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Maureen B. Fant

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Posts posted by Maureen B. Fant

  1. ...

    Bugialli draws fine distinctions between Bolognese sauce and ragu, ...

    I don't know Bugialli's work, but I do know Italian food terminology and this remark doesn’t make sense. Ragù is a generic term covering many types of more or less hearty sauces. In Bologna the meaty sauce you put on your tagliatelle every day is ragù, tout court, because all the Bolognesi already know that it is native to Bologna and don't need an adjective. People elsewhere emulating what they do in Bologna have to call it bolognese to distinguish it from their own or any other ragù. Come to think of it, I haven't seen bolognese, the word, on a menu for years, exc the spagbol class of tourist menu. My unscientific impression is that most Italians cook their own ragù and let the bolognesi cook theirs.

    I just realized how old this post is, so if the above has been discussed to death in subsequent posts, come non detto.

  2. I quite enjoyed il Bocconcino which is just near the Colosseum. It's in a side street away from the main roads but it is really simple and really quite a good restaurant. I'll hunt down the address again if I can find it. La Rosetta was good too but a little overpriced I thought.

    Here's the address

    Via Ostilia, 23

    00184 Roma, Italy

    and the website


    I know many people have liked this place, and it's listed in the SlowFood guide, but Franco and I have tried it twice, wanting desperately to like it because it's cute and two minutes' walk from home, but we just think it's pretty bad. Blah food and a general air of confusion.

  3. From a vague feel of where it might have been on a map, and some other clues, I am now thinking that it was Il Convivio on Vicolo dei Soldati. Can anyone confirm whether this is a place that lost a star, (which would double-check my thinking) and if so whether that indicates a real sea-change at the place that would counsel against going there? Perhaps I'm wrong about the star - any feelings on how this restaurant is currently performing and whether I should I go back?

    Il Convivio has lost a star, but I am told on good authority that we shouldn't be deterred. There was some sort of mixup. I'm just reporting what I was told, but in any case, I would certainly not hesitate to go there.

  4. Thank you -- this is wonderful. I found Casa Gerardo's web site, which definitely got the juices flowing, but then I checked their info on viamichelin.com and found they are open only for lunch except Friday and Saturday :-( A number of the Gijón restaurants I checked do that, which is one reason I had settled on La Solana. I need a Tuesday evening (and is Dec 8 a holiday in Spain?) and maybe a Wednesday too.

  5. We have settled on Segovia, Salamanca, and Burgos as intermediate stops on the way to Gijón, where my husband is giving a lecture (or something) -- all very fast and, yes, I know not in a straight line. We'll pick up a car at MAD and go straight to Segovia for two nights, then one at Hacienda Zorita outside Salamanca, and one in Burgos, then two in Gijón, and a race back to MAD for a 6 pm flight.

    As a rule we like to sit down in a relatively tranquil restaurant in the evening -- as opposed to elbowing to a bar for tapas or feeling rushed in a crowded assembly-line place. As long as the food is good and has some basis in local ingredients and/or tradition, even from a very creative chef, we don't care whether it's rustic or fancy. Ideally our trip will have some of each.

    Segovia: I'm waiting to hear back on reservation requests to Villena and, largely on the strength of Faine's irresistible description, Mesón del Candido. There seem to be other good places too ...

    Salamanca: I presume we will dine at the Hacienda Zorita (a Sunday evening) -- unless someone here says that's a bad idea.

    Burgos: viamichelin.com lists a lot of places I feel unable to choose among.

    Gijón: I've e-mailed La Solana. One of our evenings here will be a birthday dinner, so a Michelin star would be nice.

    I'd be much obliged to be set straight if I'm making any big mistakes and for any other advice. I don't know Spain well and have never been to this part. I also don't know Spanish food and wine. Not on the radar here in Italy.

  6. Why did I think the natural habitat for tortelli di zucca was Mantova (in Lombardia)?

    It IS the natural habitat of tortelli di zucca, the kind that contain amaretti and mostarda, but the food of that corner of Lombardia has a lot more in common with Emilia-Romagna than with, say, Milano. I always say the regional divisions are for the convenience of cookbook editors, who have 20 ready-made chapters, and that the gastronomic map would show very different divisions than the political.

