, and statuary is extensive.

Leaving the Basilica, priority #1 for David was to find a BancoMat to replenish his supply of Euro. We found one down the street, and David filled up, then headed to a small restaurant, Locondo Rigatoni, for lunch. They were out of Vermentino, our first choice in wine, so David reached into his basket of wine expertise to get us a bottle of nice substitute, a blend of pinot blanco and chardonnay. The menu looked good. Tom ordered Veal Saltimbocca, Katherine a green salad, I had a rigatoni carbonara, and David rigatoni Amatriciana.

After our repast, we headed back on to the street and found a cab back to hotel for a short snooze, then met Darren and Misha in the lobby to hear about their art class and see what they had done. Darren is pretty talented and his sketches and paintings were excellent. Misha’s were good as well, and she is always anxious to learn.

Katherine and Tom arrived and shared a glass of wine before we all headed out to the restaurant that Tom had researched before our arrival Osteria del Sostegno. It was only about five minutes from the hotel, a plus given the occasional heavy showers. The welcome was warm, and the food was pretty good. Every seat was filled, a sign that a good meal was to come. We started with appetizers for the table – chick peas, cannellini, burrata, bresaola, eggplant, and more. We cleaned most of the plates and then moved on to the main course. I had saltimbocca, while three others went for veal involtini, thin veal cutlets wrapped around roman artichokes (now in season). Tom had a beef and artichoke plate that didn’t look great but tasted wonderful, while Misha went with lamb. All were excellent. A few people had desserts, but Darren, Misha, and David opted to hold off and go to Darren and Misha’s favorite Gelato spot a block from the restaurant. While Tom, Katherine and I headed back, the three of them strolled up the street. David said it was wonderful. He had a “medium (three scoop) cup” made up with Irish coffee, pistachio, and chocolate.

Then they headed back to the hotel, dodging showers.


Wednesday – April 26, 2017 – The Mouth of Truth, and an incredible dinner

April 28, 2017

Katherine and Tom headed to the Coliseum, while Darren and Misha did the Coliseum underground tour.

We decided to visit Santa Maria  in Cosmdedin, a small, austere Basilica near the Circus Maximus that also contains the “Mouth of Truth,” a lion’s head with open mouth that is affixed to a wall just outside the church proper.

Katherine and Tom were able to join us, so we headed over in a taxi. There was restoration to the Basilica going on, so with the scaffolding, etc.,  we didn’t recognize it at first. Once we had our bearings, we joined the line for the Mouth of Truth. This is a large circular plate on the wall, thought to be a sewer cover originally, with the open mouth to allow drainage. Today, the Mouth of Truth is a popular attraction with its legendary “mouth” said to snap on the hands inserted into it by liars. A long line of people wait their turn to go up and have their picture taken inserting their hands into the mouth.

After enduring the test of the snapping mouth the exit takes you into the Basilica. It is somewhat austere, devoid of gilt and with little statuary. we strolled around for a bit, taking it in, then left to find a wine bar/snack shop that Bev had read about as being close by. After stumbling around a bit, we found it close by, adjacent to the Circus Maximus. We went into a mostly empty seating area and took a table for four, with an adjacent table of two reserved in case Darren and Misha finished their tour. We went with light snacks, as we had a big dinner coming – platters of bresaola and prosciutto, while Bev had her first pizza of the trip, just cheese and some prosciutto San Daniele. Darren and Misha’s tour was extended, so they couldn’t join us, and we finished off our snacks and headed back onto the street to get a taxi to the hotel.

Our taxi experience was incredible. The driver was either drunk or high, and raced off , overtaking two Polizia cars, which he passed on the way to the Piazza Venezia. Just before heading off onto the small street that leads to our hotel he veered across two lanes to the taxi parking area where another driver came over to home and bought some pills out of a paper bag our driver had stashed in his door. He said that they were “diet” pills, but who knows. He then shot across the boulevard and roared down the small street leading to the Minerva, scattering pedestrians in his wake. Pulling up at the hotel. He said that he did not turn the meter on (a no-no) and wanted 10 Euro for our trip. It was worth the extra amount to get out of the cab and away from this nutcase, so we bolted and went into the safety of the lobby.

