Saturday, January 3, 2009

Il Pipero and Sangallo and more artichokes!!

Photos (Lexi Van de Walle): Porto d'Ottavio, Rome; Trimmed artichokes - Campo del Fiori; Whole artichokes - Campo del Fiori

Yesterday was pretty much a walk around and food day. Saturday night, we had dinner with Henry's colleague Marco Elser and his lovely wife Flaminia. Their choice of restaurant, Sangallo, was among the highlights of our trip as was seeing their historic home near the Spanish Steps and meeting their very cute children.

Another great accomplishment of Roman Engineering, the Pantheon stands two centuries later with so much of its original grandeur and architectural brilliance in tact. We explored the exterior and the inside before touring the Jewish Ghetto.

Although demolished in 1870, the Jewish Ghetto area still has the Synagogue, and a host of Kosher and Jewish restaurants and food shops. One of the four gates into the once walled ghetto is Portico d'Ottavia.

A ghetto restaurant that's famous among tourists and Romans alike is il Piperno, where Henry and I had lunch and ate more artichokes. This time of year locally grown vegetables are few and far between but there's no shortage of these wonderful treats.

There were lots of Romans at lunch in this circa 1856 ristorante, much to our surprise, since its well promoted in the English tour guides. Il Piperno has a seasonal menu, and everything is Kosher. We shared the famous traditional Roman/Jewish carciofi alla giudia (fried whole artichokes) and gnocchi, served al dente, with a tomato and meat sauce. While the gnocci had a slight chew as gnocchi should and a delicious sauce that warmed our bellies on this cold rainy day, the artichokes were just good, not amazing. Hands down, we thought the carciofi alla giudia at Taverna Flavia were much better and so were their stewed artichokes.

via Monte de Cenci, 9
Tu-Sat - Lunch and Dinner; Lunch only on Sun.

Sangallo specializes in local bufala (buffalo meat) and specialty cheeses made from buffalo milk and Italian wines.

Risotto with red wine and a creamy soft, buffalo milk cheese to start followed by sauteed buffalo served with rosemary olive oil, and wild mushrooms served with spinach. Full, we all passed on dessert. I ordered an espresso which was served with little biscuits. Now I'm buzzing.

Ristorante Sangallo
Vicolo della Vaccarella
Rome (near Piazza Navona)
+39 06 6865549

HISTORY - Artichokes
Artichokes have a long history as a savored food and while no one knows the origin of artichokes there's no debate they are indeed Italian. Some historians believe artichokes first appeared in texts when they made their way from Sicily to Naples then Florence in the late 15th century and were made famous by Catherine Medici. Others, cite Pliny the Elder's description of an edible "thistle plant" as being artichoke, a food of the wealthy in Ancient Roman times, that he personally loved and ate with honey and vinegar. Believed to be an aphrodisiac, artichokes were not eaten by women. Italian immigrants (and the mafia) brought artichokes to the US in the early 19th century. In 1947, Marilyn Monroe was crowned the "Miss
California Artichoke Queen " which launched her career -- were artichokes the secret to her sex appeal?

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