Tag Archives: Roma

Garbatella Farmers’ Market and the new Ponte della Scienza

Ponte della scienza and gasometer, Rome

Rome hosts two large-scale weekend farmers’ markets: one near Circo Massimo (Via di San Teodoro 74) and one that used to be in the Ex-Mattatoio (former slaughterhouse) in Testaccio. In April 2013, however, the latter was relocated further south, away from the centre, to Via Francesco Passino in Garbatella.

We were kinda gutted when this happened, as going to the Ex-Mattatoio market had become a weekend routine. Garbatella, however, is just too far away to be practical when we do everything on foot or by bike. There is still a market and organic shop at the Ex-Mattatoio, with its Città dell’Altra Economia (“Alternative economy city”) so we continued going there, as it’s a great spot. Though it lacks the range now.

This weekend, however, we decided to venture down to Garbatella, to check out the new market and see what baked goods, etc, are available. En route, we wanted to check out the Ponte della Scienza, a new pedestrian and bike bridge that’s been built across the Tiber here. Last time we tried to check it out, it looked finished, but wasn’t open. Now it’s finally open: but it doesn’t really go anywhere or connect to anything.

Ex-industry 2

It took them five years to built it, but, in classic Roman fashion where bickering extremist politicians, corruption, and piss-poor-to-non-existent communication between departments seem to be the norm, there just isn’t any infrastructure on the east side, and there’s very little on the west. There’s no promotion, no information, no signage, and just the usual Roman garbage building up-on the new stairways. Great job, Comune di Roma!

Yet, the bridge is still a great opportunity. You can access it from the foot and bike track along the west bank of the river, and it takes you across to the wonderful old industrial area that includes gasometers, hoppers, water towers and, best of all, Rome’s finest museum. This is the Centrale Montemartini, an annex to the Capitoline museums where ancient statuary is sited among turn of the 19th century turbines and generators in a very handsome art nouveau power station.

Gasometro

We were very bemused when we crossed the bridge, turned right (south) down a promising new stretch of asphalt, thinking it would take us towards the museum, but instead met another cyclist who said “It’s blocked”. So we turned around, went north, and found ourselves leaving the small stretch of new road, cycling through a building site, and emerging onto Via del Porto Fluviale. This is the location of the kinda-cool, kinda hit-and-miss Porto Fluviale, a beer bar and pizzeria that exemplifies the redevelopment going on in this area of Ostiense.

It looks like the Ponte della Scienza work isn’t quite finished yet, but I’m not holding my breath for any rapid progress.

Still, we crossed Via Ostiense, passed Eataly, and headed on into the charismatic Garbatella. This is a very distinctive quartiere, developed in the 1920s and in part inspired the garden city movement: the late 19th century urban planning philosophy based on creating environments that nurtured community through open spaces, greenery and self-sufficiency.

Garbatella Farmers' Market

The farmers’ market is now located in the building previously occupied by the daily market. As well as spending a load on a new bridge that doesn’t go anywhere, Rome’s planners seem to enjoy moving markets around too (cf Testaccio; Piazza Vittorio/Esquilino). It’s a handsome building, though I can’t find any historical info about it. I’d guess it was either 1930s or 1950s, but the interior’s been renovated.

Garbatella Farmers' Market - interior of building Garbatella Farmers' Market - interior of building

Anyway, it’s not a bad site, with each stall having more space. And compared to the Ex-Mattatoio, there are no low-level metal beams or hooks for us tall types to brain ourselves on.

Most importantly, however, it’s packed with good quality, locally produced food. If you’re at all interested in, you know, a viable future for human civilisation, find your local farmers’ market! There you can buy food with a smaller carbon footprint than the contents of your local supermarket, which will mostly have been driven, shipped or flown hundreds or thousands of miles, so every mouthful comes with a climate-change puff of burned hydrocarbons.

Some food then

Pictures of mostly bread, cakes, biscuits. They do sell veg, fruit, dairy products and meat here too, but hey, this is Bread, Cakes and Ale.

Garbatella Farmers' Market

A ciambella is a ring-shaped cake or bun. Ciociara is a region of central Italy. No idea what’s entertaining the geezer though.

Boh

Not such a jolly guy. Selling, among other things, ciambelline – ring-shaped cookies. Bigger than those in my previous recipe.

Garbatella Farmers' Market

Some great looking bread. Love the giant loaf to the right of the insanely cheery looking cartoon chap.