    The natural habitat of the non-sweet tortelli di zucca is Ferrara, in Emilia-Romagna.

    With all due respect to you, I have spent an extensive amount of time, over the last thirty- five years, eating in that little corner of Lombardia and that little corner of Emilia-Romagna. Mantova, not Ferrara is the natural habitat of non sweet tortelli di zucca. All you have to do is see where most of the zucche grow and where most of the mostarda is made.

    I agree that food in that corner of Lombardia has more in common IN GENERAL with Ferrara or even Parma. However, and this is very important, once you get south of the Po, even a few kilometers, the change from olive oil to butter is significant and the cuisine changes dramatically. This is the "south of the Po butter rule", except for that very tiny pocket of land south of the Po that is in Lombardia, where olive oil still holds sway. To paraphrase the late Tip O'Neill... "all cooking fat is local." :smile:

    Your experience of that area greatly exceeds mine, which consists only of infrequent short trips over an even longer span, supplemented by many dinners in Rome at Colline Emiliane, the restaurant responsible for this digression. So I went scurrying to my bible, la Gosetti, to see if I'd been hallucinating. Well, she puts the amaretti/mostarda in Mantova and the no amaretti/mostarda in Emilia-Romagna. And I am sure that Colline Emiliane offers the sweet as mantovani and the plain as ferraresi, and I'm equally sure that I had the sweet ones in Mantova with a glass of sweet wine, suggested by the restaurant. The first tortelli di zucca I ever tasted were in Ferrara and I haven't been the same since. Definitely without amaretti. I think a research trip is in order to get to the bottom of this. :biggrin:

  7. Why did I think the natural habitat for tortelli di zucca was Mantova (in Lombardia)?

    It IS the natural habitat of tortelli di zucca, the kind that contain amaretti and mostarda, but the food of that corner of Lombardia has a lot more in common with Emilia-Romagna than with, say, Milano. I always say the regional divisions are for the convenience of cookbook editors, who have 20 ready-made chapters, and that the gastronomic map would show very different divisions than the political.

    The natural habitat of the non-sweet tortelli di zucca is Ferrara, in Emilia-Romagna.

  8. Thanks again for the terminology help! I don't know anything about Italian food so trying to figure out what is what. I'm afraid I could not control my dad's preference for zite.

    Recall Marcella Hazan saying that fresh pasta is only really applicable for specific pasta styles, and zite isn't one of them. Should have remembered that. Do you know if Colline-Emiliane makes these in house or gets them from a factory?

    I do recall seeing a recipe (again from Marcella) for the tortelli with the amaretti cookies. I've had the sage w/brown butter preparation with the squash tortelli elsewhere in Rome. What is the more typical sauce for zucca tortelli?

    I have no insider knowledge about Colline Emiliane's suppliers, but would bet at least fifty cents that the pasta in your picture was bought. The restaurant's specialty is Emilian pasta sfoglia, the thin sheet of egg pasta, which can be cut into wide lasagne, narrower tagliatelle, or squares for making tortelli. The tubular shapes are not ordinarily made with eggs and are extruded, not rolled and cut. An exception would be the shapes that are made by rolling a piece of sheet pasta into a tube (garganelli are an example of this).

    As for the condiment for tortelli di zucca in Rome, there is nothing traditional because until about last week there was practically no place in Rome except Colline Emiliane that served them on a regular basis. In their natural habitat (Emilia-Romagna) they are usually served with melted butter (brown butter is not an Italian concept) and plenty of freshly grated parmigiano. Sage with melted butter is traditional in Rome over traditional Roman ricotta-spinach ravioli, which can also be served with simple tomato sauce. Both red and white versions are served with freshly grated parmigiano. I am guessing that the use of sage on the tortelli di zucca represents a conflation of the two traditions. I will have to find out if sage has actually been used for generations in Emilia-Romagna for this purpose.

