We've been doing this little blog for almost 12 years now. And while we've done almost 3500 posts over the years, we've been living in San Diego for almost seventeen. There are many places that we've tried out that we hadn't had reason to return to for various reasons. Last year, after looking back at my Karihan post, I decided to do the rounds on places that had been struck from our eating lists "BB" (before blogging) or even places where I need to drop by for convenience....yes, I do have a regular job with long hours. So I'm going to start a series on "Revisits to Places I've Never Done Posts On".
Starting with, well, the place where the Missus made me an "offer I couldn't refuse". Jokes aside, for some reason the Missus wanted some rather old school Italian food one evening. So I suggested two places in the neighborhood, super old school Old Trieste or Baci. The Missus said, "why don't we go back to The Godfather", we haven't been there in a while. Well, that part was true....like in over thirteen or fourteen years....I'd say that would qualify as "a while".
So cue up the music.....
The décor is quite old school and many of the staff look like they've been here for years. Our Server was the nicest, most gracious guy, and his demeanor really matched the formal, but not stuffy atmosphere.
The Missus had a glass of red; a Pinot Noir..... I heard a voice screaming "you need a martini".....so I had one. A pretty stiff one too......
From what I recalled about my previous dealing with The Godfather; portions were large, I remember not enjoying the proteins too much....and the large plate of fried zucchini you get to start dinner.
Simply seasoned....the good pieces, well after the initial "crunch" would almost melt away....other pieces were a bit dry.
The Missus ordered the Meatballs to start.
A bit too much filler for me and I prefer my sauce a bit more tangy. This in itself was fairly heavy and filling. The Missus really enjoyed this.
Soup or salad (of course) with your dinner here. We both got the minestrone, which was very tasty.
Hearty and rather thick, this hit the spot on a rather cold evening. Again, a straight forward dish, but quite comforting.
By this time the Missus and I were pretty full......and then the main courses arrived!
The Missus got the Ravioli Portabello ($19.95).
I thought the sauce was a bit on the sweet side and was too thick, like a béchamel. The pasta was fine and that mushroom filling quite delicious. We both noticed that up to this point, some of the items needed a bit more salt. In fact, I noticed more than one customer salting their food. Perhaps that's the way it's supposed to be here?
I thoroughly enjoyed my Penne Puttanesca ($17.95).
The pasta was al dente, just enough anchovies and basil to keep me interested, it could used more tomato in my opinion, but even with capers and olives, this wasn't too salty. It was way too much food and I barely put a dent into it. On the good side; the pasta held up well and I had dinner the following night.
In the end, I think we found our secret to the Godfather and no, it's not "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli", nor is it going to get me a gift of a bulletproof vest wrapped fish. It's keep it simple, minimize the proteins. It ain't cheap, but he portion sizes are pretty large. Not a place we can go to often.....but perhaps more than once every 13-14 years from now on.
Nice service, large portions, very old school.
The Godfather Restaurant 7878 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
I was having one of those long days....and it was only 1130am! I wanted a bit of solitude during lunch and wondered where to go. I just got in the car and drove....thinking of maybe Sakura or Okan. But those places were just going to be too hectic for me. I pulled into the parking lot and walked past Bistro Kaz and turned around and headed right on in. It had been a couple of years since I last visited. And it looked like there was now some overlap on the menus between Kaz and Sakura; but the place was quiet. I started noticing over the last couple of visits that this seems to be the kind of place that the "Japanese ladies who do lunch" visit. No different on this day.
The menu here seems to have evolved from the Japano-Italian pasta heavy initial incarnation; into more of a diverse offering. Though pasta is still at its core. The pre-fixe lunch menu is still in place as well. On this day; I decided on the Beef Tongue Stew, which sounded nice and comforting.
The bread was warm and crusty and when the young lady asked me if I wanted more I should have said yes.....
This was a bit more than I bargained for. The tomato sauce was heavy and quite thick....and while definitely not bland, was really missing seasonings to balance things out. The texture of the three large and fork tender pieces of beef tongue was excellent. Though I was expecting a more assertive, pure beefiness that I love from beef tongue. This could have been a regular cut of beef. This dish actually could have used some penne or something similar to help with what was more of a gravy than a stew.
Not bad, but I'm going back to the pasta dishes here next time.
Kirk and Cathy are too busy resting or working, so today Ed (from Yuma) is busy writing.