A short nap, then we assembled in the lobby for a bit to hear the details of Darren and Misha’s tour of the underground Coliseum, which were fascinating. Then it was off to our dinner at All Oro, a wonderful restaurant that we visited two years ago, a Michelin one-star establishment, now housed in a new setting. We took two taxis and both encountered drivers who had not heard of the place and were a bit puzzled by the address. After spending most of our trip glancing at his map, our driver pulled up at the entrance to the restaurant and we went in, with the second cab close behind.

The new location is in a smallish building, immaculate and housing a 14-room luxury boutique hotel, owned by the restaurant. The dining room was attractive and modern, and we were shown to a table of six opposite the kitchen. We started with a bottle of Roederer Blanc de Blanc, which was absolutely wonderful, then opted for creating our own tasting menu – four menu choices: starter, first plate, second (main) plate and dessert. For a starter we went with a northern Italian beef carpaccio, tender slices of beef wrapped in a slice of back truffle, accompanied by a wonderful sauce. For our first plate, a delicate ravioli filled with a duck ragout. The second plate was a slow-roasted breast of veal, accompanied by a ginger foam – an indescribable dish. Dessert was their take on Tiramisu, a shell of meringue filled with the Tiramisu and topped with a slice of chocolate, again, a fabulous combination. David selected a wonderful Chardonnay from Friuli/Venezia, the best we have had, including many at home. We managed to polish off two during dinner.

In addition to our four courses, our choices were accompanied with a steady stream of “chef’s gifts” and other delights, starting with seven small appetizers with an incredible array of tastes ending up with a chilled chunk of melon gelee.  Between our first and second plate we were treated to a lasagna with a classic Bolognese. While all of the courses and accompaniments were small, they were rich and filling. After our second plate we received a highlight of the meal, small cherry sized bright red apples, each with a small green leaf on top. These were meant to be eaten in one bite, and were made from apple strudel which had been shaped into the tiny apples and then coated with the bright red coating. Absolutely incredible. Darren and I accompanied our dessert with a glass of Auslese Riesling, super sweet and a perfect match for our Tiramisu.

Our meal was not yet over, as two crystal boxes of petit fours then appeared. After complaining about how full we were, we, nonetheless were able polish off almost all of them. Check out all of the photos on our Flickr account to get an idea of this incredible meal.

The only part of the meal remaining was settling up, which was not as bad as we might have thought when all we received was taken into account, together with the many wines.

We left with everyone raving about the meal and talking about their favorite course, which for many was the tiny apples, if only for the incredible appearance. Tom wanted to know where the tree was that they came from. As Darren helped polish off some of the veal tenderloin from people who were getting full, he said it was hard to not choose that plate, especially with the unique ginger foam that accompanied it.

Back to the hotel and to bed. Tomorrow is dialysis for us, followed by a visit to Santa Giovanni, a large Basilica which served as the place where Popes were crowned for many years pre-St. Peters. Darren and Misha head for a sketching and painting class, then we will join up in the Minerva lobby before going to a local restaurant that Tom located nearby the hotel that has gotten good reviews. The forecast is for our first day of rain, but it will not dampen our spirits. we are having a wonderful time.

 


Tuesday – April 25, 2017 – Lunch at Roscioli

April 26, 2017

For months, every time I read a magazine talking about travel to Rome, there was a mention of Roscioli, a restaurant/salumeria/wine bar near the Campo di Fiori.

The story goes that the Roscioli family started with a tiny pastiscceria serving great breads and pastries, and then expanded into a salumeria serving a host of meats and cheeses, often as marvelous sandwiches. The next step was a small restaurant, with tables crammed into every nook and cranny of their small space. David made reservations for lunch there a few weeks back, and a review of the online menu showed an amazing array of dishes, from pastas to meats, to seafood.

We headed off to the restaurant a bit after noon, and, despite problems finding their tiny premises, ended up at their front door, only to be told that they don’t open until 1230…we were early. A glance at the meat/cheese counter inside, however, was a taste of things to come an amazing array of prosciutto, jamon Iberico from Spain, cheeses, and more.