  9. What is it with you and penne? Those are not penne in the picture. Penne are cut diagonally. I forget what they're called, zite maybe. Not fresh, exc in the sense of not stale. Why order them in the one of the only places in Rome that makes divine, genuine tagliatelle? BTW the region is Emilia-Romagna and the culatello is from Zibello. Next time somebody should try the lasagne verdi too.

    Now, pumpkin ravioli. You should be advanced enough so you ignore the English menu translations. They are called tortelli di zucca, and, again, come back in the winter. In summer, the owner told us once, they get a squash from Sardinia (source of very good stuff), but in winter they get the traditional, authentic squash from Emilia-Romagna. They offer two varieties of tortelli di zucca, Mantua-style, with amaretti and mostarda (really, they are all ground up but impart a sweetness), and Ferrara-style, which don't. I don't think I've ever seen them served with sage, which is how Romans serve ricotta-filled ravioli, so maybe there's something going on there I don't know about, but what your picture shows are ravioli only in the most generic sense. They are definitely tortelli.

    Marinated artichokes are universal, nothing to do with Rome. The fresh artichokes braised with mentuccia (not strictly a mint), no other herbs exc maybe parsley, were difficult to find because they have been out of season for at least three months. Come back in the winter and you'll see them coming and going.

  10. This is a great report. Almost makes me willing to give Otello another try. No it is not true about carbonara and the GIs. Vitello tonnato, aka vitel tonné is rare on menus in Rome these days, probably too much trouble, but I love it in summer. In Piedmont it is served as an antipasto in a much daintier version, with thin slices of rosy veal and delicate gobs of tuna sauce placed on top. The pasta with the octopus looks like linguine, but I can't really see well enough to say if it's anything more exotic. Your mom's penne alla carbonara are not penne but rigatoni. I give the Antica Enoteca a wide berth these days. It used to be total charm, but the food seems like an assembly from jars and packages (it has been a while and perhaps I am unjust), and the loud music is intolerable, or was last time I checked. Pollo alla diavola has pretty much disappeared, and it's a pity. It's an old-time trattoria standby.

  11. I took Maureeen Fant's book to Italy a few years ago and enjoyed it immensly. Now I am going again--Just to Rome this time--and have to buy another copy since mine is in tatters. Does anyone ( Ms. Fant??? ) have any updates of the material in the book--I know it has been a while since it was publishesd.

    When are you leaving? I have posted some half-baked updates on my web site, but at the moment it's rather a mess, with links that don't work. I'm just emerging from a year of too much traveling and too much very minute editorial work (may I here plug my translation of "Encyclopedia of Pasta" coming in the early fall from U of California Press?) and am hoping to stay put in August to catch up on updating the trattoria book, probably just for my site and probably just Rome, "Dictionary of Italian Cuisine," and similar stuff. I am deeply gratified by your loyalty to the book. Its publisher had no wish to revise.

  12. ...

    Anyone had any experience with Italian jars?

    I'm not a canner myself, but in our household we are big consumers of homemade jams made by other people, in exactly the jars you describe, which have never caused us a moment's concern, except occasionally getting them open. Surely the ladies at your local market or your neighbors will have some tips for you. Making jam sometimes seems a national sport.

  13. If you're at all thinking about pizza for this trip also, then I'll throw Sforno into the hat.  Its location may not be the best (near Cinecitta), but it's well worth the trip, in my opinion.  It's certainly the best pizza I've had in Rome, and for that matter, probably the best I've had outisde Napoli.

    Pizzarium was pretty good as well, but a completely different style.

    I am skeptical, in that I hardly believe any pizza is worth leaving my neighborhood for, or, better, that leaving one's neighborhood (or that of the friend you go with, or of the movie you have just seen) defeats the purpose. However, tell us if it's a reasonable walk from the Cinecittà metro station. If so, there's a chance I'll try it. And what do you mean "best outside Napoli"? Roman pizza is different, and you are condeming the whole genre.