The Musical Instrument Museum is a marvelous new Museum sitting out in the desert just off the 101 outerbelt northwest of Scottsdale:
In the Main Lobby, a large display features the motto of the Museum, pictures of people making music, and screens showing music making in action:
When you enter the museum, you are given headphones. Whenever you come up to a screen, the headphones let you listen to whatever music, whichever instruments are being played on the screen.
While there are areas devoted to Arizona music, famous musicians (like Elvis, Pablo Casals, “King” Sonny Adé), mechanical music, and special exhibits, most of the Museum is organized geographically. On our previous visit to MIM, Tina and I explored African and European music and were amazed by the range and depth of the presentations.
On this visit, we began with the Asian area – which like Asia itself – is huge. To give you a specific example of how the museum works, look at this picture of traditional Korean bells and gongs:
These amazingly large devices are modern versions of traditional temple instruments. The screen between them shows similar bells and pyeongyeong being played.
Just to the right of those, is an area that shows instruments from Korean Court music and folk music:
While many of the instruments in the museum are modern versions, you can see that some of them are historical. The museum explains and dates all items, so you don't confuse something made in 2009 with something made in 1009. On the screens, you can see several different short clips of the instruments being used in performance.
I was especially taken with these old Tibetan horns, which were so large that I couldn't get all of them in one photo:
After a morning wondering through Asia, we were hungry, and fortunately the MIM has a nice eatery, Café Allegro, which tries to use fresh, local, organic ingredients whenever possible.
I had the marinated chicken salad:
The chicken had a pleasant lime/cilantro marinade, the lettuces were very fresh, the chunks of tomato extremely flavorful, and the cauliflower, pepper, and zucchini added nice contrast. Sad to say, I don't remember the tomato vinaigrette (?) but I do remember really enjoying the salad.
Tina ordered the chicken breast sandwich:
She liked the pesto sauce and the freshness of the veggies. And the lightly battered sweet potato fries were excellent, flavorful and crunchy.
All in all we had a very good time at the Musical Instrument Museum.
MIM, 4725 E. Mayo Blvd, Phoenix AZ 85050, (480) 478-6000.
For dinner that evening, we had reservations at Tratto, also known as Tratto Bianco because it is owned and operated by pizza superstar Chris Bianco. After we returned from the long weekend, we found a story in the New York Times about him, the health struggles that forced him away from flour and ovens, and the opening of his latest restaurants. Worth reading.
On a previous visit to Phoenix, Tina and I had lunch at Pane Bianco, his sandwich shop in central Phoenix, so we were eager to try his latest venture. He opened a new Pizza Bianco in the Town & Country Center in Phoenix, and right next to it a trattoria, connected by two food preparation areas. This one on the pizza side:
this one on the Tratto side:
Tina and I began our meal with a delightful vermouth cocktail:
which gave us time to look over the simple one-page menu:
and to enjoy the complimentary pecans, walnuts, green olives, and cheese:
Let me apologize for some of the photos in this post. I forgot to do an exterior shot, and the restaurant was packed (we arrived before 5:30) so this is the only interior shot I can use:
If you are interested in looking at the interior/exterior, I recommend the Tratto website.
Also, as evening wore on, the ambient light decreased, so some pics are substandard – even by my standards.
Anyway, back to the food. We started with a salad – lemon cucumber, celery root, parsley, and red onion with a pleasant mild creamy vinaigrette:
Interesting and subtle. It's amazing how much taste parsley can have when it is not overwhelmed by other ingredients.
The bread, I love good bread and this was superb. A crunchy crust with a slight charred flavor reflecting a super hot oven; the crumb was excellent as well:
To accompany the dinner, we selected a Renato Ratti Nebbiolo (2014). While made from the same grape and from the same general area as a Barolo, this wine was fruity and not overpowering, going well with all our courses:
The next dish tasted a whole lot better than it looks in this picture:
The pasta, four long and thick candeles, had a nice firm chew, but the real hero of the dish was the pork Genovese sauce. The slow cooked onion based sauce was full of rich and tender braised pork. A real treat, something I've never had before, but something down-home and comforting nonetheless.
The lamb was one of the two mains that we ordered:
Again, much better than the picture. Braised leg of lamb had been placed in an extremely hot oven to sear the exterior, adding another dimension to the overall flavor. The large chunks of meat were fork tender and tasty. The fennel and radicchio added some texture and contrasts, and I'm sure the anchovy/lemon sauce contributed also.