Giant maritozzi at Garbatella Farmers' Market

The biggest maritozzi con la panna I’ve ever seen. These bad boys are least twice the size of the ones you normally see.

Our transportation

Transportation, Brompton folding bikes

Our transportation: the Brompton folding bike, which exerts a fair amount of fascinating in Rome, despite them not being uncommon here.

Info
Garbatella Farmers’ Market, Via Francesco Passino, 00154 Rome
Metro: line B, Garbatella; bus: 673 (Rho)

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Birrificio Italiano Bibock at Antica Focacceria San Francesco, Trastevere, Rome

Bibock from Birrificio Italiano at Antica Foccaceria di San Francesco, Trastevere, Rome

Unless it’s a curry or a kebab, we don’t normally eat in Trastevere. If you want Italian, or more specifically Roman food, it’s about the worst neighbourhood, as so many of the dense thicket of restaurants – in our experience – are lazy and mediocre. However, a friend drew our attention to the Antica Focacceria San Francesco, part of a Sicilian micro-chain whose management has apparently taken a stand against the Mafia.

As much as I’m aware of the big corporations of the (Sicilian) Mafia aka Cosa Nostra, (Calabrese) ʼNdrangheta and (Neopolitan) Camorra, as well as the other immigrant mafias that operate in Italy (Filipino, Chinese, etc), I naively assumed that the touristy Roman restaurant scene would be better protected. Ho ho. Another friend who’s lived in Italy for decades says most places – cafés, restaurants, shops – have to pay the pizzo (protection money), which is what makes Antica Focacceria San Francesco’s stand notable: they said no. The New York Times gives more of the story here (though it gets the address wrong, which makes me question its fact-checking slightly).

So anyway, we headed down to the Trastevere branch on a Friday evening. It’s set in one of this cute quartiere‘s cute piazze, just round the corner from Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà? and the strip of boozers that’s generally heaving on a summer weekend evening.

When our group all assembled and some menus arrived, I was pleased to see the Slow Food symbol. I was also pleased to see the wine menu had two pages dedicated to Italian birre artigianali (craft beers).

So while we ordered a tonne of Sicilian snacks (schiticchi), antipasti and secondi, I also ordered a beer. I got a Bibock from Birrificio Italiano, a brewery located in Lombardia, south of Lake Como. What a name – they’re just called “Italian Brewery”. Though they probably have a right to wield such a grand name: the brewery was founded in 1996, the same year as the renowned Baladin, and as such can be considered, in the words of the Guide alle birre d’Italia 2013, “one of the principle players in the affirmation of the craft beer scene in our country”.

The warmly copper-brown Bibock smells of raspberries, toffee, rose. It’s got a reasonably frothy head. Its taste also has notes of caramel and toffee, along with a very nicely balanced cereal-maltiness and bitter-hoppiness and a fairly dry mouthfeel. It’s bottom-fermented (as befits its roots in German, bock brewing), 6.2% ABV and has a medium body. Very nice.

I’ve no idea if it was a good choice to accompany the food though. I really, really need to learn more about food and beer matching. I’m sorry. But I’ve never made any bones about my beer blogging here being anything but a learning process.

Antica Foccaceria San Franciso, Trastevere, Rome

As for said food, it was pretty good. The Sicilian street food pre-antipasti nibbles were tasty, especially the chickpea fritters (panelle). And the sardines balls were pleasant too. Who’d have thunk it? One flaw in the experience, though, was that pretty much everyone seemed to involve caponata.

Now I love this slightly sour Sicilian dish made with aubergines (/eggplant/ melanzane), tomatoes, capers etc. I like it so much I’d made it the day previously at home, and had it for two days running. Now I found myself eating more; it was getting to the point of OD. The Antica Focacceria must have had a giant cauldron of the stuff in their kitchen.

The only other flaw with the meal came later on when the very sweet and entertaining waitress tried to sell us some desserts. We were already pretty full (of caponata) so had our doubts, but when she said they were sent in every day from Palermo I had even more. She was so excited to tell us this (“And the fish!”) but for me it was like a red rag to a bull. Sent in? “In aero?” I asked. “In a plane?” Really? Really?

How in the blazes does this carbon puddingprint fit in with the place’s nominal Slow Food ethos, of local and sustainable? Even a short hop flight is toxic, particularly as in aviation a lot of the fuel is used getting the beast off the ground in the first place.

