Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Though not from Rome, Caravaggio, who spent much of his life and achieved his status as an artist here, belongs to Rome.

This exceptional exhibit at the Scuderie del Quirinale brings it all together:  his ground-breaking use of light, the intensity in those faces and bodies which seem to strain to break off the canvas, his ability to take a scene such as the Annunciation or the Supper at Emmaus  painted by artists before him many times over, and bring it to another dimension.  Once seen, never forgotten.

The story goes that Caravaggio once was arrested  over a plate of artichokes that weren't prepared to his liking.  Whether he threw them at the waiter or smashed them in his face, police records verify the incident.

 I know exactly how he must have felt. Though never having resorted to violence, I've often sulked when my Roman artichokes weren't just perfectly done.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Many, many years ago, before re-cycling came into being, ancient Rome solved the problem of what to do with all those empty amphorae used to hold olive oil being brought into port.  They dumped them in a heap which in time became a hill of about 135 feet.  Flavio al Velavevodetto is built right into one side of this mountain of crockery, visible through a panel of glass.

But that's not the reason to come to this stylish up-scale trattoria.  You come for the ravioli di primavera with fresh herbs, ricotta, and grape tomatoes, or the maialino arrosto con patate (baby piggy & mashed potatoes),  and you finish with semifreddo with zabaglione and deep dark chocolate drizzles.  

And then after you figure out how to pronounce "velavevodetto" like a Roman, you tell your friends about it, and when they in turn thank you for giving such a great recommendation, you say " I told you so" which is, after all, more or less, the meaning of "velavevodetto".

FLAVIO AL VELAVEVODETTO, Via di Monte Testaccio 97/99, Rome, ph. 06 5756841

Saturday, April 24, 2010

CUL DE SAC in Rome: Wine with a Side of Dinner

What do you do in a walking city like Rome on a blustery rainy night?

You seek warmth and shelter and find comfort in a bowl of zuppa di lenticchie (lentil soup) at Enoteca Cul De Sac in Piazza di Pasquino.  Pasquino is the most famous of Rome's "talking" statues placed around the city so disgruntled Romans could post their lamentations and outrages against authority, whether government or papal.

The food is good here, but the wine shines.  Over 1500 bottles listed alphabetically by place of origin from all over the world.  As busy as this place is, especially on a weekend, the staff are courteous and helpful with the selections.  Our wine, a 20 euro bottle of Nebbiola Langhe, fortified us for puddle jumping back home.

But before we did, we registered a complaint about this never-ending rain to Pasquino who will undoubtedly bring it to the attention of Zeus, whom every Roman knows is in total control of this kind of thing.

Friday, April 23, 2010


I had planned to write about my dinner last night, but the restaurant - lauded by a major critic of Roman food - was painfully disappointing.  And so because I can't say anything nice, I'll talk about tomatoes.

The best things in Rome, as in life, may not be free, but they can be very inexpensive.  Purchased from the market in Campo de Fiori for a few euro, these little red gems called datterini (little dates) are sweeter than a bowl of M&Ms - and much better for you. So you can pop them down like pills all day long without guilt or regret.

Hard to imagine that something so identified with the food here were so scary to the Italians when they were first brought in from the New World - back in the days of Columbus.  Thought to be poisonous, tomatoes were kept around solely for ornamental purposes.  And then one day several hundred years later, one brave soul (no doubt intoxicated by that alluring fresh-tomato-in-the-garden smell) succumbed to temptation...and lived to digest it.

The rest, as they say, is culinary history.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


So what do you do after a private nighttime tour of the Vatican where it was only your  group of 20 and  the Vatican guards? You don't want the evening to end, but it's too late for dinner and you don't want to break the mood with the sound of music in a club.  In Rome, you head for your favorite wine bar.

L'Angolo Divino, Via dei Balestrari, 12 (Campo de Fiori) is that place where Massimo, the always in attendance owner and sommelier, knows just what to pour.

And so we sat and relived it all: the Sistine Chapel sans the tourist crush, Raffaelo's School of Athens, the Laocoon, the Room of Muses, the incredibe Hall of Tapestries,  the Belvedere Torso that inspired Michelangelo - all seen as though for the first time.

Our glasses were finally empty, but the memory lingers on.

he memories linger on.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


We're talking vegetables, of course.  Very important to the Romans, and it should be to you as well if you're traveling there.  Along with Caravaggio at the Quirinale, Bernini in Piazza Navona, Michelangelo at St. Peter's, nature's artwork, always on display in the Roman markets, belongs on your must-see list.

And what to look for?  According to Chris Boswell, sous chef at the prestigious American Academy currently engaged in the Rome Sustainable Food Project, the Top Ten Roman Vegetables are:

1) Carciofi—Artichokes 
2) Puntarelle—Catalan Chicory
3) Finocchi—Fennel
4) Funghi Porcini—Porcini Mushrooms
5) Broccoletti—Broccoli 
6) Fave—Fava Beans
7) Cardi—Cardoons 
8) Rughetta—Arugula
9) Sedano—Celery 
 10)Asparagi Selvatici—Wild Aspargus

Enjoy them at their seasonal best at your leisure in all their splendid variations in the market stalls and on your plate.