The other main was a small chicken with a honey/chimayo chili glaze seared in one of those hot ovens:
It was extremely moist and wonderfully flavored. Since we had ordered so much food we went into a triage mode and saved most of this great chicken for our next night's dinner in Yuma. Day-old and cold, it was still great chicken.
As a side dish we had large slices of zucchini – again showing the effects of the oven – served with squash blossoms and mint:
It was okay.
The dinner concluded with a pear poached in port with a small scoop of Gorgonzola on the side:
It was a simple classic conclusion to our Tratto meal. While not everything was amazing, I was impressed by the quality of ingredients, the excellent service, and the food that felt 100% "authentic" and very innovative at the same time. Tina and I left full and smiling.
Tratto Bianco, 4743 N. 20th St. at Town & Country, Phoenix AZ 85016, (602) 296-7761
Just as they were opening at 11 AM, Tina and I drove up, parked the car, and came in through the side entrance:
The restaurant is a large, festively decorated space with high open ceilings:
but the weather was so nice we sat outside in the patio area:
As we were looking over the menu, we ordered a glass of white wine to share and were very pleased that our helpful young server brought it out in two glasses: In fact, we were thoroughly happy with the service at Buck & Rider even though our waitress confessed it was her first day on the job. She smiled a lot, worked hard to do well, and kept our water glasses filled.
The fried calamari with Thai dipping sauce showed up first:
This was good. The tender rings of baby squid were nicely crunchy and went well with the sauce. A pleasant amount of chili heat. At first I thought that came from the dipping sauce, but as we worked our way down to the bottom, we discovered a bunch of deep-fried jalapeno slices:
The gumbo followed the calamari, and the server split it into two bowls, so this is a half portion:
There is a lot to like here. Look at the thick dark roux, which was redolent with the flavor of filé. The sausage was excellent. In fact there was really only one shortcoming – a couple of my shrimp tasted off. They weren't terrible, and Tina said hers were okay, but still . . .
The meal ended on a better note with the smoked trout salad (again, this is a half portion):
Good stuff. The trout was nice and smoky, the lettuce fresh and crisp, and the avocado sweet and creamy. Pieces of olives and fennel added some complexity to the excellent preserved lemon vinaigrette. Tart enough, but not acidic. A good lunch overall.
After lunch, we were reminded that we were in the big city. We had parked adjacent to an area that said "FREE CHARGE." It took me a few seconds of puzzlement (if you're charged, how can it be free?) before I figured out what that meant. Anyway, when we came out, we found our RAV4 parked next to 2 Teslas on one side and a Bentley on the other. "Toto I don't think we're in Yuma anymore."
Buck & Rider, 4225 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85018, (602) 346-0110.
For dinner that evening, we went to Crudo, a place with a contemporary approach to Italian food. It fronts on the backside of a shopping area and presents a green and rustic exterior:
Inside, it is spacious, clean, modern, and well lit:
The seating along the sides of the room, where we sat, combined booth and chairs in a way that allowed for large groups or couples like us:
Upbeat 60s, 70s, and 80s soul tunes played in the background adding to the ambience. Tina and I chuckled because Buck & Rider had virtually identical music. Pleasant and friendly.
Our server, likewise, was pleasant and friendly as well as extremely competent and helpful. She brought us glasses of ice water, which were kept filled throughout the dinner, and Tina and I split a glass of vermentino while we looked over the menu:
The entrée items are divided into four categories, crudo (raw), mozzo (cheese), cotto (cooked), and griglia (grilled). While you could just order one or two entrées by themselves, any three choices per person were available for $35, four for $45, and five for $55. And it made no difference which categories.
As we were trying to sort things out, our server told us that the restaurant was offering a charcuterie plate as an appetizer, so of course, that's where we started:
And what a good start it was. Closest to the camera was a mild chicken liver mousse topped with the dice of pickled vegetables. Smooth and crunchy with a nice balance. On the right side of the plate, pork rillettes lay on apple marmalade. Again a pleasant combination. On the left, rustic pork pâté was covered with mustard sauce. A garlic aïoli and pickled peppercini slices sat on either side. Very tasty and enjoyable. The sauces complexified but did not overwhelm. Of course, the crunchy toasted slices of Italian bread went well with everything.
