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.