It seems like this time every summer I have that overwhelming feeling that I need to return to Italy and visit friends and family.
This is also the time of year I like to seek out new and old restaurants, many that I visited as a child with my mother and father.
Just last summer I traveled to Rome with my wife, Lisa, and daughter, Alexandra. We visited many art galleries, churches and monuments, all too beautiful to ever forget. I really don’t think there is an attraction in Rome that I have not been to in my 50 years of enjoyment, but last year was a little different.
I decided to only go to restaurants that have been in business for 50 years or more. Now this is not hard to do in a city more than 3,000 years old. Before I left for Italy, I mapped out the neighborhoods I wanted to dine in including the Campo de Fiore, Vatican, Piazza Navona, Testaccio and Monti.
Perhaps my best source was an app for the iPhone, by Elizabeth Minchilli,Eat Rome
. I had heard about her from my friend in Tuscany, Judy Francini, so we followed her app for cafés and restaurants dilanated by neighborhood, cuisine, gelato, and pizza.
When we first arrived in Rome, we immediately went to Obika, a mozzarella bar. It was so impressive, with fresh mozzarella made daily and a menu full of dishes containing mozzarella as the main ingredient.
It was just fantastic to sit outside at the Campo De Fiore and watch people shop at the many stores and vegetable stands while we enjoyed our first lunch of this wonderful trip.
That evening we sat down to a wonderful dinner at Roma Sparita. In the Piazza di Santa Cecilia area. This is the same restaurant Anthony Bourdain would not disclose its location when filming No Reservations, for fear of making it a tourist attraction.
I ordered the “pasta special,” Lisa ordered ravioli and Alex ordered Pasta all Amatriciana. Funny thing though, the waiter would not let Lisa have her ravioli.
He told her it was for “touristes” and he gave her a different dish of pasta. It turned out to be a wonderful Pacchere prepared with chicken livers and she absolutely loved it.
As for me, I had to have their famous Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe made with only a few ingredients, including, water, pepper and cheese. It was so delicious.
One night we walked for two hours searching for La Campana, the oldest restaurant in Rome. There we dined on several pasta dishes and a memorable roasted lamb.
For dessert that evening, we had to go to Tre Scalini in the Piaza Navona where we just had to have the dish they are best known for Tartufo, since it was supposedly invented there. Yes, it was perhaps the best this chef has ever experienced.
Morning espresso the next day at San Euthasuo near the Pantheon with Gelato at San Crispino and late afternoon appertivo at Caffe Greco. I must now admit, our list was endless.
At Al Maro that afternoon, we had to try the Vignarola, a seasonal stew prepared with artichokes, favas and peas. Again, so delicious and just the perfect lunch after visiting Vatican City.
On this trip, we visited many other restaurants in Rome, along with several cafés and gelaterias and made some truly wonderful memories, but I still think of that Pasta Speciale at Roma Sparita.
On the last day of our vacation to Rome, I actually got in touch with Elizabeth Minchilli, and went to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants as a child, Piperno.
Funny thing, her father lives just upstairs and it is where she had lunch every Sunday growing up. We had a great time discussing Rome and some of the old-time restaurants.
elow you will see my recipe for the exact pasta I so very much enjoyed at Roma Spirita, Cacio Pepe. The dish translated is, “Cacio: for the cheese and “Pepe” for the pepper. That is all it takes to prepare this delicious dish, a little butter and water and your done. Wow… so easy and so very delicious.
When made just like in Rome, you must prepare a cheese tuille made out of grated Romano and prepared by spreading the cheese in a non-stick, 6-inch pan, and cooking it for 4-5 minutes, then sliding a spatula under and turning your pan fried cheese over on a bowl to harden. I serve the pasta directly in the cheese tuille.
Who knows, you may just be the next Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck and find yourself roaming the streets of Rome on a Vespa, dining at some iconic restaurants and enjoying gelato in the piazza.Cacio e Pepe alla Roma Sparita 1/2 pound spaghetti 1 1/2 cup Romano cheese 1 1/2 cup water 1 tablespoon butter Cracked pepper to taste
Prepare pasta al’dente. Drain. In a large saute pan, melt butter. Add water and cheese. Cream together to form sauce. Add cracked pepper. Add pasta and toss until evenly coated. Add more water and cheese if necessary.
Voila. Enjoy as I did in the Eternal City.
Chef Jasper Mirabile of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.