Speaking of going well with everything, we selected an unusual white wine to accompany dinner:
Luisa from the Friuli region of northeastern Italy is made with the rare ribolla gialla varietal native to the region. It tasted smooth and fresh, its fruit flavors and minerality going with the entire dinner.
Our two raw plates showed up at the table next. This is the albacore:
The tomato, cucumber, citrus and olive oil topping highlighted the freshness of the fish.
But the rich slices yellowtail were even better – controne, a flavorful Italian dried chile, gave some spice, bits of bottarga added a fishy saltiness, and chopped chives provided color:
After eating sushi and sashimi for over 30 years, these presentations were delightful.
The squid ink risotto tasted much better than it looked:
The dish had a good spicy seafood flavor, chunks of tuna adding taste and texture to the slightly al dente rice.
The house-made gargati pasta and mussels were served in a sauce made from uni and tomatoes and topped with basil and mint leaves:
Another unusual preparation that worked.
The semolina gnocchi was next:
The dumplings themselves were like little soft pillows, and the main flavors came from the topping of braised lamb neck and nectarine. Again an unusual flavor combination that enchanted my palate.
The dinner concluded with pork belly with smoked tomato agrodolce along with creamy polenta:
Another amazing plate. The richness of the polenta and pork contrasted with the sour/sweet spicy agrodolce that reminded both Tina and I – with our German backgrounds – of well prepared blaukraut.
We were stuffed and we were delighted. Overall a great meal. At a fair price:
Crudo, 3603 E. Indian School Rd., Suite B, Phoenix AZ 85018, (602) 358-8666.
We did make one more stop in the late afternoon; Petaluma Creamery.
The focus of this shop is more geared toward ice cream and the café.
After our afternoon nap, we strolled back to downtown Petaluma, passing all those lovely Victorian houses.
Where D street meets 4th street is Walnut Park. We were visiting in October and from May thru November, Walnut Park hosts a Farmer's Market.
We had made the mile-and-a-half walk in record time....thanks to the ahem, the Missus's encouragement. So we took a nice break.
Would you believe that the Missus bought 2 pounds of apples? Which we brought back with us to San Diego?
We also saw what might be the cutest and most chubby, little pony.....
Petaluma Saturday Afternoon Farmer's Market Saturday from 2:00 pm-5:30 pm May though November Walnut Park Petaluma Blvd and D Street Petaluma, CA
We were still early for dinner, so we walked around Petaluma for a while.
Our dinner destination? A restaurant named Risibisi. I liked the menu, Italian with regional NoCal touches, which uses local ingredients.
We were seated in a cozy corner. The place filled up really quickly!
The service was polished and very professional, no complaints from us.
I sent Candice a text after ordering my Aperitif, joking that I must have been channeling her when I ordered a Negroni. The Missus had a Pinot Noir.
We started with the Tomato and Burrata.
The tomatoes were very good; nice acid, the flavor textbook perfect. The Burrata was creamy, slightly milky, walking arm in arm with the tomato and the flavor of the Olive Oil. The Missus actually preferred this version to what we had at Central Market the night before. She believed that the flavors were more on target and true to the ingredients. I was on the fence. The tomatoes in this dish had much more flavor, but I enjoyed the umph the anchovy and the peppery olive oil added to the dish at CM. Still, there's no denying, this was quite good.
The Watermelon Salad ($12) was a wonderful combination of flavors and textures.
The Hazelnut Vinaigrette was mild, but added just blended in nicely into the symphony of flavors. Watermelon and arugula playing well together! If anything, I'd have enjoyed a bit more pecorino to add a bit more savory-milky-salty tones to the salad. But this was very enjoyable.
Sweet Corn Risotto ($18).
I'm still looking for "that" risotto.....the usual restaurant style par cooked version, that excels. This one really didn't have the texture I enjoy. The corn added a nice sweetness, the pancetta and pecorino adding the salty tones to balance things out.
The Gnocchi Wild Boar ($18) was delicious. While the risotto fell short in texture, this was so good. The gnocchi was just firm enough, waiting to be eaten to start melting into the ether.
The wild boar was tasty, adding a nice richness to the ragu, which seemed simple, but full of flavor. An excellent dish!
