Sunday, 7 May 2017

Food in Rome, Italy

I never expected my first long haul flight is to Italy, Rome. Thanks to my company for sponsoring my short little holiday, I get the luxury of sharing some of the food I tried over there. It's a tour so there's hits and misses but overall, it's a good experience and I enjoyed myself.

One of the key highlight dinner of the first night was the visit to 1 Star Michelin Restaurant, Antonella Colonna. The venue presented a romantic ambiance complete with a musician playing the Harp. Food wise, I believed that this menu is special to my company but we can assess the skill of the chef from the quality of food. It's definitely not catered to an Asian palette so those used to Asian food might find difficulty appreciating the fine dining offered. I found the food to be technically astute. It's however, nothing out of this world in terms of flavour, neither was it memorable. The foie gras was well prepared, flavoured and goes very well with the pan brioche with the appropriate textures. I found the seabass fresh and soft but the chips were a mixture of crispy and non crispy. The risotto which everyone has much to complain about had fat plump rice grains but it was a little too hard. So even if the the creamy balance was just right, it made it hard to finish... 1 michelin star for ambiance perhaps?

Antonella Colonna 
Via Milano, 9a, 00184 Roma Italy

My company arranged a pizza making session at iL Pomodorino with its in-house pizza master. The experience was kinda fun. Besides being able to eat the pizza we made, we were treated to a seafood feast of fried calamari & shrimp, seafood salad, sliced bruschetta with salmon and sliced pizza for starters. I like the appetizers, guess you can't go too wrong with fried food. Italian bread all seems hard like rocks but this is a consistent fixture so it's probably cultural. For mains, we had chicken escalope with lemon cream and spaghetti with clams. Both were lightly flavoured but they are generally well cooked. My favourite of the day was the Millefoglie with chantilly cream and hot chocolate sauce. The dessert was flaky, crispy and flavour was just right. I appreciated the cold dessert mixed with hot chocolate and I liked it that it didn't feel like eating a lump of sugar unlike some unskilled desserts I've tried in Rome. This is one of my more enjoyable tour food.

iL Pomodorino
Via Campania, 45E, 00187 Roma, Italy

Tre Scalini was my favourite restaurant organised by the tour. Apart from good food, it also has a strong history being the oldest restaurant in Piazza Navona, since the 1950s. The history stretches beyond its vintage but also its location. It overlooks Bernini's Fountain of Four Rivers, one of Europe's leading sculptors at that time. The risotto which I recalled as the mark of good Italian food was executed perfectly here. The rice  was just right, the broth wasn't too creamy, yet rich in flavour and made the entire meal easy to eat. This is the place to go if you want to know how the right texture of risotto should taste like. The spicy penne pasta in tomato sauce was great too with the pasta cooked till al dente and the spiciness coming out right after you bite into the food. I didn't enjoy the chicken breast served with asparagus cream too much because the chicken was a tad overcooked. It's worth noting that I enjoy how Italians prepare the vegetables with it being boiled till soft and easy to eat. We also tried the trademark Tartufo which is bascially chocolate ice cream truffle. It's rich in chocolate and gelato smoothness made entirely from 13 different types of Swiss chocolates. No regrets putting on the calories at all!

Tre Scalini
Piazza Navona, 30-35, 00186 Roma, Italy

Berzitello Ristorante is a restaurant I shortlisted on my own. This apparently is where the locals frequent and away from the tourist spots. The meal apparently brought out satisfaction from my companions as well as it's far more authentic Italian food and much better quality control. I enjoyed my Fettucini with Shrimp which was cooked till al dente. It also debunked the belief that Italians like to cook their pasta slightly harder than home... it's just those earlier restaurants besides Tre Scalini which have this weird habit. This one felt very much at home. The flavour was rich and the taste lingered in my mouth long after I finished which is a mark of good food. I also heard my colleague 'who eats to live' praise her fish dish which she felt was flavourful, tender and fresh. The pizza texture was just right, but generally, I don't think pizzas can go too wrong in Italy. This excellent meal cost only 55 Euros, who says you need to spend a bomb for good food?

Berzitello Ristorante
Via Delle Quattro Fontane, 32, 00184 Roma, Italy

One thing bad about a tour schedule is the rush. I was planning to go to more than 1 shortlisted restaurants but the lack of time prevented us from hunting for more quality food. I do agree that the occasional spontaneous hop in to random restaurants will yield their own interesting finds. Doveralu Cafe is one such place. The giant seabass you see in the photo was fresh and delicious that my boss ordered 1 more. The ravioli with spinach was very generously prepared and I appreciated that the cream sauce complemented the dish well. I found the pizza very interesting because half was meat and half was veggie. Just like the one at Berzitello Ristorante, I find it faultless. Pasta again debunked the theory that Italian pastas are cooked harder... I particularly enjoyed the mushroom infused flavour that came with the shrimp and tiger prawns. While the food isn't out of this world, it's a much better representation of Italian food.

My advice to tourists in Rome, to visit restaurants packed with people during meal times and off peak hours. Those are the safe bets and where locals eat. You save on your pocket and you pamper your stomach.

Via Nazionale, 215, 00184 Roma, Italy