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Trattoria Monti - on Rome's Esquiline Hill


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7 replies to this topic

#1 weinoo

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 05:22 AM

Arriving in Rome after a mid-morning flight from Palermo, Significant Eater and I found ourselves significantly hungry. It was the heart of the lunch hour, popular restaurants are pretty full at lunch and if you show up without a reservation, you take your chances. But after we checked into our apartment and got a quick tour of the pad and how to turn on the heat, we took off to a popular restaurant without a reservation, because after all, I like taking chances.

The place we were heading to came recommended via a variety of sources; you know - bloggers, boards including this one, books, newspapers, you name it - they all say go. Of course, it has its detractors, or at least those who say it isn't as good as it used to be, or that they recently went and the service was awful...and so on. What should a couple of hungry tourists do?

In this case, we headed up the hill to the Esquiline, and Trattoria Monti. Guess what awaited us? A full house, but after a little begging and pleading (and perhaps some name dropping) we were told to come back in an hour and they’d be happy to serve us. So we headed down the street, took a walk around the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, and when we returned we were greeted like old friends and seated at a table with a view of the kitchen and the duo of female chefs (always a good sign, imo).

I don't know about the detractors, but the food we had on this Thursday afternoon was good...really good. Incidentally, Trattoria Monti doesn't serve "Roman" food. The family is from Le Marche and much of the food is informed by that region, which lies to the northeast of Rome's region, Lazio. We started with a shared antipasto, and it included all manner of fried goodies, including meat stuffed olives (wow!), zucchini flowers, slices or artichoke, a little sweet nibble and Significant Eater and I were already settling in nicely. Oh, did I mention? The place is run by some of the nicest and best looking Italian guys in the biz (that's according to Sig Eater) - and I’d have to agree, even though I liked the olives more...

2011_11_20 Monti 2.jpg

Following up on our antipasto, we shared the special risotto of the day, with fresh porcini. The kitchen split our order (it actually looked as if they’d made two orders) and we were soon enjoying one of the finer risotti we’d had in recent memory…the rice perfectly cooked and the mushrooms adding their earthy flavor. No need for any truffle oil here, thank you.

For our entrees, I had a roasted squab, stuffed with more squab meat and it got me thinking – I need to make squab at home...it's delicious. Sig Eater went with the roasted pork shoulder, a hunk of meat more suited to Fred Flintstone, which worked out well, since I ate half of that too. Delicate, crispy skin, moist meat and just-right salty. We eat our fair share of roast pork – it’s one of my go-to dishes when feeding a crowd at home, pernil is a neighborhood specialty, but to approach Trattoria Monti’s, I have some practicing to do.

Since we liked lunch so much, we decided to come back again – this time with a reservation, for Sunday lunch. I ordered the same fried app for a starter but Sig Eater ordered a house specialty for a starter – sformato of eggplant napped with a sweet tomato sauce. Light as air, we fought over the last bite...

2011_11_20 Monti 1.jpg

We both had pasta for our primi; SE had rigatoni with crumbled sausage and oil, while I went with another specialty of the house, the tortellone...a giant ravioli-like creature filled with ricotta, spinach and yes, an egg yolk, making for an utterly delicious combo...

2011_11_20 Monti 4.jpg
2011_11_20 Moni 3.jpg

And lucky for us, there was another roast on the menu…this time, it was lamb and it gave the roast pork we had on Thursday a run for its money. A really good run, all crispy skin, gamy lamb and little bones to nibble on, atop a ration of potatoes...

2011_11_20 Monti 5.jpg

After all that food, do you think there was room for dessert? Well, it being Sunday, dessert was necessary and we decided to share another sformato, this one of apple and napped with an awesome zabaglione, a delicate custard made with sweet Marsala wine...

2011_11_20 Monti 6.jpg

Go? Well, only if you want some of the most delicious food we ate over the course of a week in Rome. Served by some of the nicest staff you'll ever meet and try to communicate with. After all, how happy does this Significant Eater look?

IMG_3041.jpg
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#2 Mjx

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 05:44 AM

Fine. Torment those of us who are enjoined to eat elasticated boiled pork on a regular basis, see if I care.

That all looks fantastic, by the way, and it's nice to hear that Italy is stil up to scratch. Did you have any of the seasonal cavolo nero and borlotti soup while you were in Rome?

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#3 weinoo

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 06:00 AM

Fine. Torment those of us who are enjoined to eat elasticated boiled pork on a regular basis, see if I care.

That all looks fantastic, by the way, and it's nice to hear that Italy is stil up to scratch. Did you have any of the seasonal cavolo nero and borlotti soup while you were in Rome?

