It’s always a delight renewing our love affair with Italy
This time, as a special gift, we brought the head colds we had been incubating in Toronto. The viruses have flourished in the Italian sun and as we lurch – sneezing and coughing – around the city, we may be launching the largest case of germ warfare since the Crusaders returned with the bubonic plague.
The 4th floor apartment is lovely – with multiple French Doors and balconies overlooking the Tiber
We sense it’s a high end neighbourhood for two reasons
1. The wine stores and deli/specialty food stores make Pusateris look like 7/11. Who knew there were 312 ways to pickle, brine, marinate, liquidate, make into pesto or even serve fresh…..the humble artichoke.
2. We needed something from a hardware store. There are no hardware stores. The inhabitants have Polish immigrants do their wiring and plumbing
We did however find our favourite butcher from 8 years ago (we called him “Ham Man”…..we still do). We lived on his ham, cold cuts, and spectacular take out Pizza for the first day (pictures of Ham Man to follow)
The apartment is bright, large, nicely appointed and its 11 foot ceilings are a feature we are especially fond of
A large bedroom with a fireplace, and modern bath
The Galley kitchen is relatively small, huge by NYC standards; but we plan to eat out at old favourites and new recommendations so all we need is a functioning fridge. The ladder is for access to very high cupboards that contain previous guests who refused to depart. We leave food out for them in the evening.
Of course the apartment – like everywhere we’ve lived in Italy – has a lock that Fort Knox would envy….
After a pleasant walk to a very active local market we set out to “Metamorofosi” – a Michelin one star with a reputation for modernist cuisine.
A crisp design and very efficient waiter set the tone
A very interesting, big oak, bottle of Sicilian Chardonnay came, with the sommelier’s recommendation. We weren’t in the Chile section of our local LCBO anymore.
The Amuse Gueule was smoked scallops on a corn custard….loved the scallops
Now we don’t tend to do sweets, but along with the Amuse Gueule came some lovely house baked bread and a new favourite – olive oil ice cream. It’s a little bit cold and the texture of gelatti and you want to slather it on everything and everybody near you
Next, Liz had an incredible two part dish. On the left – fried pasta and pork rind. Now, “fried pork rind” is more often associated with Wal Mart than a one star Michelin restaurant. On the right, pecorino cheese foam with bacon and an egg coddled at 65 degrees for 40 minutes. A deconstructed Pasta Carbonara
Liz described it as “fantastic …. anything with pork rind is good”…..
Dickie had perfectly grilled scallops with radicchio spears and flavoured goat cheese. These scallops did not come frozen in a bag from Costco
The next round of exceptional house bread arrived to consume the remaining olive oil ice cream
Next course - Dickie had butter filled ravioli in broth with shaved truffles. We were starting to get concerned …. first the fried pork rinds, then deep fried butter a la the Texas State Fair….is this chef doing fusion of Italian and Red Neck Cuisine?
No worries – it tasted great and you could feel your arteries harden
Liz’s dish looks simple, but tastes great. Perfectly al dente pasta with mussel dust……yes, they dry mussels then grind them up and dust the pasta. It is the distilled taste of the sea
And finally, one of those dishes that makes life worthwhile. A half American lobster tail in the shell on a bed of hot stones on a cedar board. The discs to the left are “lobster cream”
We eat a lot of lobster. Last time we had anything this good was a decade ago at a 3 star in southwest France.
The texture was sublime. Truly buttery. No fiber. Just a very large lobster flavoured scallop texture.
Then the flavour….essence of lobster with a subtle smokiness.
Later discussions with the Chef revealed the recipe:
- first, kill the lobster
- remove tail/remove meat from tail
- slow poach meat (sous vide) for 7 minutes
- grill tail shell gently to deliver smoked flavour
….and, if you believe the Chef told us all we need to know to replicate the dish…..we have a bridge to sell you.
To cap the presentation the claw is poached and presented separately …
Richard’s dish – while eclipsed by the lobster – was lovely. A perfect piece of Baccala (cod). Minimal flavouring ex: a spiced crust and a potato Napoleon hidden under a leaf
We rarely eat dessert but Liz relaxed over an Espresso with some petit fours
We of course end up in the Kitchen. The Chef (green sweater) is Columbian. The Sous (white jacket) is Swedish. All speak English. We exchange restaurant likes and legends. The Chef gives us recos for Sardinia and Lucca – our next stops – much writing ensues
It was a perfect day!
A closing note – last evening we walked over to Campo dei Fiori and settled into a cafe. The door man and our waitress were Romanian. The owner is Palestinian. We all ended up at our table drinking, eating, smoking and discussing politics. We love to eat, but these moments are what we most care about.
Mach, the Palestinian Cafe owner, in response to a question about religion said…..”hey, I’m Muslim and I own a bar, no, 2 bars”
Julian – the Romanian door man who is 22 years old – is an electrician but can make more as a Door Man because the….and we quote….. “unemployed Italian guys would rather live with their mothers than work like we do”
The waitresses story was very similar.
There’s a whole lot of cliché, legend and simple misinformation in these stories. But we heard the same tales from Zimbabweans in Cape Town and immigrants in NYC. No great insightful conclusions here – other than that in a globalized world the young and ambitious will move and do the jobs/take the entrepreneurial risks that the locals won’t.