The Missus had Her new favorite dessert; an Affogato. She asked if they would replace the vanilla ice cream with hazelnut ice cream which they gladly did. I had a Tawny Port, which proved to be a nice digestif. Man, we got get back to Porto one of these days.
We had a very nice meal at Risibisi. In fact, the Missus said that while the best dish of the trip was the Pork Confit from Central Market, She thought that our meal at Risibisi was better overall. It's a nice dilemma to have and one I'd gladly like to repeat again....have a dinner at Central Market, then at Risibisi....
Risibisi Restaurant 154 Petaluma Blvd N Petaluma, CA 94952
We really enjoyed our time in Petaluma and I'm sure we'll return someday...especially when the Missus is itching for some cheese! I do have one more post from this trip coming up....I'll try to get it done soon.
Thank you for stopping by to read mmm-yoso!!!, a blog about food. The episode you are about to read takes you to Escondido, where Cathy has ventured. Kirk and Ed(from Yuma) are out and about enjoying more exotic places.
Heading back to the 15 freeway on Valley Parkway, there is a mall at the North East corner. Just behind the McDonald's, this signage looked familiar.
It turns out there is a Roma Market in Pasadena (mentioned in this post) which we've passed on our way from many Rose Parade float tests. This family market began in Boston after WWII, moved to Alhambra in the early 1950's then settled in Pasadena and has now (in late 2014) opened a second Southern California Roma Market in Escondido.Not a very large footprint, each small aisle is packed with items from Italy as well as locally sourced. Wines, fresh fruits and vegetables, trays of Italian cookies and fresh basil are at the entrance.There are a few different areas of dried and imported pastas as well as fresh and frozen -made in store- selections also. We've had the cheese manicotti and tortellini and they each were wonderful.Pasta sauces as well as canned and shelf stable tomatoes are sold on the shelves. If you look back to those freezer doors on the right side of the above photo, also made in house and fresh and frozen sauces are available. Again, excellent. There are a few other aisles of Italian staples and treats as well as closed door and open refrigerated sections. There's a deli selling Roma Market brand premium meats as well as imported meats and cheeses...and, as any good Italian Deli, Baccala. Notice the bread in the back; it's made here daily.Moving along, there's a section of hot foods, a small menu board...Desserts, beverages (there's also a Coca Cola Freestyle machine and an espresso/coffee area). Notice the small sign to the right, taped to the glass case. Then, of course, there's gelato.
Eat in the store we did. Here's a meal enjoyed last week.
Slice of cheese pizza ($1.95) (If you shop here on a Monday, after 3 p.m. and spend $10, you can get a whole cheese pizza for $1.99). Fresh dough, fresh sauce, plenty of mozzarella.Notice the 'hot foods' photo above. Two links of sweet or hot Italian sausage with peppers and onions $4.95. Yep. made here. Wonderful, fresh, you can see a fennel seed in the cross section above. The two pieces are enough for a meal. The Sandwich ($5.50) essentially a grab and go/no substitution deal. Mortadella, Mild Capicola, Soppressata (or some type of dry salami) and Provolone cheese. That's olive oil on the fresh bread/hoagie roll. The simplicity of three meats, cheese, olive oil and fresh bread is wonderful.There is a pretty large dessert selection as well as coffees available. We were offered a sample of the gelato, any flavor and the pear...had pieces of pear in it. The tiramisu and orange are also excellent. We'll be trying the other flavors soon.
I am so glad we stopped at Roma Market and will do so at the original location in Pasadena, soon.
Roma Market 1054 West Valley Parkway Escondido 92025 (760)233-8003 open 8-8 daily Website
You basically can't walk a single block without running into something historic in Rome.
We headed back to the room to freshen up.
So where were we headed for dinner?
Because of all the Chinese businesses in the area, the Missus walked into the Chinese Market and asked the manager if there was any "great" Chinese food around. His Answer? "Ummm, they are all just about the same." So we decided on going back to the place we we started this little journey at; Da Danilo.
This time however, we'd not be strong-armed into getting all the antipasto. Even though the owner kept staring daggers at us during our stay. No, we enjoyed a nice Malvasia Bianca and the really enjoyed the main reason for returning; the Carbonara with truffle.
I'm willing to put up with the "typical Roman service" (so says Max), the pushy owner...just for this. The perfectly prepared pasta, the creamy-tongue coating sauce....the shaved truffle.
The rather bland orecchiette da danilo......
