Ah, Rome. You were brash, loud, hot, and frenetic. And just what we were hoping for.
You had so much to offer, and it felt as though we saw so little of you. And it’s true we complained about you. And maybe you, who are old and wise might have been this coming. Remember back when we were cold and complaining in the early part of our trip? But it’s like you knew, and you laughed and you turned up the heat. All the way up to 40. Every day. Remember Belgium? I would say to Nolan. And we would laugh as little beads of sweat trickled down our backs and we find shelter from the blistering sun and constant stream of exhaust smoke and scooter noise in the shade of a tree. That smells like pee.
Yes, Rome, your trees and your roads and alleyways all smell a bit like pee. But it’s part of your charm and we got used to it. For the most part.
And your heat didn’t even get us down. We built in a siesta to our days; so we drank your coffees and saw your sights in the mornings and then again in the later afternoon. And then we ate your food. With great relish. It was as though every meal we had, we exclaimed, No wait! THAT was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Just barely remembering having said it before only hours ago. And then we would repeat again the following day with every meal.
But I will say, that after we had one meal we stopped saying that anything else was better. Or at least I did. I want to dedicate all my culinary skills and training into recreating you, even though I know you won’t be the same. Or even come close. But here’s to you, Cacio e Peppe. I only got in this one photo, and it was a very after afterthought.
See how Nolan can’t even put the fork down for one second for me to take the photo? See how much more of the Cacio e Peppe we’ve eaten than the excellent-though-not-as-good Bucatini all’Amatraicanna? I don’t want to put too fine a point on this people, but this was seriously the best thing I’ve ever eaten. And I’m not sure the photo does it any justice, but see that bowl that the pasta is sitting in? That bowl, friends, is a bowl that’s made entirely out of parmesan cheese. Genius. Pure genius.
It’s the kind of meal you really don’t talk about partly because it just can never do it justice. And partly it’s because you would then have to admit, after having said “Oh yeah, this is a once in a blue moon kinda meal” after loosing guessing at the 8,000 calories you just consumed, that in fact you go back 3 nights later for the SAME meal again. I’ve got, what? Six months to a year to loose the “baby” fat? I think I just added on a few solid weeks. But Rome, you were worth it. Who in their right mind counts calories in a city like you, anyway?
And just to be clear, the Cacio e Peppe was certainly a mind-blowing dish, but the experience eating lunch in that little side street gem in Bologna felt much more special. Not that I’m trying to hierarchize such things, and not that it’s at all important to rate our meals, but it’s interesting to note the difference between a special meal and a special dish. And maybe the point is that, Italy, you gave us both.
Also, this pizza.
It was a Roman style pizza, from Pizzeria Da Remo – with a super thin, burnt crust that bore more resemblance to a Carr’s cracker than a springy / doughy style of Neopolitan pizza. The place was packed and loud with fluorescent lights and paper table cloths and tables squished so close together my burgeoning belly had a tough time navigating the labyrinth of chairs and wildly-gesticulating patrons and tables to sit. The waiters (all older men) joked and flirted loudly with us and a little girl from the next table just came right over and sat down with us, grabbed a bit of crust from my plate and started munching away, while rambling on to us in Italian. Of which we understood none. Having only spent a week in Rome, I might be off here, but it felt like a very quintessential Roman experience and one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.
Oh, Rome. Thank you. My belly and my soul left you, reluctantly, but satisfied. My only regret is that I feel as though we barely scratched the surface of all you have to offer. But we wandered your streets, we saw your ruins, we ate ourselves slightly delirious. And we’ll be back.