This year, I got really lucky. Or really careless. Either way, I went on more trips than I generally do in a year and came away with one clear conclusion - it’s the way to go for me. I had my theories, now I have the empirical evidence to back them up. I will get back to you when I figure out a way to do this every year that does not involve sky high credit card bills.
Can you guess where I spent the last two weeks or so? This should provide all the needed hints.
I had been to Italy once before and loved it, but this trip was a whole other dream come true. We made it to Rome, and clearly spent some time in Chianti. I could go on and on about what we saw and did, but I read somewhere that the average attention span is rapidly shrinking, so I will stick to food and drink commentary.
First off, Rome. I ended up having more time in Rome than I thought I would, which worked out very well because I actually got to do what I had wanted to do since I watched Anthony Bourdain do it on the Rome episode of No Reservations - eat “one of the most quintessentially Roman of perfect little things: cacio e pepe,” preferably at the same “undisclosed location” he did. No, I do not memorize the transcripts of Anthony Bourdain’s shows, but I do watch some of them more than once. This one happened to be on heavy replay and cacio e pepe just stuck in my mind the way few things do.
I had eaten this deceptively simple dish before in New York, at Il Buco, and thought it was very, very good. But once I heard Bourdain proclaim “What bleak, meaningless existences we have without this!” I was convinced that I had to have the exact same version of it. Because I am not OK with my existence being bleak or meaningless.
Luckily, thanks to the handy dandy page the Travel Channel provides for each on of the show’s episodes, the place was easy to identify - Roma Sparita, in the lovely Trastevere neighborhood. We went there one night and I was convinced I was about to have a mind boggling taste experience, especially since I heard several of the tables around me order the same thing. Of course, I also heard English and German spoken at the tables around me, proof that Bourdain was right - I’m sure this was great little trattoria full of locals until he put it on his show. The much anticipated cacio e pepe arrived and it was pretty good. It even came in the parmesan crisp bowl I watched them make for it on the show. Maybe my expectations were over inflated or maybe my pasta palate had become more discerning over the two weeks. To me, this cacio e pepe was very good, but it was not sublime.
That’s because the best version of cacio e pepe I have had so far was in Gaiole in Chianti, at our hotel’s very low key restaurant. It was good enough that you could eat it every night, which I did.
More on my new pasta related ambitions and pictures of what else I brought back are after the jump.