Thursday, April 26, 2018

La Matricianelli, traditional Roman cuisine in the heart of Rome

Parlo and I were traveling to Sicily for the annual Contrade dell'Etna (her first, my third), an en primeur event wherein the latest vintages of participating producers are tasted by attendees. As it "worked out," we had some time between arriving at Fiumicino Rome International Airport and leaving for Catania Airport in Sicily so we decided to travel into central Rome for a proper meal.

We traveled in from Fiumicino to the Termini in Rome via the Leonardo Express, a trip scheduled for 28 minutes and costing $28/person round trip (Don't worry, the train never leaves on time and the journey always exceeds the scheduled travel duration. I have reached this conclusion after making the round trip twice within the space of a week.). The seating is comfortable with large windows (if you get the right seats) providing a view of the world beyond the train as you trundle in. Good luck in your battles with fellow travelers seeking to position their luggage strategically.

Once the decision was made to go into Rome, I contacted Brandon Tokash (my long-time, Mt-Etna-based friend) to get restaurant recommendations (Though domiciled on Mt. Etna, love pulls him to Rome almost every weekend). He recommended La Matricianella (Roma Via del Leone, 4) as (i) it was a great restaurant that specialized in Roman cuisine and (ii) had an awesome wine list. He also mentioned that it was close to both the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Great. I get to combine great food and wine with a little bit of history and sightseeing.

At Rome Termini, I purchased tickets that would allow us to travel the three stops to the Spanish Steps.We had stayed at a hotel at the top of the Steps on a visit a few years ago and that all came roaring back as we stepped into the piazza. We walked around for a bit and took some pictures, all while attempting to evade the masses of tourists and outstretched iPhones. Then it was off to finding the restaurant and banishing the hunger pangs.

Parlo resting at the Spanish Steps

The restaurant was closed when we arrived at 11:30 am. We saw someone inside and beckoned her over. Without waiting for our question, she pointed to a sign which clearly said that the restaurant would open for meals at 12:30 pm. Bummer. We could have gone on to another spot but I was intrigued by the place; and every retail shop that we stepped into reassured us that Matricianella was the place where we wanted to have lunch.

So we had some time to kill. We first tried shopping, but our hearts weren't into it. We needed to take the edge off the hunger. A little piazza with open-air seating beckoned from up ahead. And we responded. We plunked ourselves into the nearest open seats and ordered glasses of champagne.

At 12:20, we headed back to Matricianella. The doors opened promptly at 12:30 and they validated our outside seating choice. Other patrons were now arriving at a fairly rapid rate and it was not too long until they were turning people away. We were convinced; this was a place with a reputation.

It was a nice, warm day and the outside seating afforded us the opportunity of seeing shoppers, tourists, and business people scurrying back and forth on the street.

The food and wine menus were brought to our table at this time. The food menus features locally sourced ingredients that are presented either as a part of the extensive standing menu or as daily specials. The massive wine list -- 2.5 to 3 inches thick -- featured wines from every Italian wine region. It made for great reading. We started off with a bottle of Gosset Brut Grande Reserve.

We went the deep-fried route on appetizers: Breaded Bacalau and artichokes. Both of these dishes were tasty.

Deep-Fried Bacalau

Fried Artichokes

My first plate was a Pasta with tripe with a rich, thick, cheesy, red sauce which rendered the circular pieces of the tripe almost indistinguishable from the tubular pasta. Hearty, tasty dish. As was the Bacalau which followed.

Pasta with Red Sauce and Tripe
By this time we had struck up a conversation with the couple that was seated next to us and they joined us for the Collepiano Sagrantino de Montefalco which I ordered. I am generally a Paolo Bea man but the Collepiano was in a good place.

2004 Collepiano Sagrantino di Montefalco

Bacalau (Salted Codfish)

The afternoon had gone swimmingly well. We had had a long, pleasant afternoon at a leading proponent of traditional Roman cooking which featured "fresh seasonal raw materials delivered daily" to the restaurant and a 1000-label wine list. The service is competent but do not expect to find wait staff hovering around at your elbow.

A must-visit if you are in Rome. The experience is amplified if you are able to snag an outside seat.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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