By 1230 there was a small line waiting outside, and it took a few minutes to be seated. Our table was down a flight of stairs in a wine cellar with an incredible array of wines from around the world. We squeezed in, ordered some water and wine (Brunello for David and Gavi di Gavi for the rest of us) and began wading through the menu. Tom went for gnocchi with Amatriciano sauce, David and Misha had ceci de pepe, and Katherine and I opted for the St. Pierre involtini. Darren had stuffed zucchini blossoms and beef tartare. Being a salmon buff, David also ordered an assortment of five different smoked salmons for the table – those who sampled thought they were terrific.

The consensus was that everything was top rate, and the menu offered many great options for future visits. The only complaints  were with the cramped seating, jams on the narrow stairway, and a ladies room that quickly had a line of people waiting.

Darren and Misha headed off for their tour of the Catacombs, while Tom and Katherine strolled over to the Campo di Fiori. We headed back to the Minerva, and after a short rest, went out to the Pantheon square for a seat in the sun at a table at the Hosaria de Pantheon. We watched the endless stream of  tourists passing through the square, and the performers – a guitar duo playing Pink Floyd (guitars not bad, vocal awful), a guitarist (pretty good,) etc. Then it was back to the Minerva to meet Darren and Misha and hear about the Catacombs.

We decided to stroll down the street and find a place for a light snack, and found one just minutes away from the hotel. The service was friendly, and the menu had a lot of nice choices. A bottle of Gavi appeared on the table, while we put our orders in. Several of us had Tonarelli, a pasta with chopped artichokes and an Amitriciana sauce (Tom and Katherine have developed a taste for guanciale…), David had veal Saltimbocca alla Romana (veal with prosciutto and sage,) I had lobster and pasta, and Misha went for the buccatini all Amatriciana. Overall, a nice dinner and a good time.

Tomorrow Tom and Katherine are going to the Coliseum, and Darren and Misha are taking a tour of the underground Coliseum. David and I are heading for the church with the Lion’s head. Tomorrow Dinner is Al Oro, the Michelin starred spot near the Piazza del Popolo.


Monday – April 24, 2017 – The crush of the Trevi Fountain, and Al Moro, at last!

April 25, 2017

For months, David and Darren have been talking about returning to Al Moro, their favorite restaurant in Rome. While each of them has been multiple times, they have never been together, so this will be a special visit.

Al Moro has wonderful food, and (I think) the best bread in Rome. It makes wonderful Carbonara and bucatini alla Amatriciana, along with a host of other dishes. Dining is either on a small patio outside on the street, or in an indoor dining room.

As Al Moro is just a hundred meters from the Trevi Fountain, our plan was to go there with Tom and Katherine, visit the small salumeria Antico Forno) and browse the meats, oils, and cheeses, ending up at Al Moro, where we had 1230 reservations.

We arrived at the Trevi to find a seething mass of humanity, most wielding “selfie-sticks” so they could take pictures of themselves in front of the fountain. We found a small space on one side that was open and took some photos. Tom and Katherine tossed coins in the Fountain, and then we moved on to the front, trying to squeeze into a any open spot so we could take a picture. It was a mass of tour groups, families, and people of every ilk, all trying to do the same thing, while talking as loudly as possible.

Spotting Darren and Misha on the other side, we made our way over and took a few more photos, then made our way out of the writhing mass of tourists and into the Antico Forno. David, of course, repeated his desire to take an entire 40+ pound prosciutto home in his carry-on luggage, while the rest of us ogled the fabulous array of sausages and cheeses. As we were about to eat, we passed on buying anything, although David and Darre n came close to getting some Bresaola and Tallegio (cheese) for snacks.

Strolling down the street to Al Moro, we found the waiter setting up outside tables. we asked if we could reserve a table of six, and he said of course, but we would have to wait until 1230ish to be seated, as the restaurant did not open until then. No problem. We strolled into the bar opposite, grabbed two booths for the six of us and ordered a round of drinks. Tom and Katherine went for the orange spritzes that are the current rage, David had a beer, and Darren and Misha had a glass of wine. We passed the time sending out photos to our families and friend at home, then meandered to our table at Al Moro.

