Rome like a local

Eating, drinking, and living in the Eternal City


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Pranzo Sociale at La Casetta Rossa

Pranzo Sociale – prezzo popolare.  These four words are music to my ears.  It is loosely translated as a cheap & delicious lunch.  Popolare derives from the word popolo, which means people, in the sense of a community.  Un pranzo sociale ad un prezzo popolare is not only a lunch, but an opportunity for members of the community to get together to eat well at a good price.

 When I saw the notice from La Casetta Rossa for a  Sunday pranzo sociale, I knew that it was something not to be missed.

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La Casetta Rossa is located in the Garbatella neighborhood of Rome.   The little red house, was formerly an abandoned building that has been morphed into a restaurant, pub, and a sort of community center.  It is a kilometer-zero kitchen, meaning all of the products are local and of course, seasonal.  In addition to serving delicious food and wine and reasonable prices, there are also language exchange happy hours, pizza/bread making lessons, as well as the possibility to bake your own bread in the Casetta’s wood burning forno popolare (seen below with the black and white designs),to name only a few of the additional services offered.

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We arrived early knowing that it would be a standing room only situation on a beautiful, warm, sunny Sunday.  There were tables set up out in the garden and we were lucky to snag two seats at a long communal table.   The menu was fixed with two choices – vegetarian or meat based plates.  I opted for meat when I saw rigatoni all’amatriciana on the menu.

The starter was a bruschettina al pomodoro, made with bread baked in the forno popolare , and delicious, sweet cherry tomatoes and locally produced olive oil.

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The primo piatto was the rigatoni all’amatriciana  I previously mentioned.  The secondo consisted of 2 grilled pork sausages, salad, and fagioli all’uccelletto (white beans in a sage & tomato sauce).

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All of these goodies – just 12 euro!

Drinks were extra, but still reasonably priced.  We added a liter of red wine for 5 euro.

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The day was beautiful and the garden was filled with people of all ages.

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La Casetta Rossa  is a friendly environment with good quality food in a unique setting. It is a great place for lunch, dinner, or even an aperitivo.  I always feel at home here.


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Road trip to Bolsena

Over the summer (yes, this is a long over-due post!), thanks to an offer that we could not refuse from Groupon, we headed to Lake Bolsena for a quick weekend out of Rome.   Instead of the autostrada, we decided to take the slower, but more scenic Cassia out of Rome.  Luckily we did not run into much traffic, and we arrived to the town of Bolsena in just about an hour and a half.

Bolsena is a volcanic lake, and the biggest one of its kind in Europe.  There are many agriturismi in the area as well as camping grounds.   Driving around the lake you will find restaurants that are right on water – perfect places to sit, relax, and enjoy the view.

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We stopped for lunch at a nice spot on the lake called il Purgatorio. The people were friendly,  the setting was beautiful, and the price was right.   Around Lake Bolsena you will find coregone on every menu.   Coregone is a white fish, and it is usually prepared grilled, with wild fennel or rosemary.

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Driving around the lake, we also stopped to take a look at the Commonwealth War Cemetery, which is nestled between the towns of Bolsena and Montefiascone.  There are nearly 600 soldiers buried here.  It is certainly worth a look if you are in the area.

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bolsena cemetery

The medieval town of Bolsena is perfectly kept, and thankfully it has not yet been overrun with shops selling plastic, junky souvenirs.   In fact, I had a hard time finding a place to buy a magnet.   Most of the “souvenir” shops sell local products such as olive oil, lavender products, and wine.  Now, those are my kinds of souvenirs!

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After a nice dinner in the garden at Trattoria Picchietto,  we took a walk up to the Castello dei Monaldeschi della Cervara in the old town, where we stumbled upon Enoteca Aenos.  It has a great selection of wine and grappa.  There is also a wine tasting room that dates back to the etruscan times.  The owners were friendly and hospitable – and the location wasn’t too bad either!

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Arrivederci Bolsena

If you are looking for a vibrant night-life, you certainly will not find it here.  However, if you want to relax, take walks, and enjoy the nature of the area, you will not be disappointed.


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Linguine con lupini e zucchine

A couple of weeks ago we headed to the sea to escape one of the first of many hot weekends to come.  We stopped in a well known pescheria in Fregene called Paparella.  The shop is one big open refrigerator, and with this nice warm weather, the choice of delicious fish is abundant.

We took a couple bistecche di pesce spada for dinner.   They opened the fish right in front of us (with the help of a sledge hammer!) and sliced off the steaks.

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For lunch, we wanted something that would be quick and light,so we ended up choosing some lupini, which are small, very tasty clams.

The first thing to do is to put the lupini in a bowl with some water (just barely covering them) and a pinch of salt.  They should stay here for about 30 minutes – which is enough time for them to spit out any sand that might be inside.  While you wait, you can start preparing the other ingredients.

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Start boiling some water for the pasta. We had a few left over zucchine romanesche so we sliced them up very thinly and sauteed them in a pan with a bit of garlic and olive oil.

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Once the zucchine  are nicely browned, remove them from the pan and you can cook the lupini there.  Rinse the lupini well before putting them into the pan with a bit of olive oil and garlic.  If you would like to add a little heat, you can add some peperoncino.

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Once the water boils, add the pasta.  We chose to use linguine.

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Once all of the lupini open up, add the zucchine.

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About 2 minutes before the pasta is ready, drain it and add it to the pan, saving some of the liquid in case your zucchine/lupini mixture is a little dry.  You may also add a drizzle of olive oil, if necessary.

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Mix it up for a minute, and not much longer, otherwise it will get too dry.  Pour yourself a glass of white wine (a nice Vermentino maybe?) and you are ready to eat!  You just need a little patience taking all of the lupini out of their shells, but it is worth it.

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Buon appetito! 


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What to eat when in Rome

Below are a few suggestions of different foods that you should try while in Rome. This is just the tip of the iceberg in a city with a deep and delicious food culture, but it is a start!

1. Pasta all’amatriciana - Typically served with bucatini (shown in photo below), a tomato sauce with guanciale (pig cheek) and pecorino cheese.

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2. Pizza - This is a no brainer, of course!  Roman style pizza is thin and toppings are simple and classic.  N.B. Most traditional pizzerie  are open only for dinner.

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3. Involtini al Sugo - This is horribly translated as boiled rolled meat in many trattorie, but it is so much better than how it sounds!  This is a dish of tender beef, filled with prosciutto, carrot, celery – slowly cooked in a tomato sauce.  The sugo left over can also be used for a pasta dish.

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4.  Supplì - These tasty little fried treats are great for a starter in a pizzeria  or also can be a nice snack to hold you over before dinner.  Supplì are fried balls of rice,  filled with mozzarella, tomato sauce, and ground beef.

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5. Le Zucchine Romanesche - When in season, these veggies are not only beautiful to look at, but they are sweet and full of flavor.  The flowers of these lovelies are also eaten - Fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers, deep fried, stuffed with mozzarella, and anchovies)and can be found  in classic pizzerie  or trattorie.

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