Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ancient Rome and Zucchini Flowers

Photos: (Lexi Van de Walle): Triumph Arch of Titus - battle of Jerusalem; Arch of Titus - Battle Detail; View from Palatine Hill

Our table at Il Convivio (courtesy of their website)

Rome was founded on the Palatine Hill in 753 BC by Romulus, or so the legend goes. Bright eyed and ready to go, we joined Liz Brewster from CONTEXT TRAVEL first thing on this bright and sunny Tuesday. Liz guided us through a tour of the artifact filled Palatine Hill area, the Roman Forum with its senate house and temples, and the gladiator-friendly and architectural monstrosity, the Colosseum. Click here for more on the Arch of Titus and reliefs

Unmemorable pizza lunch (with zucchini flowers) on the go.

And, a wonderful dinner at Il Convivio, one of Rome's best restaurants. Our meal supports its fine although contested reputation. Il Convivio honors the region of Marche in Central Italy (NW of Rome and SE of Tuscany/Florence). The Marche region is known for its truffles (which we did not have, but you could order this time of year with many of the dishes).

They are known for using only the freshest of ingredients, locally procured. Although a "creative" dining experience at the restaurant, Il Convivio gives more than a nod to the region which has its roots in the peasant style of cooking.

We both ordered zucchini flowers (again) stuffed with a creamy, melted buffalo mozzarella cheese, lightly fried. A tiny dollop of anchovy cream to give a hint of salt flavor and served with with a colorful, tasty (and cold) "sour red pepper spicy" sorbet. The sorbet was fabulous and I used it to cleanse my palette between each bite.

An amuse-bouche of head cheese and puree of broccoli followed by a chick pea and grilled octopus taste for the tongue started our meal along with homemade breadsticks and wine.

For dinner I had the local pigeon (piccione) which is a Marche region specialty (as is rabbit which was NOT on the menu), roasted with Montelpulciano red wine sauce sauce and aromatic laurel leaves served with a smooth pumpkin puree, sauteed spinach and a few roasted potatoes. Henry enjoyed the homemade duck ravioli with Treviso red chicory and Pecorino cheese.

Even though I promised myself I'd limit desserts on this trip to save room for pasta, I couldn't resist the super miniature pastries – chocolate and coconut, tiny fruit tart, apricot. Very cute, and delicious little bites.

We had a Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva and an Tea/Infusion of fennel, anise, mint.

My skirt feels tight.

Il Convivio is housed in a 16th century building on a tiny alley road between Piazza Navona and the Tiber River. Excellent, and attentive service. Creative Roman cuisine using traditional and local in-season ingredients (they buy their fish directly and procure fruits and veggies from the farmers market "mercado"; game in season). Interior setting is tastefully modern, simple and elegant. Atmosphere and food is more Manhattan than Rome but don't let that disappoint -- this is a top restaurant. Prices are upscale but fair.

Il Convivio
Vicolo Dei Soldati, 28
00186 Roma (RM)
06 6869432

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