The bread was as good as I remembered, and I devoured a slice while Darren selected wines for lunch. David ordered appetizers for the table – caprese salad, with gorgeous tomatoes, fresh mozz, and tiny basil leaves; bresaoloa with shaved parm, arugula, and olive oil; and Roman artichokes. Everyone dug in and in short order, the plates were all empty. Darren’s wines came, a Vermentino and a Montepulciano, both excellent. Our feast had begun.

For the main courses, the number of choices was dizzying. I went with their Carbonara – creamy and delicious with homemade noodles. bucatini was the plate of choice for everyone else except Darren, who went with a beef involtini. The food was wonderful, and everyone devoured every morsel. Darren’s wine choices were spot on, adding even more enjoyment to the meal. A round of gelato finished off the lunch, then we were on our way. Darren and David agreed that the meal lived up to their memories and expectations.

Everyone headed off in different directions to explore Rome, and we reunited in the evening at the roof top bar of the Minerva. The views were spectacular, and – initially – the temperature was warm. In short order, the temperature dropped and a breeze picked up, so we all headed down to the lobby. We were still full from lunch, and – with dialysis tomorrow – opted to turn in early. Everyone else headed out for a light bite.

 

 


Sunday – April 23, 2017 – The days starts with Bellinis

April 24, 2017

Sunday morning dawned with clear blue skies and gentle breezes. A perfect day to head to Harry’s Bar on the Via Veneto for Bellinis.

A Bellini is Prosecco and (in Harry’s case) freshly pureed peach juice. Refreshing, and not overly sweet.

We grabbed a cab and headed for the Via Veneto, the numero uno street in Rome, lined with luxury hotels, upscale shops, bars, and restaurants. At the top, next to the walls of Rome and Borghese Gardens is a Roman landmark, Harry’s Bar. Harry’s American Bar was once a landmark in the Piazza San Marco in Venice, and the reputed birthplace of the Bellini. A branch was opened in Rome, but after decades it evolved simply to Harry’s. Home to celebs and the rich and famous, the interior is paneled with rich woods, the bar always featuring multiple bottles of Champagne on ice in a silver tub.

We pulled in and got a table outside, next to the street. We ordered four Bellinis, which came with a generous assortment of snacks – potato chips, peanuts, olives, and small sandwiches. The sun was out and an endless stream of characters strolled by, allowing us to comment on their dress, hair, etc. Ah, it is good to be so judgmental.

After a second round of Bellinis, we strolled down the road next to the old Roman walls to the Sofitel Hotel, where David and I stayed on our last trip. We grabbed the elevator to the seventh floor and got a table on the dining terrace with fabulous views over the city of Rome and surrounding countryside. David and I got flutes of Prosecco, while Tom and Katherine opted for glasses of Gavi di Gavi. The waiter helped us identify the many buildings that can be seen from the terrace – St. Peter’s, the Vatican, and on and on. The weather cooperated by giving us warm sunshine with occasional light breezes.

David ordered a plate of artichokes done multiple ways – stuffed with a foam of Pecorino cheese, tempura, and in a mousse. The three of us had a serving of bigoli Amatriciana – fat spaghetti with a sauce of tomato, onion, and guanciale. We spent an hour or so taking in the views and enjoying our lunch, then headed back to the Minerva to meet Darren and Misha,  who  had just arrived from Venice on the train.

Darren and Misha have been having a great time and regaled us with tales of their trip – the places they visited and saw, and the wines and food they enjoyed. It is wonderful to see them smiling, happy, and enjoying life. David was thrilled that they are having such a great time.

We headed off to a restaurant that Darren and Misha like near the Pantheon – Osteria dell Ingegno – just opposite the columns of Hadrian’s temple. It’s small and cozy, with an inventive menu and pleasant service. Lots of laughs, and good food. Misha had Osso Buco, Katherine a salad and soup (which she raved about), David an appetizer of bread stuffed with vegetables and herbs…all were terrific. David was thirsty, so opted for a local beer, which he enjoyed.

Then, we walked back to the hotel, through the maelstrom that is the Piazza adjacent to the Pantheon – filled with tourists, vendors, and people of all types, enjoying a gorgeous evening in Rome.

Tomorrow is the long-awaited visit to the Trevi fountain (always a zoo), and our favorite restaurant in Rome, Al Moro. I know that Darren and David have been looking forward to this for a long time.