Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nonna Vicenza Pasticceria

DSC04751 DSC04712

Prior to our most recent trip to Rome, it seemed prudent to look up the address of the apartment we would be renting and take a look at the neighborhood. As I studied the Google map, small icons appeared and when clicked they revealed the names of the restaurants, churches and stores. Furthermore, some revealed links to reviews for various sources such as Google and TripAdvisor. I was hooked and started looking at various eateries; that's when I spotted Nonna Vicenza's.

DSC04742 DSC04713DSC04729 DSC04714DSC04727 DSC04731DSC04736 DSC04735DSC04737 DSC04728DSC04722 DSC04723       

Sicilian through and through it carries cannoli, cassata, those traditional replicas of fruit made from almond paste, and other classic Sicilian pastries. Housed in a shop with dark wood wainscoting, and large wood and glass cases, this shop exudes warmth and old world charm.

DSC04741 DSC04726

There's also a small cart filled with artisanal gelati. The pistachio is so nut laden that it looks more like a nut butter than an ice cream. That is the precise description of an outstanding pistacchio gelati.

DSC04711 DSC04715

As we sat there for breakfast on Sunday morning, they usually serve cornetti (croissants) and brioche, but we went for the cannoli and beignets, I couldn't help but notice all the tourists walking in to take a look, then turn around and leave without making a purchase. What? This proved one heck of a missed opportunity. My guess was that they were all on automatic pilot due to jet lag. In hindsight, perhaps they were just taking a look because they knew they would be back, which is in truth what I myself had done.

DSC04733 DSC04724DSC04725 DSC04730DSC04738 DSC04739 DSC04743 DSC04748DSC04744 DSC04745   

Besides the classic Sicilian pastries, Nonna Vicenza also offers artisan crackers, liqueur, one off cakes, brioche, filled beignets, cannoli with several filling choices, chocolates and cakes. In earlier photos you will notice that preserves, almond and pistachio pastes, syrups and non chocolate candies are also available.

Nonna Vicenza Website

Via Arco del Monte, 98a/98b
Rome Italy
+39 06 92 59 43 22

Monday, October 28, 2013

Osteria Merlone


Since we were staying in the Campo Dei Fiore neighborhood of Rome, we made a decision to try restaurants in the area that were new to us. This was a tough call, because it meant we would not be going back to La Carbonara, one of our favorite restaurants in the city. Luckily, we stumbled across Osteria Merlone on Via Dei Cappillari, just north of the Campo. Each time we walked past it we saw the menu that promised their grandmother's recipes for the main dishes. It's not easy to pass up a classic Nonna dish, so we finally walked in on our last evening in Rome. Had we known that Nonna Merlone was from Le Marche, we wouldn't have waited. We were expecting something less than outstanding, so were pleasantly surprised when our dinner arrived.

DSC05460 DSC05462

Although the restaurant was new as of October 2013, the family has been in the restaurant business long enough to know how to create a pleasant atmosphere with good service. They own Taverna Lucifero next door, their restaurant that specializes in fondue. I asked if they shared the kitchen, but they do not, although the bar at Lucifero seems much larger and the Scotch we ordered was walked through a small doorway in the shared wall of the two spaces. It was a pleasure to be served a bread basket that included grissini (breadsticks) that did not come in a plastic package.

DSC05461 DSC05465

Our first indication of a non average menu was the appearance of a croquette made with eggplant. The flavor was very nice but the contrast in textures made this antipasto stand out.


Wish I could remember the name of this pasta dish, but it's their specialty, so it will surely be on the menu. Composed of sausage, porcini mushrooms and a cream sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano, it was an outstanding example of Northern Italian cuisine. It made me want to visit Le Marche to see if this was a classic dish or Nonna Merlone's exclusive creation.

DSC05469 DSC05471

When in Rome, if you want to eat like the Romans, Veal Saltimboca has to be on your radar. The combination of savory tasting sage, prosciutto and veal is a revelation. I can't see how anyone could be satisfied with a veal roast or Veal Milanese after trying this dish with it's rich pan gravy. Rosemary roasted potatoes proved to be a good side dish pairing for it; a comfort food if ever I tasted one.


Osteria Merlone's stewed rabbit may have been plated less elegantly than other's I've eaten. It may have seemed over loaded with carrots and under represented by tomatoes or any other ingredients with contrasting color, of which there were none, but it was delicious. Braised to complete tenderness, this interpretation of a classic was generously portioned and nicely done.


When asked about dessert, we confessed that we were too full, but that did not stop the restaurant from giving us candies, meringues and dessert wine. With generosity like this, Osteria Merlone, only a few weeks old on our first visit, should be around for a very long time.