And the nice, but not outstanding braised oxtails.....
Would not be reasons to return. But that carbonara....that's a "Desert Island Dish".
Trattoria da Danilo Via Petrarca 13 Rome, Italy
And so we ended our time in Rome. Where it seems history was made on every corner.
And while the Missus wants to return to Rome; it's not high on my list. But tempt me with that Carbonara again and I might give in.
We had eaten well the night before and slept even better. The normal 5am wake up was missed and we slept in a bit.
Having your morning espresso is a good time to people watch. You gotta admit, some of these folks sure have their own...well...style. Like that guy to the right. Notice the matching outfits. Which got me to wondering...was he an accessory for the poodle, or was the poodle....well, you get the point, right?
Our first stop this morning was nearby; Esquilino Market. The area has quite an international flavor...there were quite a few Chinese businesses and we heard Mandarin being spoken from our window every evening.
There's quite a variety available.
It was a nice break.
From this point on, we past those familiar places.
I like how the place looked and later found out that the upper floors of the theatre have been converted to apartments. Pretty cool, huh? How'd you like to live in and above such an historic structure?
Trastevere and the lovely colors and lovely cobbled street turned out to be my favorite area in Rome.
I loved the lanes, the folks walking the alleyways. There seemed to be much more daily life going on here. Clothes hanging from windows, folks going on with their daily routines.
The place really has character and charm.
One turn, and suddenly we were in front of Santa Cecilia, dedicated to Saint Cecilia. The church is supposedly built upon the location of her house.
There are quite a few artifacts and artwork in the church. But it is far from being gaudy...the lines clean.
An interesting note about Saint Cecilia. She was martyred between 176 and 180 A.D. Her body was exhumed in 1599 and displayed no signs of decay! She is the first Saint whose body was found to be incorrupt.
Even though there were quite a tourists, you turn a corner and find a little alleyway that you'll have all to yourself.
There you come across little treasures like this little bakery. Which we later found out was named Biscottificio Innocenti, a very well known and regarded cookie/biscuit shop.
The Missus bought a couple and really enjoyed them.
Biscottificio Innocenti Via della Luce 21 Rome, Italy
While headed to Piazza de Santa Maria, we came across this gelato shop.
The Hazelnut Gelato I had from here was my favorite of all the gelato I tried in Rome.
Fior di Luna Via della Lungaretta 96 Rome, Italy
Of course having this refreshing gelato on the fountain steps of atmospheric Piazza di Santa Maria might have something to do with that opinion.
If Trastevere were a living organism, Piazza di Santa Maria would be its heart.
I loved the artwork of Cavallini in the apse which dates back to 1291.
By now we were getting a bit hungry, so we decided to head on back.
As we headed back toward Termini Station, I noticed the beautiful Ivy hanging on over Via Panisperna in the Monti neighborhood. Taking a look to the right, I noticed the name of a place I'd read about; Ai Tre Scalini. What luck. We were getting pretty hungry.
Basically a wine/beer bar, the place was doing some major business.
Folks seemed to be having a great time and the staff here were very friendly and helpful.
We each had a glass of wine and started in on the menu.
Knowing that we'd be having the pretty rich and hearty Roman fare for dinner, we decided on getting some charcuterie and cheese. Starting with the Salsicce al Tartufo - truffle sausage.
Which was nicely scented with truffle.
We also got the Misto Salumi e Formaggi, a huge charcuterie and cheese plate.
A nice lovely lunch.
Ai Tre Scalini Via Panisperna 251 Rome Italy
As we walked back to our room, I noticed I'd reached the point where I really started noticing things.
Soon enough, routines would start setting in. And we might even make an acquaintance or two.....
Yes, it was time for us to head out to our next stop. But not before dinner.........
We arrived back in Rome and got on the Leonardo Express to Termini Station. Like I mentioned before, that this short leg is a total joy...super easy and relatively quick.
Getting back to the place we were staying at near Termini Station; B&B Civico 31, we were greeted by one of the owners, Max, with a "welcome home". Max is a great guy, he did it all. We got back and asked where the nearest laundry was. His response, "you need something washed? Give it to me; I'll have it done....." Which he did. At no charge! Whenever I mentioned a neighborhood place; he's ask if we wanted to make reservations....which he would do! Amazing.
