Hi from Rick: Eating Well in Rome
|Italians know how to dine right: Food comes with quality and a fun-loving waitstaff rather than looks and speed.|
Airline passengers don't applaud anymore upon landing in Europe. In my mind, I still do. I'm in Rome, just over jet-lag, celebrating a city that just keeps getting better, and learning lots as I begin a two-month research trip.
With the help of local friends and guides, I'm eating better than ever. Vignarola — a dish combining artichoke, peas, and fava beans with bacon — is on the menus. Fine restaurants serve it only during a perfect storm of seasonality, when all the ingredients are bursting with flavor. This year, vignarola has arrived sooner than ever. In fact, the early spring is bringing confusion to Roman eaters...old-timers can't remember ever seeing vignarola on the menu before Easter.
My Italian friends, never gentle with me, have strong opinions about eating right. They observe, "American food has to travel a great distance, look good, and be available all year. Italian food does none of that...just taste good. We Italians have never seen apples with wax. In America, even lemons are shiny with wax. For Italians, your lemons are too uniform. And Americans can't wait in a restaurant. They eat bread dipped in oil before the first plate comes, as if to escape the actual meal. Talk, sip your wine, relax. The real food is coming...and worth the wait." At the new restaurants I've discovered for my Rome guidebook, that's especially true.
Throughout this spring and summer, I'll be reporting European experiences and observations like this one in my online journal. Via this blog, I'd love to sneak you into my backpack. I hope you'll enjoy the ride.
This month's Travel News comes with my first blog installments, as well as articles on Paris' grand Champs-Elysées boulevard, communist artifacts in Berlin, my favorite small town in Holland, the seaside Basque city of San Sebastián, and Switzerland's idyllic Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Join me for some happy travels. And remember: Sometimes ugly food is tastier.