If you want Sicilian pastries in Rome, have a Sicilian pastry chef make them on site in Rome. The products won’t just be fresher and better as they’ll only travel a few metres, the whole package will also be more credible in sustainability and environment terms.

The beer was good, the food was good, even the caponata was good (albeit excessive) but I’m sorry, flying in your desserts is just fucking insane. Especially if your menu is plastered with the Slow Food snail symbol. Reality check please!

Info
Antica Focacceria San Francesco, Piazza di San Giovanni della Malva 14, Trastevere, Rome
(+39) 06 581 9503 | roma.lamalva@afsf.it | afsf.it

Birrificio Italiano
(+39) 031 895 450 | info@birrificio.it | birrificio.it

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Croce di Malto Temporis at Le Café Vert, Monteverde Vecchio, Rome

Croce di Malto Temporis at Cafe Verte

Le Café Vert is a small place that opened near us in our Rome neighbourhood of Monteverde Vecchio a year or so ago. It’s something of a gem actually, as it manages to be cool for breakfast, a reasonably priced snacky lunch, and for an aperitivo in the evening. They’re into KM0 too – that is, food that’s not travelled too far – and they stock a decent selection of real bottled beers.

The latter is important to me, of course, but it also indicates they’re taking their principles seriously, and extending them to not just the coffee, or the milk they use (organic), or the food, or the wine, but also to the beer. This morning we went for a coffee at the café in Villa Doria Pamphili Park, Vivi Bistrot, and while it also seems to be into natural and organic foods, it frustrates me that they don’t extend their principles as far as the beer. Their fridges are still stocked with all the generic industrial lagers favoured by Italian beer drinkers in less enlightened places (Ceres, Becks, Peroni, Tenants and whathaveyou).

I did an excellent wine-tasting last night, and talked with the sommelier, Hande Leimer, about why Italians drink so much of these acrid, metallic lagers. Sure, it’s partly marketing and mindwashing, as it was in the UK when industrial lager took over in the 70s and 80s, but here, Hande suggests, it’s also because these tastes are preferred when having a drink without eating. Italians always drink wine, on the other hand, to accompany and complement food, where the relationship calls on differing qualities of drink depending on what is being eaten. Something that tempts me to write “of course”, but many Brits just aren’t aware of this, as we don’t have a strong, traditional viniculture, and beer, on the other hand, was traditionally “liquid bread” and safer to drink than water. A practical drink.

Okay, chiaro, but there are also now Italian craft beers that can fill this niche, of something to be drunk without food: there are plenty of crisp, light options, particularly the summer golden ales (eg Baladin’s Gold One, or Birra del Borgo’s Cortigiana, or Lambrata’s Ortiga). These are in some ways akin to lagers. Except they’re generally better: they taste better and more interesting, they’re more naturally produced, not pasteurised, not filtered and, most importantly, they’re not rushed. They’re real beers.

So come on Vivi Bistrot – make that leap, be more holistic with your principles, and support your local craft brewers! (Such as Birra del Borgo, or Birradamare/ʼNa Birretta, or Turan, or Free Lions, all in Lazio.)

Le Cafe Vert, Monteverde Vecchio, Rome

Anyway, we stopped by Le Café Vert again the other night for an aperitivo. It’s just two blocks from our place, and not only that, their tabletops are decorated with a map of the neighbourhood. And not only that, when we sat down, I noticed that our very street was located just under my elbow. We’re leaving Rome in about three weeks, so this was a slightly emotive bit of synchronicity.

Le Café Vert seems to rotate its beers, after a fashion, and this time they had a whole shelf filled with bottles from Croce di Malto. I’d had one Croce di Malto beer, the English bitter-like Acerbus, at Fermentazioni 2013 the other day and was keen to try more. They’re not a local, Lazio brewery though – they’re in Piemonte*, west of Milan. Indeed, Piemonte is the Italian region with the highest proportion of craft breweries, all radiating out from Baladin, the mothership of the Italian craft beer scene.

Croce di Malto Temporis at Cafe Verte

I chose a Croce di Malto Temporalis, 6% ABV. It was straight from the fridge, so a little bit cold, but I was too impatient to leave it in my armpit warming. (Hande scolded me at the wine-tasting for holding my glass by the bowl, but I’m constantly trying to warm up beers to the right temperature, in this case 8-10C, which has resulted in bad wine-tasting habits.)