The room we stayed in....on both legs of our trip were comfortable. The décor features vintage Italian movie posters...which I found kind of neat.
We had our general directions fairly straight and were now finding different ways to get to where we wanted to be.
The day had started out sunny, but that changed on a dime as rows of clouds would pass over with scattered showers.
So the Missus decided that we should head up to the Capitoline Museums, up Capitoline Hill. This is where it is claimed the first museum in the world was open to the public in 1734.
You know you've finally made it to the top when you see the Statue of Marcus Aurelius. You've reached Piazza del Campigdoglio.
This statue is actually a replica. The original stands within the museum.
It was a great way to spend an early afternoon.
We managed to dodge the passing showers and spent the rest of the day wandering around.
By dinner time, we're talking 8pm, still on the early side, I was famished. Max had made reservations at a rather close, highly regarded Trattoria. Apparently, he went to school with one of the owners, so getting us a table, especially "early" at 8pm was no problem.
You will find Trattoria Monti mentioned everywhere. The cuisine is based on the family's region of origin, Le Marche. The service was the friendliest and warmest we had during our entire time in Rome. There's a certain somewhat jaded attitude we perceived in Rome....what Max calls "typical Roman service". And I can certainly understand how tiring it can get based on questions we heard tourists asking, "what is truffle?" "Why don't you have gluten free pasta?" What is truffle? Yikes..... the folks at Monti just took it in stride, smiled, and laughed with the customers. They took the time to explain the food of the region to folks to help them try to understand.
One of the items "to get" here are the sformatini; called "flan" on the menu. Sort of like a savory bechamel - egg based custard. We got both the radicchio and the red onion versions. Both came with a nice, thick, cheese sauce, which didn't detract from the flavor of the "flan".
While both were good; it was the savory-sweetness and the texture of the caramelized onions in the red onion version that put it at the top of our "best things we had in Rome" list.
Another signature dish of Trattoria Monti is the Tortello. Basically a large stuffed with ricotta and egg yolk; I was a bit disappointed with this one. While I enjoyed the sauce; it had a nice balance of acid-tartness-sweetness-herbaceous flavors, with a nice texture and the ricotta added a mild salt and milky component....the egg yolk was hard and overdone. Knowing how much I love a runny yolk; which I understand this should be (though not overly so). I felt the dish was incomplete.
The Missus ordered Roast Suckling Pig with Baby Potatoes.
And while the suckling pig was just ok; a bit on the dry side, the skin more rubbery than crisp. Those potatoes were very good; almost buttery....the Missus asked how they made the potatoes....the response? "You come tomorrow at three o'clock and we show you!" Classic.....
I got the Fried Lamb Brains with Fried Zucchini.
I'm not the biggest fan of organ meats....well, check that. There are certain organ meats and preparations I don't care for. Sweetbread and brains, so long they aren't too rich and overpowering aren't one of them. I liked the richness of these. The Missus thought the flavor edged on the "metallic/iodine" side and didn't care for them. The fry job was perfect....not too hard as we found in other places in Rome.
We enjoyed our meal at Trattoria Monti. We found the staff here to be friendly, the food good, and we'd gladly return. The prices were also quite good.
On our third day in Rome, we set out for Vatican City. The Missus wanted to walk there...from Termini Station. We had the metro one block away! Luckily, I got myself out of a 5k walk first thing in the morning and we caught the metro. From the metro station, the walk to the gates of Vatican Museum took about ten minutes.
When it comes to most of our travel; the Missus tells me what She wants and I do the logistics, planning, and She just basically shows up. The visit to the Vatican Museum was a good example. I got tickets online ahead of time....we entered right when the place opened, going to the line for "Entrance with Reservations". We grabbed a map and headed to the one place the Missus really wanted to see; the Sistine Chapel, where we stood alone in the rare air where the Papal Conclave takes place. The Missus just stood staring at the ceiling as other visitors piled in around Her. I took a seat after a minute or two, when my neck started stiffening up. I grabbed the Missus to leave when I heard "huuuuaaackkk p-tew".....one of the Chinese tourists had just spit on the floor of the Sistine Chapel! Good lord!
The rest of my time in the Vatican Museum was a blur of antiquities, lavish paintings, just an astounding amount of items on display. I was overwhelmed by the extravagance. I kept telling the Missus, "geeez, these folks sure have a lot of money..."
