Between a busy day touring the Vatican City and a fun night out exploring the Trastevere neighborhood, day two was filled with many small bites and only one actual meal. My M.O. was to try as many foods as possible, so I preferred this anyway!
Our Air BnB hooked us up with free breakfast at the café next door, Giselda, where we enjoyed the classic Italian breakfast: cornetti and cappuccino. This is essentially Italy’s version of what we’re used to in Spain (croissants and cafe con leche) except way better of course because everything is better in Italy. While croissants are made with just butter, cornetti also have egg, sugar, vanilla, and orange and lemon zest in them. This creates a unique sweetness that hints of panettone. The accompanying cappuccino was a really pleasant change from my go-to latte. Cappuccinos, for those who need a refresher, are made with a higher espresso to milk ratio ( 😀 ) – 1:1 versus 1:2. And while lattes are made with steamed milk, in a cappuccino the milk is frothed into a “microfoam” where tiny bubbles are formed by forcing hot air into the tightly-knit molecular “fabric” of the milk proteins. The smoother, sweeter drink that results is my latest obsession!
Another treat we enjoyed from Giselda (later that day) was what looked like the ultimate donut hole. It was absolutely scrumptious; the delicate crunch of the sliced almonds with the dense, moist, chocolate-y interior… too good! The texture was similar to a chunk of raw cookie dough (not that I’ve ever eaten that…). We asked the employee twice what it was called but she just answered “almonds” so we awkwardly nodded and thanked her 😛 But if anyone knows what these are called, please comment!
Somewhere in the middle of our full day of Vatican sightseeing, we had lunch at Ristorante Arlù just outside of St. Peter’s Square. For aperitivo, we chose the burrata without hesitation, having seen pictures of this cheese truffle online. It’s a ball with an outer layer that is made from mozzarella cheese and a center of fresh, stringy curd and cream. When you cut it open and the milky, creamy center spills out – THAT’S AMORE. Sop it all up with a warm ciabbata roll – you’re in love. 😉
In our usual fashion, we ordered two entrees to share – risotto and gnocchi. Pizza and pasta tend to steal the spotlight, but Italy is also known for their great risotto and we both really wanted to try authentic hand-made gnocchi!
The gnocchi were surprisingly different than I had expected – we didn’t receive a bowl of ribbed, oblong pieces. The gnocchi we were served were small, plain spheres clearly hand-rolled and they were delightfully lighter and fluffier than any gnocchi I’ve ever had, restaurant or store-bought. Ours were covered in a spinach sauce and topped with fresh ricotta cheese. Yum! It was certainly filling but not heavy; unlike the uncomfortable way a bowl of dense, processed gnocchi can make you feel.
I’m sorry to say this, but I won’t lie – the pumpkin and truffle risotto we ordered was a disappointment. Danielle and I now refer to it as ‘The Great Risotto Letdown of 2016’ 😛 It was not creamy, and it was extremely bland. The pumpkin scraps were flavorless, the rosemary was a strange addition, and the truffles they promised were essentially just a garnish. Definite thumbs down, but that just made our next rice-based bite all the more satisfying!
Supplí and arancini are terms I’ll admit I didn’t know before this trip. I’ve only known them as “rice balls.” But we heard amazing things about this traditional street food, so that night we stopped by Trip Advisor’s #1 place in Trastevere, I’Supplí, to snag some. (The staff here was SO nice, and it was really cool to observe other twenty-somethings stop in to grab some supplí to-go as they headed out on the town. It was clear that one of them was good friends with an employee which just added to the familial, joyful feeling of Rome.) I think croquetas are to Spain as supplí are to Italy – and I love them both. The delicate outside is perfectly crisp; once again, the tomato sauce was to die for, and to top it off, a dollop of hot mozzarella that stretches out of the center when you take a bite.
After passing multiple gelaterias along our travels that night, we eventually caved at Fior di Luna (“moonflower” 🙂 ) where I tried a cone with two more flavors: Fair Trade dark chocolate and hazelnut. It was divine. The dark chocolate was especially exquisite – the cacao tasted so pure and you could just tell it was high-quality.
I could have wandered around Trastevere all night. My goodness I have never been in a more charming, picturesque location in my whole life. Winding cobblestone streets lined with beautifully eccentric buildings, small square tables with red and white gingham tablecloths under wrought iron trellises dripping with twists of ivy, everyone drinking wine by candlelight and twisting pasta around their forks… AH it seriously felt like I was dreaming.
But that wraps up Day 2’s eats. And on the third day, God created pasta ❤ No but really, we FINALLY indulged in the nation’s most famous dish, and it did not disappoint!!
More to come!