    The different style of Pizzarium's pizza (as I know you know) is pizza al taglio, which is a native Roman pizza type, yeasty and baked in a pan. I think Pizzarium's is seriously fabulous, as do most people who have ever tasted it, and their pizza con patate, with potatoes from Avezzano, is a revelation. It is very near the Cipro metro station.

  14. Looks like I'll be in Rome with my family in July. We will be staying at the Hilton outside of town (I know, I know, we had the points, though!) I was wondering if I could get a few specific restaurant recommendations. We are extremely big on red meat and truly excellent seafood, and would like to focus on those areas. I think my parents would also very much enjoy visiting a couple of off-the-beaten path but really top notch little restaurants. Something distinctive, unique, so forth....

    We will also being going to Pompeii. Is there anything worth eating within easy reach of the ruins?

    Here's what I have so far...please let me know your opinions! This thread is a hell of a resource.

    La Pergola - This is going to be our blowout meal. (And so convenient from our hotel!)  Chowhound seems to think it's still worth it...thoughts?

    La Rosetta (seafood)


    Osteria Il Bocconcino

    For Pompeii, what I recommend (and you can search/download an article I wrote in the New York Times a few years ago with the details) is packing a little snack then having a serious meal at Il Principe in the modern town of Pompei. There are also plenty of other places to eat in Pompei. Logistically this means you leave the site by the amphitheater gate, not the one you entered (Porta Marina). There is also decent sustenance near the Porta Marina, but not fine dining. At the moment there is no food on the site.

    I don't get to La Pergola very often but am sure it's still wonderful. I don't like La Rosetta, not for the kitchen, which is superb, but for everything else. For fish we go to Tuna, on via Veneto, or else we get on a train and go to Anzio, to Pierino (that's your topnotch off-beaten-path). Mare on via Ripetta is supposed to be very good, but we haven't been yet. We have been to Matricianella and Il Bocconcino once each and disliked both. Bocconcino is near home so we should try again, but only out of duty, not because we really think we'd like it better. We found the food acceptable but great confusion between kitchen and room. It may have been an off-night, but my husband is an engineering professor and gets very nervous if he senses confusion anywhere near his dinner, so it's pretty much fatal for a restaurant. Red meat, as in rare steaks, is more a Tuscan thing than a Roman, but there are some Tuscan places that have good bistecche alla fiorentina. Occasionally you'll see tagliata on a menu, which is very rare steak sliced across the grain. But there is plenty of meat in Rome, mostly lamb. Al Ceppo, which I like very much, has a big fireplace where they grill meat. Checchino dal 1887 is all meat, very traditional, and one of the places we keep going back when we want to introduce visitors to cucina romana.

    For our own special occasions we keep going back to Il Convivio and Agata e Romeo. On our list to try is Antonello Colonna in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, not the downstairs but up, where he has transferred his Labico operation. Al Pagliaccio is also good.

    The Hilton isn't really outside of town, it's just outside the center. The area is called Monte Mario (or Montemario). It's inconvenient, but not beyond the reach of public transport and it's really very nice there.

  15. Definetely the Iberico Jamon of Beef.
    Can someone please 'splain me? Is it, like, turducken?

    I know this item at Volpetti (where I practically live), but am not aware they call it a jamon. It's a haunch of beef dried more or less like prosciutto and hand sliced like prosciutto. It's very good, but not "better than prosciutto," which, with all due respect, is a silly thing to say, there being so many varieties of prosciutto. I hope the OP tasted the cinta senese at Volpetti.

  16. At Volpetti... why would you eat "Iberico Jamon of Beef" in Rome?

    What makes "Iberico Jambon" so sexy? I don't associate sexy with a dish of ham.

    Why would a Roman food shop sell jamon iberico? Because even an Italian can admit that its better than prosciutto.

    Jamon iberico is not better than prosciutto. It's different, just as culatello is different from prosciutto (and of course then we get into which prosciutto) and different from jamon.

    Parole sante, fortedei!

  17. The service was terrible (20 minutes for the bill in a half empty room) and unprofessional. Just not good.

    Not unprofessional, just Roman. Most places will leave you alone with a digestif (or the whole bottle, if they liked you) until you ask for the check.