I do recall enjoying the ceiling art and spent a good deal of time just enjoying those and the paintings over doorways.
I think one needs to spend a least a couple of days here if you really enjoy this stuff. I'm sure Ed from Yuma could probably walk these halls for months!
Anyway, we worked our way back to the beginning and started out with the Egyptian Rooms, officially called the "Gregorian Egyptian Museum", which were among my favorites. After all, who doesn't like mummies, right?
I found the various hieroglyphics and of course the mummies fascinating....it touched off a the faint flicker of the little boy in me, who would spend hours pouring through books at Kaimuki Library.
The Egyptian's deities manifested themselves as various animals based on characteristics. The God Apis took the form of a bull.
I was quite fascinated with these displays.
Things just seemed really packed in.....there was something to see everywhere...
Then we went through the halls with Greek and Roman sculpture. Tons of statues....my head was spinning.
One of the most famous statues is Apollo Belvedere which was once considered to be the most aesthetically perfect sculpture of a man after being found in Italy in the 15th century.
Right past all of this was an interesting area called the "Hall of Animals". The Vatican Museum's website states that the hall "was set up under Pope Pius VI (1775-1799) with antique works of art, often much restored and sometimes completely re-worked, with the aim of creating a 'stone zoo'. Many artists worked on the sculptures in this display during the 1700s, the most important of whom was Francesco Antonio Franzoni."
On your way to the Round Room, you'll be confronted with this remnant. This fragment of a statue known as the Belvedere Torso has been revered through the centuries by Raphael and even Michaelangelo, who it was rumored, was asked to restore the statue by Pope Julius II, but refused saying it was too beautiful to be changed. He is quoted as saying, "This is the work of a man who knew more than nature!” It is said that the torso was an inspiration for Adam in Michelangelo's fresco in the Sistine Chapel.
Right past this sculpture is the "Round Hall". Here's a panoramic shot that you can click on to expand.
Look familiar? Well, it was built to resemble the Pantheon.
By this time Museum fatigue was setting in. I pretty much stopped taking photos and it's quite telling that one of the few photos taken by the Missus was Rapheal's "The Liberation of St Peter".
The one thing the Missus, a fan of Angels & Demons, had to take a photo of was the Double Helix Staircase.....which is how you exit the Vatican Museum.
Next up was St Peter's Basilica, which was easy to find. Just follow the crowds.
St Peter's Square is quite impressive....and crowded.
And of course, to get into the Basilica, you had to go through security and metal detectors and all of that as well.
It was getting to be a pretty warm day. The security points for St Peter's were moving quite slowly. Then, a group of Chinese tourists pushed their way to the front of the line, and tried to just walk through security. The guards rushed up, linked their arms and physically pushed back the crowd. Then they closed the gate......I don't know if it was protocol or just spite, but man, I was just over it. Now don't get me wrong, the Missus is Chinese, as you all know if you've read long enough, from Qingdao. None of Her family, or even family friends who have visited act this way. 'Nuff said.
Anyway, by the time we got to St Peter's, I'd had my fill of the crowds, the heat, etc....
Still, the Missus has always wanted to come here. And I truly want the Missus to see and visit everyplace She's dreamed of. I hope that Vatican water tasted sweet.....
By now we were both starving.........but I had a place in mind. One that had been on my lists for ages... Pizzarium.
This place takes Pizza al Taglio - pizza by the slice to the next level with some wonderful ingredients. You just tell the guy behind the counter how much you want....it's really hard not to go overboard.
While it was still a bit too "bready" for our tastes, some of the ingredients were wonderful and we especially loved the tomato sauce....man, that was nice.
The prosciutto....the greens with the mozzarella...really good. Worth the 15 minute walk from the Vatican. Plus, the Cipro Metro Station is close by.
Pizzarium Via della Meloria 43 Rome, Italy
Returning to our room, I badly needed a shower. After that and rehydrating, we headed off, just to hang around the area near Termini Station.
And have a little snack.....
After taking quite a long walk, we decided to stop by the nearest Hosteria and have a simple meal.
Sometimes those spur of the moment places work out quite well. Some times not. Having no idea of this place....well, it was the latter.
Oh well, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, right?
Man, that carbonara was not to my liking....so I guess this was a lose.
It was not quite the send off I wanted. The next day, we'd be back on the Leonardo Express, then to our flight to Malta....yes, Malta.