Friday, July 18, 2014

Postcards from Rome - part III: Roscioli

Posted by Jan

In Rome, Roscioli Deli and Restaurant is probably the most well known example of a combined salumeria or deli and restaurant/wine bar style of venue where the products for sale in the deli are also used in the restaurant.

It's packed with Italian products - wine, cheese, salumi, pantry items - but not to the exclusion of quality produce from other parts of Europe.

Cheeses in the cabinet at Roscioli Deli and Restaurant, Rome, Italy
In for dinner, I had the best seat in the house: in between the racks of wine and next to the cheese display. One look at the menu and I knew that I would need much looser pants - this was my Disneyland and it was going to be a dinner of all my all-time favourites.

Not being very familiar with Italian wines, I asked our waitress to use her discretion and she did not fail me all night. Glass after glass of different types of wines, with names I could not pronounce much less spell.

We were served a little dish of complimentary arancini balls to get the night started, signalling the start of a deliciously memorable meal. There was also a small dish of marinated olives for us to nibble on.

La Burrata di Pisignano con Caviale
Being our last night in Rome, we spoilt ourselves with an indulgent starter of burrata cream-filled mozzarella cheese, served split open with caviar on top.

The burrata in Italy is so different from what is available in Australia. It was so soft, heavenly rich and unctuous with the cream and cheese curds pairing perfectly with the soft, salty fish eggs.

Italy vs Spain: Prosciutto and jamon
Given my professed love for cured meats, I could not pass up the opportunity to compare some of the best of what Italy could produce against my beloved jamon iberico from Spain.

Roscioli's idea of this world title match was to serve the Italian culatello of Zibello DOP, aged 36 months, against the Spanish Pate Negra Sanchez Romero "5 Jota", aged 42 months.

I am probably biased but I still prefer the Spanish jamon because it was just a little bit sweeter and I like the nutty taste that comes through at the end.

La Carbonara
My mission was to find the best carbonara in Rome. The carbonara sauce at Roscioli is made with Paolo Parisi eggs, which have an almost cult-like following and are used by all the great restaurants of Italy.

Together with crispy guanciale cured pork jowl and good, strong Roman pecorino, this simple dish of spaghetti with lashings of cheese was simply sublime. Best in Rome? Some say so.

La Matriciana o Amatriciana
The Amatriciana could be seen as a tomato based version of the carbonara with the use of guanciale and pecorino romana minus the egg.

Despite a misconception that fresh pasta is best, I believe that the Romans have the right idea with using dried rigatoni pasta when making this classic dish. I liked the chewy texture of good quality, dried pasta cooked al dente.

Sugar cookies with chocolate dip
Full after two luxurious pasta courses, the lovely waitress was  understanding and gave us some time to gather ourselves before quietly slipping cookies in front of us as a little reminder that dessert was yet to come. I thought it was such a lovely idea to provide a dark chocolate sauce for dipping the cookies into.

Mimolette Classica 12 Mesi
I decided to go for a couple of cheeses as my dessert course instead of a sweet. I asked the waitress to pick her favourite hard cheese  for me to try and she surprised me by choosing a lovely French Mimolette. 

Aged for about 12 months this hard cheese was a lovely orange hue with a taste that reminded me of parmesan but with an added nutty flavour.

Erborinato con Marasche e Petali di Rose
The best thing about Roscioli is that everything in the deli can be ordered. Being rather fond of blue cheeses, I couldn't help but be intrigued by the erborinato in the cheese cabinet next to me.

The crust of this beautiful goat's milk blue cheese was covered with rose petals and cherries, giving it a lovely deep pink-purple hue as it ages. The scent of the rose petals lightly perfumed this mild blue cheese and made it such a pretty cheese for dessert. 

On the other side of the table it was the simple cannoli for dessert. Not surprisingly, I couldn't help myself and just had to have a bite. The simple ricotta filling was light and fluffy but it was the candied fruit peel that packed punches of flavour within the crumbly pastry.

Roscioli felt like all my dreams had come true in one space. Wine, cheese and salumi - all in one spot. I can think of no other way I would have liked to end my trip to Italy other than a belly full of good food and wine. But sometimes, it's not always the best policy to save the best for last.

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