    I've found that a big difference between France and Italy is that in France, only in truckstops do you go and ask for the check and pay at the counter but in Italy it's common.

    It's only common when you simply can't sit there any longer. otherwise you are supposed to wait for the bill to be brought to you. The correct drill in a sit-down restaurant or trattoria is that even if you are the last people in the place and the staff is dying to go home, they will not give you the bill unless you ask for it. It is considered inhospitable. When you are ready, you ask for it and have every right to expect it within about five minutes. You might first be asked if you're sure you don't want anything else, but things should proceed apace. Once you are given the bill, you might be asked if you'd like a digestivo, which at that point is on the house.

    In traditional (non-computerized) places, the owner will calculate your bill, not the waiter or cashier -- this is also when any discounts for friends, etc., are applied at his discretion -- and he may be more backed up than you realize, which is one reason bills often take a long time to arrive. Another is, of course, distraction and lack of organization. When you absolutely can't stand it any longer, you can get up, waving your card or some money, and approach the cash desk, saying you have a train to catch.

  18. I started with L'Espresso, then shifted to the Gambero Rosso but for 2 years have preferred the Osterie guide.  However, I got into a heated discussion at the Gambero Rosso HQ in Rome with an Italian food-expert last week who insisted Gambero was still the best.  I too like Fred Plotkin's book.

    Gambero is probably still the best, used in conjunction with the SlowFood Osterie d'Italia, which covers a more limited range. However, the organization and graphics of Gambero give me the pip, plus they change every year, it seems, so that by the time you're used to it, you have to learn a new system. Also, Gambero gives lower scores to restaurants with conservative menus. There may be good reasons for this, but you get situations where a hey-let's-open-a-restaurant newcomer that is not all that good and a reliable classic have the same score. Then there are the cases where they don't sufficiently explain why a restaurant has a lower score than most readers would expect, and in general I find the writing has become less critical and perceptive and the whole thing a bit too insidery. We still go to Gambero first, but sometimes the scores make no sense to us (my husband is an engineer and likes numbers). Slow Food is pretty reliable for trattorias, but again the whole thing is getting very insidery. You just know who all their friends are. Still, we've had some super meals thanks to Osterie d'Italia. Bottom line is we look for consensus among several guides, including Michelin. I haven't bought L'Espresso in a few years but will probably start again.

  19. Thanks! Is it a priority to reserve at Matricianella?

    I actually thought about the Met but the usual finance issues are a problem. Most of the higher end restaurants I want to go to are in France. Much prefer peasant Italian food than peasant French food. Too heavy I think. Which is why I have stuck to lower end simpler food in Italy.

    Yes, reserve. You should reserve anywhere you really want to go to, but not too far in advance. Remember that most restaurants and trattorias are quite small.

  20. There's a Roman version I've done that has anchovies and chilies in the aromatic base and doesn't have the lemon at the end. It's like pasta e fagioli, only with chickpeas.

    Here's Pasta e Ceci from the Williams-Sonoma Rome book, based on the ristorante Paris recipe.


    Pasta e ceci


    - 1 lb dried chickpeas

    - 1 tablespoon baking soda

    - salt and freshly ground pepper

    - 6 cloves garlic, crushed

    - 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

    - 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

    - 1 14 oz can plum tomatoes

    - 2 boiling potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into narrow wedges

    - 1 small dried red chile

    - 1/2 lb tagliolini, broken into 2-inch pieces

    - 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsely, minced


    1. Pick over the chickpeas, discarding any grit or misshapen beans. Rinse well, place in a large bowl or pot, and add the baking soda, 1 tablespoon salt, and warm water to cover generously. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

    2. Drain the chickpeas and return them to the pot. Add cold water to cover generously, 2 teaspoons salt, and 2 of the garlic cloves and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low (making sure to maintain a gentle simmer) and cook, uncovered, until tender, at least 1–2 hours; the timing will depend on the age of the chickpeas. Remove from the heat and drain, reserving the cooking water; you should have at least 2 cups water.

