Postcards from Italy — 7 October 2021, Dinner at Roscioli

Oh, how I wish you could taste food through the Internet. Maybe someday.

For now, I’ll do my best in describing the incredible meal I had at Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina, a restaurant here in Rome that has been on my “to-visit” list for a while. Last Thursday was my half-birthday (19.5!), and the last day of my midterm exams, so I had two reasons to celebrate.

Before I got here, I decided that I will treat myself to one super nice (and potentially pricey) meal each month. The one rule is I must go by myself; eating is not out of my comfort zone, but eating alone in a foreign country is. I’m very competitive with myself, if you couldn’t tell.

Anyway, I so wish I could go out to eat every night, but the college student budget just ain’t suitable for that kind of lifestyle — and so I will savor every bite of my monthly excursions while I’m here.

I made reservations for 7 p.m. a week before going because I knew that this place books up fast and it’s hard to get a seat if you just show up. I left my apartment at around 6:30 and strolled across the bridge that overpasses the Tevere. The sun had just finished setting, but the sky’s brilliant colors hadn’t faded yet.

I must tell you about the weather here, because it’s finally cold!!!! Well, the lowest it’s been so far is 55 degrees Fahrenheit. But for some reason, when I went out on the first “cold” day, it felt like the middle of a New England winter.

The climate changed *literally* overnight, and I’m not mad about it, cause I can finally wear fall clothing. Here’s a photo one of my roommates took of me before date night with myself (grazie, Martina!). I love this weather.

Dramatic skies walking down to dinner.

Over the bridge.

I arrived at Roscioli just in time and checked in with the host who was outside checking for vaccination cards. I read some reviews of the restaurant first, and a lot of people recommended getting a seat at the bar, so that’s what I chose when I made my reservation.

It was nearly empty when I got there, but soon after I was seated, it felt like I had entered a theater, and a show was just beginning. Note the bowls of bread that are lined up on the counter on the right side of the photo, like props ready to be moved during a scene change. As I stepped inside, the waiters began what felt like a performance. It was so much fun to watch.

Roscioli has a massive wine list, if you couldn’t tell by the pictures thus far. I enjoyed hearing the woman who eventually sat next to me ask to try sample after sample until the bartender found one that was just what she was looking for.

I tried one of the gin & tonic drinks — Organico di Carlo Cracco (originating in the Lombardia region and created by the Italian chef himself). It smelled like a bunch of roses and was perfectly punchy and refreshing alongside all the food I ordered.

The wait staff all seemed to be fluent in English, which makes sense considering the fact that Roscioli is a popular tourist destination. When I first got there, my waiter began to speak to me in English. This happens quite a bit, and depending on where I am, it can be either frustrating or relieving.

That day, I decided that it was frustrating. I know how to order food, and I know a good amount of restaurant vocabulary, so to not at least try to speak in Italian would be a waste.

So when he asked if I was ready, I said to him, “Si, ma posso provare a parlare solo in italiano?” He happily replied, “Si, certo!” and I proceeded to order and speak in Italian for the rest of the night.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it made my night that he was patient and let me speak in Italian, despite it being very, very obvious that I’m still learning.

Roscioli’s menu is extremely overwhelming, and so I looked at it nearly every day during the week to slowly narrow down my decisions. I was planning to spend a good chunk of money at this place, so I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what I wanted before I arrived.

The first thing I ordered was the Insalata di Asparagi // Asparagus Salad.

The description in English reads:
steamed asparagus, sweet and sour onions, tuna from Vulcano island
aged in extra virgin olive oil and buffalo DOP mozzarella cheese

This salad was delightful and a really nice start to the meal. I always get lazy when cooking asparagus myself, so it’s never the right texture, but I love the taste so I don’t usually mind. This stuff, though, was steamed and cooked perfectly — not soggy but not overly-tough to chew. The mozzarella was a nice break in between the gritty tuna & asparagus texures, too.

Now, some of you know I have been experimenting with meat-eating this year. I’ve had it a few times and on various occasions, beginning this summer. When I came here, I decided that I didn’t want to limit myself if it looked good and if it was something particularly special.

Back at home, I was so tempted to try mortadella every time I sliced it at work; it just smelled so good. I never tried it, but I was determined to have some during my time here, so few weeks ago, one of my roommates bought some and let me try it. We had it on sandwiches with mozzarella, and it was everything I could have hoped for and more. So when I saw that Roscioli had mortadella on their menu, I knew I must order it.

It’s the Mortadella Fatta a Mano. The description reads — 

handmade mortadella with parmesan curls from red cows
and crispy pastry bread

— and I ate every bite of it. Seriously, I have been dreaming about this plate ever since I had it. The cheese tasted like I was eating a cloud, and its subtle saltiness provided the very best mix of flavors. I never thought I’d eat a literal plate of meat, but here we are. I can safely say: I heart mortadella (someone must make that into a bumper sticker).

I think I got the best seat at the counter, cause it allowed me to watch some of the chefs slice meat and prepare antipasti and other delicious magic.

Now, for what might be the most expensive thing I’ve ever ordered from a menu…

This is the burrata con perle di tartufo // burrata with truffle pearls.

Its description:
Burrata cheese from Andria with winter black truffle pearls.

I’ve had a love affair with the truffle for as long as I can remember, beginning with Evol’s microwavable Truffle Mac & Cheese. I’ve tried lots of truffle-based foods, and every time I do, I am shocked, for just a second, because I forget how intense the flavor is. These truffle pearls were no different, and paired with creamy and rich burrata made for a simple yet flavorfully complex dish.

After that, I wasn’t sure I could eat anything more, but then I remembered that I *always* have room for dessert. I was very tempted by some of the sweets on the menu, but I also knew that they give a complementary dessert to everyone, so I decide to keep it light and stick with that.

I’m not sure what the cookies were, exactly, but they were crispy and sugary and flavored with what tasted like hints of anise. The dipping sauce was chocolate and red wine, and it was delicious.

The waiter offered me an espresso, but I passed on it and instead admired the beauty of the machine.

I paid for my meal, said thank you to my waiter and to the host, and left a little bit before nine.

I walked back to my apartment, and on the way passed by a gelateria. I stood on my toes, trying to view the flavors and contemplating for a few seconds. I eventually decided to get some and chose strawberry because I was craving something fruity after that rich chocolate sauce.

It was the best possible way to end my foodie adventure. But, honestly, gelato is the best way to end everything ever.

I ate it and walked back over the Tevere, listening to a street performer play Otis Redding’s Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay as people gathered in Piazza Trilussa. It was Thursday night, but Rome was so alive.

This evening was lovely, and I can’t wait for next month. I’ve already begun scoping out restaurants to check out, so stay tuned.

A presto!

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