Considering it’s the end of summer  at the moment, it was perhaps not the best choice as apparently this is a beer “dedicata per la primavera” – dedicated to spring. It’s certainly a fresh, lively beer – even when drunk a little too cold. The scent is floral and orangey, while the taste is crisp and citrussy, sweetly malty, slightly herby. It’s got a medium body. It’s a bright, orange-straw colour, with some mistiness and a nicely foaming head.

Although it’s a saison, it’s at the more drinkable, accessible end of that spectrum – complex, but subtly so. As one critic says on Beeradvocate, it’s “lacking in saisony funk” – but that’s fine by me; there are plenty of other more challenging saisons, and this was a perfect accompaniment to Le Café Vert’s delicious aperitivo snacks. Blimey, their panelle (Sicilian fried chickpea pancake) is good. One of the many things I’m going to miss about Rome. Fried chickpea goodness and a crisp saison two blocks from home.

Addendum:
Went back again the other night and tried another Croce di Malto beer. This was Triplexxx (7.8% ABV), a slightly unfortunate name with connotations of dodgy Australian lager and, well, porn.

It was a slightly strange beer too.

I was intrigued as the three Xs refer to its use of barley, oats and wheat, as well as “spices” and zucchero candito (“candied sugar”, presumably candi sugar) but overall the abiding smell and taste is banana. Isn’t chemistry bonkers? How can those incredients, when combined and brewed, produce molecules that give such a strong flavour of a totally unconnected fruit? Though I’d say the smell also had some bubble gum too, and the taste some toffee: so maybe it’s bubble-gum-banoffee-pie beer. Strange.

Info:
Via Anton Giulio Barrili 47-47/a, Monteverde Vecchio, Rome
+39 06 588 0065 | lecafevert.it | info@lecafevert.it

Croce di Malto brewery
Coros di Roma 51A, Trecate, Piemonte
+39 0321 185 6101 | crocedimalto.iti | info@crocedimalto.it

* Why do we anglicise this as Piedmont? Are anglophones so lazy we can’t say “pee-ah-mon-tay”? Is saying “pee-ed-mont” really any easier?

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Birra del Borgo’s BdBi(g)BodyIBU at No.Au, Centro Storico, Rome

Birra del Borgo's BdBi(g)BodyIBU at No.Au, Centro Storico, Rome

Back at No.Au again the other night, one of our favourite little places in Rome’s Centro Storico (and in Ponte, rione V, if you read my last postʼs comments about the different Roman neighbourhoods).

One of the beers I was introduced to by the always friendly and helpful girls who work there has perhaps the most impossible name I’ve ever encountered. It’s Birra del Borgoʼs BdBi(g)BodyIBU.

The name, apparently, is a play on Disney-Cinderella’s “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” song, but once you get past its strange coding – which is easier to read than say, after a few pints, in a mixture of Italian and English – its implications are clear.

Birra del Borgo's BdBi(g)BodyIBU

This is a Birra del Borgo (BdB) experiment in making a bitter beer with a serious IBU, that is a high International Bittering Units figure. The brewery site says, “Its main feature is the massive use of hop, a mix of different varieties that gives an extraordinary aroma and a remarkable bitter side, with 100 IBU.

If you check out the handy table (below), other 100 IBU beer include Russian Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA and American Barleywine. Most beers clock less than 50 IBU.

And yet, surprisingly perhaps, it is a really balanced beer, not simply defined by its bitterness or its strength (7.1% ABV). It has a nice copper-red colour, middling head, and fruity aromas, with some grape and wine-iness. Taste-wise, it is bitter, yes, but also very malty, with a nice broad cereal flavour.

Very pleasant drinking alongside our vast antipasti platters of cheeses and salumi (cured meats).

IBU International Bittering Units chart

Info
No.Au, Piazza di Montevecchio 16A, 00186, Rome
No.Au blog / noauroma@gmail.com / 06 45 65 27 70

Birra del Borgo brewery (English site)

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Lambrate’s Ortiga golden ale at Birrifugio, Portuense, Rome

Dark Star Revelation and Lambrate Ortiga, Birrifugio

We finally made it to another of Rome’s beer bars the other day: Birrifugio. It’s a place we’ve passed many a time, when we’ve been feeling like a 6pm beer but it’s run along Roman beer bar hours, not opening until 7.30pm. It’s one of the self-styled “6 historic pubs of the capital”1. It’s also styled as “Birrifugio Trastevere” on the business cards and website. Except it’s not in Trastevere.