    3. While the chickpeas are cooking, in a small frying pan over medium heat, warm the ½ cup olive oil. Add the remaining 4 garlic cloves and the rosemary and fry until the garlic is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Pour the oil through a fine-mesh sieve held over a soup pot, and discard the garlic and rosemary. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the potatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the chile, and place over low heat. Cook slowly until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.

    4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a bowl and mash with a fork. Return the potatoes to the pot over low heat, add the drained chickpeas and about 1 cup of the cooking water (or lightly salted tap water), and cook for about 30 minutes to blend the flavors. (the soup can be made up to this point, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

    5. If the soup is very dense, add more of the chickpea cooking water or some lightly salted water to thin it to a good consistency. Then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.

    6. Meanwhile, in a separate pot, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until very al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the soup. Cook, stirring to mix all the ingredients together, for 1–2 minutes longer.

    7. Ladle the soup into a warmed tureen or shallow rimmed bowls, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve at once. Pass the pepper mill and olive oil at the table.


    SOURCE: Williams-Sonoma, Rome


  21. Hello All:

    My wife and I are traveling to Rome this May and will be staying at the Westin Excelsior Via Vittorio Veneto, 125, 00187 Roma.  I am beginning to put together the food itinerary and was wondering if there were any gems nea the hotel? 


    Just returned from dinner at Tuna, near the bottom of via Veneto, and think it's just great. It is now officially "our" fish place.

    I don't hang around via Veneto much, but around Piazza Barberini (just at the bottom of the street) is Chinappi (also fish), Tullio (classic Tuscan), and a bit farther down, Le Colline Emiliane (Emilian trattoria).

  22. I'm confused. Is one supposed to remove the marrow prior to braising the shanks, use it in the risotto, and not have it in the braise?

    No. The marrow stays in the ossobuco till the diner scoops it out and eats it, possibly spread on a piece of bread. The idea that Marcella would remove it from the ossobuco for another use is what amazed me. This is possibly because she felt Americans wouldn't eat it in the ossobuco anyway, but in that case, they are unlikely to remove it from a yucky raw bone and make risotto. So I dunno. But yes, you do keep it in the ossobuco the whole time.

  23. If you do get the marrow out, Marcella Hazan recommends using it in the risotto milanese in place of pancetta.

    Sometimes Marcella amazes me. Most people I know think the marrow is the whole point of ossobuco, and risotto alla milanese requires marrow all the time, not just when you have ossobuco. Marrow was banned during the mad cow crisis, and I'm not sure whether it was ever restored. The national consternation was on a par with the reaction to the restrictions on the bistecca alla fiorentina. I'm not sure whether Padanian separatism got stronger around that time, but it wouldn't surprise me. :biggrin: Ossobuco disappeared for a while, but shanks were not in the danger zone of the animal.

  24. Quick note on the spelling and terminology.

    Osso buco and ossobuco are correct, the latter more usual. What you can't have is two c's.

    Slkinsey is right (no surprise) that the whole shank is called stinco.

    The marrow spoon sometimes served with ossobuco is called an esattore ("tax collector"!), but both the spoon and the term are very hard to find nowadays.

  25. I moved to Sicily with my girlfriend in September. Since we are not going to be able to make it back to the States for the holidays, we decided to take a cheap flight up to Rome for four days, arriving on Christmas Eve. I haven't been to Rome before, so I'm not sure what will be open and what won't on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - does anyone more familiar with the city have any suggestions on what to do, and also more importantly, where you would suggest we eat? Thanks in advance for your help!

    I've been looking into that myself, since we're more or less orphaned this year, but the few I've called are all closed on the 24th and 25th. However, the hotel restaurants are open, and some of these are very good. I also got an email press release yesterday about a new multifunction place called Convoglia, near stazione Termini, www.convoglia.it. The proper restaurant isn't open yet but they have a Christmas brunch and I forget what else. There are also web sites that list a few places that are open; two that I know of are diningcity.com/rome and ristorantidiroma.it.

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