Via Dei Cappillari next door to #28
Rome Lazio Italy            
no website found

Sunday, October 27, 2013

New Asia Restaurant

DSC05496 DSC05495
For some reason, when I hear the word Asia in a restaurant name I think of Chinese food, or even Japanese food, but very seldom do I put together the idea of India producing an Asian cuisine. No matter what you call it, it's undeniable that New Asia serves good Indian food at prices that won't blow your travel budget. They serve quite a variety of cuisines from different regions of India including recipes that represent these styles; Balti, Vindaloo, Korma and a variety of others that I have yet to see on other Indian restaurant menus that I find in the U.S. The restaurant was styled in a manner that was adequate for the customer base, tourists. There were linens on the tables, and artwork on the walls. The lighting was soft and set a nice mood, but the tables were a bit close. We had a choice of two restaurants for Indian food that evening, One was a take out/eat in restaurant, very modern and spare, while the other was New Asia which just looked more appealing.
We decided to split an appetizer and selected a very simple fried shrimp. It was more than we had expected and admittedly better looking. The two shrimp were butterflied and battered together with a breadcrumb surface that was fried and crispy.
I'm a big fan of the Korma style of cooking, I really enjoy the coconut and mild flavors. I've tried it in several countries and have discovered that it's different everywhere. It seems to be prepared differently in each country, As though there was a confederation of Indian restaurant owners who set a standard for each community. This time, I decided I had to go out of my comfort zone and try different things, as long as I had this opportunity that presented so many new options. We didn't stray too far, as we found ourselves ordering Vegetable Korma. It was, however, the first time that we have ordered it without chicken or lamb, and I found it less flavorful. Some Korma sauces are heavy on cashews, while others are predominantly coconut based. This one was definitely a coconut based Korma sauce. Now I find it very confusing to identify Korma sauce at all.
DSC05505 DSC05509
My dining companion, cannot break his habit of ordering Lamb Vindaloo. Even after being cautioned by the waiter that Vindaloo is very hot in England, he went ahead, and ordered it. All I can say is, his very large bottle of Cobra beer and a glass of water were gone in a very short period of time. DSC05504 DSC05507
To break the Korma habit I asked about something on the menu that I never saw before, and since it was described as being medium hot I decided to give it a try. Bhuna Gosht turned out to be delicious over the steamed rice. It was made with lamb in a tomato sauce with a very large amount of shredded onions that were not overcooked. They still had a little resistance in them, which added a very nice texture to the dish overall. The heat was noticeable, yet tolerable. No beer needed, although I did have a mango lassi available if needed.
DSC05501 DSC05502
I don't think one can dine in an Indian restaurant without ordering naan. We decided on the garlic naan, and to continue on the idea of trying something new, we also ordered a Peshwari naan filled with coconut. Not too much coconut, just enough to flavor it. It really was a delight to use this to enjoy the last of the Korma sauce; they were perfect partners. 

7 Hogarth Place
London SW5 England
Earl's Court Tube

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dar Filettaro A Santa Barbara

DSC05425 DSC05438

We consider ourselves lucky to have friends in Rome. On the evening that we met Alessandra and Michela, we had decided to take them to the Fillatteria Di Santa Barbara, a restaurant we've been meaning to go to every time we travel to Rome. We had been trying to make time for trying it for the entire two weeks that we were in Rome and only managed it on the second to the last evening. We were very pleased that we finally tried their fried baccala made from dried cod that had been soaked in water for three days. It was extraordinary.


Baccala was nothing new to any of us. Both my husband's grandmother and mine had spoken of it, and the girls had eaten it all their lives. I had finally put myself into the right head space to give it a whirl in Portugal, many years ago, but it was stringy, and very fishy in taste and I swore I would never eat it again. Learning its history in Norway gave me a greater appreciation of it, so I was willing to give it one more shot, though a bit begrudgingly. What a revelation! We loved its fresh taste and thought the texture was not unlike that of fresh caught fish. The batter was crisp too, and all was right with the world.


Dar Filettaro has a very interesting menu. It was extremely limited, and every item on it cost exactly five euro. The first thing the waiter asked upon arriving at our table, was how many pieces of baccala? Each piece was 5 euro. If we wanted salad, which was the traditional Roman salad composed of chicory and anchovy you paid another 5 euro. I wanted to try the giardinaria, pickled, grilled vegetables. That added an additional 5 euros. Fried zucchini anyone? Another 5 euro.

DSC05430 DSC05433 DSC05432

All in all, it was still the cheapest dinner that we ate in Rome, considering the number of people that were eating. Everyone had a good meal, everyone was full, and each of us has plans to return to this Roman institution of fried food. I'm grateful to report that the bread seemed to be gratis, but this was a no frills operation, as is evidenced by the, I use the term loosely, napkins. That did not deter the long line of people waiting at the door to get inside.

DSC05428 DSC05440 


Largo dei Librari 88
Rome, Lazio Italy
06 6864018

No Website