We might have had that at one meal. I also love the way the vegetable sides are cooked and served - whether it's spinach, rapini, chicory, or something similar, they all end up looking exactly the same after they are cooked till their bitter ends.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
mweinstein@eGstaff.org
Tasty Travails - My Blog
My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs
Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

#4 hathor

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 07:49 AM

Excellent...we're always looking for a decent ristorante a Roma!
I hear you on the vegetables...makes me crazy. And they're all referred to as cotto (or cooked)..well, duh... :laugh:

#5 HungryC

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 08:09 AM

The pic of outside the resto made my eyes water w/longing...I can smell the Vespa fumes, I can taste the espresso. Damn, I wish I was in Rome!

#6 patrickamory

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 08:52 AM

Oh man yes. All those dishes looked wonderful.

And I couldn't agree more with Celeste about the photo of the exterior. Classic Rome - I was transported immediately

And - I hate the term "plating" almost as much as doing it, but those dishes are beautifully and naturally presented without any preciousness. Away with the squirt bottles!

Edited by patrickamory, 30 November 2011 - 08:53 AM.


#7 Maureen B. Fant

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 01:48 AM

Compliments on the photography. Those dishes look more delicious than anything I've ever had at that restaurant, but I trust you and will not hesitate to return. I do find the place a bit uncomfortable and claustrophobic, however. The brothers, whose family name escapes me, are indeed known far and wide for their pulchritude, and they're nice too. Some notes on your menu:

- the olives are typical of the Marche region, specifically of Ascoli Piceno, and are called olive all'ascolana. When done right, as I presume these were, they are made with a particular variety of olive, which is spiraled off the stone, filled with meat, and recomposed into an olive shape before being breaded and fried. Debased versions are a staple of Roman pizzerias, but it's worth going to Monti or Al Ceppo for good ones.

- the sweet in your antipasto is another typical marchigiano tidbit -- it was a cremino, pastry cream chilled and cut into a lozenge shape, then breaded and fried

- the flower is Roman Jewish (they DO cook Roman dishes there); sliced fried artichokes are Roman too, but I can't imagine Rome has a monopoly

- the soft, spreadable salami is ciauscolo (4 syllables), also typical of the Marche, and gives me palpitations just to look at it

- the roast lamb with roast potatoes is as Roman as they come

As for vegetables, what you call rapini (a word I have never heard in Italy) in Rome are called broccoletti. Broccoletti and chicory are boiled then "ripassati in padella" -- sautéed with garlic and chile. Spinach is normally served just steamed with lemon and oil on the side. There are other preparations in the cookbooks but I've never seen them on menus.

And finally, to be utterly obsessive, that yummy-looking pasta was not rigatoni but mezze maniche, meaning "short sleeves," similar to rigatoni but half the length.


Maureen
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Edited by Maureen B. Fant, 01 December 2011 - 01:49 AM.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

#8 weinoo

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 05:40 AM

Compliments on the photography. Those dishes look more delicious than anything I've ever had at that restaurant, but I trust you and will not hesitate to return. I do find the place a bit uncomfortable and claustrophobic, however. The brothers, whose family name escapes me, are indeed known far and wide for their pulchritude, and they're nice too. Some notes on your menu:

- the olives are typical of the Marche region, specifically of Ascoli Piceno, and are called olive all'ascolana. When done right, as I presume these were, they are made with a particular variety of olive, which is spiraled off the stone, filled with meat, and recomposed into an olive shape before being breaded and fried. Debased versions are a staple of Roman pizzerias, but it's worth going to Monti or Al Ceppo for good ones.

- the sweet in your antipasto is another typical marchigiano tidbit -- it was a cremino, pastry cream chilled and cut into a lozenge shape, then breaded and fried

- the flower is Roman Jewish (they DO cook Roman dishes there); sliced fried artichokes are Roman too, but I can't imagine Rome has a monopoly

- the soft, spreadable salami is ciauscolo (4 syllables), also typical of the Marche, and gives me palpitations just to look at it

- the roast lamb with roast potatoes is as Roman as they come

As for vegetables, what you call rapini (a word I have never heard in Italy) in Rome are called broccoletti. Broccoletti and chicory are boiled then "ripassati in padella" -- sautéed with garlic and chile. Spinach is normally served just steamed with lemon and oil on the side. There are other preparations in the cookbooks but I've never seen them on menus.

And finally, to be utterly obsessive, that yummy-looking pasta was not rigatoni but mezze maniche, meaning "short sleeves," similar to rigatoni but half the length.
Maureen
www.maureenbfant.com

Thanks, Maureen, for filling in all the luscious details. You are one of the various "advisers" whose advice I took on this trip. Anyone heading to Rome - be sure and check out Maureen's web site for some great info...

Of course, Trattoria Monti serves some classic Roman dishes, but isn't what I'd necessarily call a true "Roman" restaurant, if indeed there is such a thing in this day and age.

And I guess claustrophobia depends on what one is used to; as a frequent restaurant diner here in NYC, I found the place to be roomy and calm. Now, Pizzarium, on the other hand...
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
mweinstein@eGstaff.org
Tasty Travails - My Blog
My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs
Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?