A Week in Rome with Dad

Spring has officially arrived here in Rome! The rain has stopped; temperatures are in the 70s, or 20s, in Celsius, for the rest of you; peas and artichokes and asparagus are in full swing (recipes imminent); and best of all, MY DAD IS IN TOWN! That's right -- as I write this, my father, Anthony Bruzzese, M.D, aka the smartest person I know, one of my favorite people on the whole planet, is in Rome. He's not new to this blog, having been mentioned here, and here, and also here, and last year I wrote a whole other post on him, which got so many views and turned out to be so fun to write that I thought I'd repeat it this time around too.

So! One of the highlights of our week together was seeking out/dining in particularly exceptional restaurants in Rome (we are after all talking about the father of a food blogger -- my interest in food is quite likely genetic). I've decided then to focus this post on our top favorite meals we've had during his visit, to show off a little of the best that the Eternal City has to offer restaurant-wise, and to give you some suggestions that I recommend, wholeheartedly, if you're in Rome/will be in Rome any time soon. Shall we?


My sister Alexandra has been working for the company Aromi Creativi for about six months now, and we're all benefiting from it; Aromi Creativi, you see, is a company that handles PR for noteworthy restaurants and chefs here in Rome, and as a result her new job has taught her all about some of the very best places to eat in the capital and beyond. Quartunododici -- which translates to forty one twelve, or the restaurant's coordinates on the map -- was on the top of her "Must Visit" list when my dad was in town. First things first: Quartunododici specializes in pesce (fish) and isn't in the city, but rather slightly outside it, near Fiumicino (see my note below). The restaurant is situated right next to a shipyard, and overlooks the sea; it actually reminded me of the ocean-side town of Newport in my home state of Rhode Island (a comparison between Rhode Island and Italy is not something I usually experience). The head chef is Daniele Usai, who has earned a Michelin star for Quartunododici's more upscale sister restaurant, Il Tino, located just upstairs. The food at Quartunododici, perhaps unsurprisingly then, was spectacular, just what you'd expect from a Michelin starred Chef. We went all out and ordered: tuna, salmon, and swordfish carpaccio; tuna and avocado tartare; spaghetti alle vongole or spaghetti with clams; strozzapreti alla puttanesca con tonno, or fresh pasta with tuna, tomatoes, and hot pepper; ravioli alla pescatora, or ravioli with seafood; a fritto misto, or mixed fried seafood and vegetables; and to finish, fresh fruit with vanilla gelato. Having essentially eaten everything in the ocean, we (contentedly) rolled to the train and headed back home to Prati.
Note: As I mentioned above, this restaurant is a bit outside Rome, and can be most easily accessed if you have a car. We don't, however, so we took the train from the Piramide metro stop to Ostia Antica, where we then took about a 5 minute taxi ride to the restaurant. 


Ahh, Da Enzo! Da Enzo is quite possibly my favorite place to eat in Rome, and my dad's favorite place to eat, too, and therefore we visited not once but twice when he was in town, at the beginning of his trip and then at the very end. Our #1 restaurant serves mainly classic Roman food -- you'll find things like cacio e pepe, bucatini all'amatriciana, carciofi alla giudia -- plus a few other less traditional dishes, like panzanella or tonnarelli con pecorino e cozze (aka tonnarelli with Pecorino cheese and mussels). While our first and second courses vary, we order Da Enzo's burrata with tomatoes and basil every.single.time, and lately, their spring vegetable carpaccio -- thinly sliced artichokes and zucchini dressed with out-of-this-world olive oil and shavings of Parmesan -- has become pretty standard, too. A standout dish this time around, selected by my ever-so-wise father, were the polpette di coda alla vaccinara, or braised oxtail formed in to "meatballs," fried, and served over a Parmesan-rich potato puree. Swoon. Both father and daughters left the restaurant extremely content on both occasions.
Note: The line at Da Enzo, no matter the day or time, is always long (see the photo below, taken just before opening time on a Saturday night). Reservations are therefore highly recommended (even with a reservation however you might have to wait for a bit). 


When he's not busy being The Best Dad in the World, my dad has lots of other roles -- he's an extra-intelligent radiologist, a lover of opera and classical music, a holder of a pilot's license, and is also a wine connoisseur and enthusiast. Indeed, my dad has belonged to a wine club in our home state for 20+ years, collects wine like some people (ehem, yours truly) collect cookbooks, and can give you a detailed evaluation of any wine you set before him (note: this, sadly, was not passed on to me or my sister; it's all fermented grapes to us). Therefore we couldn't let him leave the capital without a visit to Rimessa Roscioli, a restaurant and wine bar that offers wine tastings paired with dinner. The tasting consists of 8 different types of wine that are paired with small dishes, accompanied by an in-depth explanation of the wine and food's history, origins, and why they match. The food was spot on -- swoon-worthy cheeses, meats, and a taste of the best pesto I've ever had, among other things -- and as far as the wine went, my dad's enthusiasm levels were reminiscent of those of a kid in a candy store (just swap the candy for wine).
Note: The tastings at Roscioli are available in both Italian and English. Rimessa Roscioli is very flexible and also can accommodate vegetarians, vegans, and non-drinkers, even. You can get more information here: http://www.winetastingrome.com/about/.


Out of all the spectacular meals we ate with my dad, there was, if you can believe it, one dinner that managed to stand out in a sea of gastronomic greatness, eaten at Marzapane, the restaurant of genius/prodigy/wonder woman Alba Estevez Ruiz, who is only 28 (!!!) years old. We opted for the tasting menu, which is designed to represent Alba's story through food. The menu started with tapas and other small dishes from Spain, her home country, and then progressed to Abruzzo, where she first worked as a chef after moving to Italy, and then eventually to Rome. You guys -- my meal at Marzapane may have well been the best meal I've ever had in my 29 years. I'm not kidding -- this was an experience. Every dish that was brought out was spot on, perfect, the kind of food that leaves you speechless for a few seconds, beyond delicious. Many of the dishes evoked memories, too, in that crazy way that taste + memory tends to do, where a bite of food immediately transported back to a certain moment in time. The arrosticini -- grilled lamb skewers -- brought my dad right back to his summers in Calabria as a child, where his grandmother would grill meat over an open flame for dinner; the savory baba' made with potato and rosemary and served warm out of the oven evoked a memory of my favorite restaurant as a kid, where bread was always served hot out of the oven; the lemon-y scented pastry dough of the tartlets for dessert were reminiscent of the citrus-tinged cookies my grandmother makes. The strong connection between taste and memory here was really extraordinary -- I swear Alba does it on purpose -- and made the whole dining experience that much more special. All of the dishes were exceptional, but if I had to play favorites, the risotto with anchovies and ginger (a seemingly weird but winning combination) and a dessert made with lime, celery, white chocolate, and olive oil cake (ditto) were on the top of my list. But then there were also the bonuelos de bacalao, and the cacio e ovo, and the tortilla de patatas with a soft-cooked egg center...*gazes off dreamily in to the distance.* Bottom line: Marzapane, a dinner that evoked so many food-related memories, has now become a wonderful memory I have with my sister and our fantastic dad in Rome in and of itself.
Note: Go to this restaurant. You won't regret it.

And that about sums it up! To end this post, a few photos (food related and otherwise) taken when we were out and about in the city. Noteworthy: stumbling upon a sculpture from the ridiculously young and talented artist Andrea Gandini, who uses tree stumps around the city as his medium, and on a completely different note, a dog named Beau who was snoozing peacefully on a bench in Trastevere. I'll be back soon with some recipes that were tested by my dad himself -- in the meantime, have a good week everyone!


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