Good eats in Amalfi and Rome ~~ July 8, 2017

Amalfi coast

We are off the ship now. It was lovely, lovely, lovely, but it’s great to be in Rome. I am eager to go home in a couple of days. This vacation was exactly the right length, but that will be another blog post at another time. This one is mostly food.

Yesterday (still on the ship) we took a tour in Amalfi to the Emerald Grotto. It was kind of a nice boat ride to get there but much ado about nothing when we arrived.

Scenes from the grotto-bound boat
More Amalfi coast

Lots of famous people live here. The guide said this is Sophia Loren’s house
The roads to get there do not bear close examination

Compared to the Diros Caves we visited outside Sparta, this was not very impressive. One big cave with some bluish light filtering in. I know emeralds. Emeralds are a friend of mine. And believe me, Grotto, you’re no emerald! Very anticlimactic.

Emerald Grotto. Maybe the pariaba tourmaline grotto

However, there was lunch. After a little internet research we decided to stop at the Ristorante Marina Grande, right in the center of the Amalfi seashore (that way we didn’t have to take a taxi on any of those hair-raising roads along the coast.)


It was a brilliant choice. We were early enough to get a perfect seat right next to the beach where many, many bodies were being broiled.

Broilers

We however were in cool shade, indulging in a fabulous lunch.

Us

It started with a gift from the chef — a few mouthfuls of spelt salad with mozzarella that was delicious. The kind of amuse you want a whole bowl of.

Spelt salad. I covet these plates

Jerry and I ordered the same first course — salt cod in chickpea purée with “zucchini blossom chips.” The cod was perfect and the chickpea purée was not hummus, just pure chick peas with the crispness of well seasoned dried zucchini blossoms. I don’t know why it worked but, bingo! It did.

Salt cod, chickpea purée, zucchini flower chips

I also ordered a langoustine with pumpkin purée because it had an eggplant ball with it. (We’ve been through all the eggplants don’t have balls jokes, thank you very much.). It was fine, but the least splendid part of the lunch, although still splendid.

Langoustine, eggplant ball

For main courses we split two dishes: the finest eggplant Parmesan I have ever had the pleasure to eat and linguini with zucchini and basil oil. Both were great but that eggplant, my God! I have tried to figure out what was so good about it and I think it must be ingredients. This place was all about Slow Food and mentioned the provenance of the ingredients where possible. So the cheeses, the sauce, the eggplant itself were all perfection. It also didn’t try to do too much. Two slices of lightly breaded, fried eggplant sandwiching some lovely mozzarella with savory sauce and parmesan on top.

Best eggplant parm ever — pretty good for a fish place!
Linguini, zucchini, basil oil. Wow.

Anyway, yum.

I ordered the millefeuille with lemon cream and fruit for dessert but before it arrived we got the pre-dessert: an astoundingly intense scoop of peach mousse with a luscious strawberry stuck in it. Essence of peachness and strawberriness.

Pre-dessert (a concept we should all adopt) of peach mousse

My millefeuille was really, really good. Not made with puff pastry but with fried (I think) pastry layers slathered with lemon cream and fruit.

The actual dessert

Great last day onboard’s off board lunch. 😊

Leaving Amalfi in our wake, and on to Rome and, soon, home. It’s time

We got packed up early yesterday and had a leisurely early morning and met our driver on time. One of our drivers, I should say. Due to a travel planning SNAFU, we actually were met by TWO drivers for the hour or so ride into Rome. Still trying to straighten that out.

The stress-out over that and the strange mealtime of early morning breakfast threw my stomach or my pancreas or something into a tizzy. I was in a fair amount of pain, took some enzymes and a pain pill and choked down a protein bar and took a nap. I was out for about two hours and woke up seriously sick. More pain pills and waited it out and eventually felt marginally better.

Make the face a little greener

Cautiously, we decided to keep our dinner reservation at Piperno in the Jewish quarter. It is one of several places renowned for their fried artichokes, a specialty of the neighborhood, and I was determined to eat one. Really determined.

Piperno

We had booked a seat outdoors and it was a lovely place to eat, in a tiny secluded piazza. Our reservations were for an unfashionable 8:00 which made us the first ones there, though by the time we left the place was packed, largely with locals.

Happy girl
Happy boy

We started with two artichokes each. Yes, that’s a lot, but I didn’t want to share. I have read and dreamed about these artichokes for decades, made them myself with baby artichokes, but never had a full adult sized artichoke fried until the outer leaves were crispy chips and the heart was an unctuous, melting joy.

Worth dreaming about for decades

They were all I’d dreamed of. Absolutely delicious — full of artichoke flavor but also a combination of textures that kept the mouth on its toes (so to speak.). It was heavenly.

Fried artichokes, salty, crispy, melty flowers of bliss
Fried artichokes, inside out
Fried artichokes, gone

I also ordered fried zucchini because ordering too much food is what I do. It was fine. Not earthshaking, like the artichokes.

 

Fried zucchini. We barely touched it, but it was good

Our main courses were pasta. Tagliolini with tomato sauce for me, perfect after the richness of the artichoke. Jer had the pasta carbonara because it is supposed to be good. It was — incredibly rich with egg, strong Parmesan, and crispy lardons.

Tagliolini with tomato sauce. Simple comfort after a rich start
Carbonara, bacon and eggy pasta, done right

We split an order of slivered artichokes sautéed in garlic and oil — meaty and good but eating the bristly choke, no matter how cooked and crunchy, took some getting used to. Artichoke whiskers kept getting stuck in my teeth. Yummy though.

Artichokes, sautéed with garlic and parsley

And we also had a green salad and it was a masterpiece. Some of the best tomatoes I’ve had in ages and perfectly dressed with olive oil and vinegar. It was simple and fantastic.

Salad, perfectly dressed, heavenly tomatoes

It was finally getting dark and the patch of sky above us was a deep blue velvet.

Blue velvet sky

Under the emerging moon and stars we split dessert — fraise de bois with vanilla gelato. Again, knocked out of the park. The strawberries were super intense, the combination magic. Fragrant, sweet essence of strawberries and cream. I shouldn’t eat ice cream and though the ship had ice cream opportunities all over, I abstained. But this! I am glad I broke the rules. Just beyond the imagination.

Fragoline con gelato

Piperno was definitely a good choice. Filled with laughing, chattering locals, great service, terrific food. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Strolled home in the moonlight by the river. A glorious evening, even if it did take pain meds to make it happen.

More Us, Rome

Hello Rome! It’s been a long, long time, but I am so happy to be back.

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