Trastevere is one of the city’s rioni, neighbourhoods that were mostly established in medieval Rome. Apart from Prati, the area north of the Vatican, these rioni are all within the 3rd century Aurelian Walls. Birrifugio – whose name is a nice little pun, “beer-refuge” – is just off Viale Trastevere, but about a kilometer outside the walls, which cut across the boulevard at the Ministry of Education.

The hospitality industry does like to be liberal with its definition of Trastevere, as it’s such a popular area, with its narrow cobbled streets hung with laundry, churches, restaurants and whatnot. But no, Birrifugio is firmly esconced in the postwar urbanisation between the Viale and the Tiber, in the same area as Sunday’s sprawling Porta Portese market So what is this area?

It’s something that’s bugged me for ages, as we live just up the hill and traverse it often en route to Testaccio etc. We just resorted to calling it “that triangle”. But apparently it’s technically within Portuense, which isn’t a rione, it’s a quartiere. This name – “quarter” –  is used for some of the districts that developed with the urban sprawl of the 20th century.

Sorry, I had to get that straight. But the point is, if you go looking for Birrifugio, it’s not a pub in the depths of cutesy Trastevere like Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà? It’s in a very different neighbourhood –  but is no less decent a bar.

Birrifugio beer menu

Indeed, we arrived just as it was opening and the barman was immediately friendly and helpful. He gave us menus, talked us through the beers, both in the menu and on the blackboard, and chatted about his recent trip to a beer festival in London.

Unlike, say, Open Baladin or No.Au, Birrifugio (and its sister bar in Ostia) doesn’t have a great emphasis on Italian products. Instead, it has an international selection, on this occasion including brews from Belgian, England, etc. It also has a fairly comprehensive food menu, including Roman favourites and a more diverse choice: wurst, goulash, crêpes, sauerkraut. And something listed as “fish & chips”…

As the place feels not unlike a British pub (albeit a fairly modern one fitted out to feel a bit olde), I went for the latter. Just cos. It wasn’t really fish and chips in the proper sense (that, really, can only be done well in Britain or NZ, in my experience), and nor was the fish filetto di baccalà, the traditional Roman battered salt cod that is actually fairly similar to British chippie fish. It was instead a crumbed affair, probably from frozen. But no matter: the antipasti we had, speck rolled around mozzarella and walnut and served with a sauce made with a lot of mustard and weiss beer, was clearly freshly made and delicious. As was Fran’s burger, again handmade.

Birrifugio taps

But we weren’t really there for the food, we were there for the beer

I had the only Italian beer they had on tap, and Fran went for a Revelation from Dark Star. This is a brewery in West Sussex, in the south of England, not far from where we may well be living next year. Revelation is a seriously hoppy APA style ale. My beer on the other hand was an Ortiga from Lambrate brewery in Milan.

This is an immediately likeable, easy-drinking 5% ABV golden ale (“in stile English golden Ale“), one of those top-fermented beers that could open a whole new world up to lager drinkers. It’s a bright, clear orange-yellow colour. It’s made with pilsner and crystal malt. It’s got a light, fresh aroma, slightly piney, slightly citrusy, but nothing very strong, and a flavour that’s similarly fresh and very crisp.

It’s got a clean, dry mouthfeel, and is very hoppy at the end. I can’t state with certainty which hops are used though. Lambrate’s site doesn’t say, and other sources aren’t entirely in agreement. It’s either Aurora and Cascade (according to the Guida alle birre d’Italia 2013) or Aurora and Styrian Golding (according to Ratebeer). Ratebeer also says it’s dry hopped, which really sounds about right.

Lambrate Ortiga label

It’s a pity I didn’t know about this brewery when we visited Milan last year, as it’s got a brewpub and another bar in the Lambrate district of the city, and the Guida has a quote that says the former is “probably the best brewpub in Italy”.

Oh, and Lambrate’s beers have great labels too. They’re designed by an artist called Roger Webber, whose work can be seen here. I sort of get the text2 on Ortiga’s comic strip-style label, but when I Googled it for more info, I got a wiki page written in Lombàrt orientàl, that is East Lombardian, the language used in Milan and thereabouts. Considering I’m struggling enough with Standard Italian, this was a challenge. According to (English) Wikipedia, “Milanese and Italian are distinct Romance languages and are not mutually intelligible.” Or, as I’d probably prefer to phrase it, they’re mutually unintelligible.

So a friendly, professional beer (and whisky) bar, a pleasant beer, and a label with linguistic implications I don’t even want to think about too much.

Info
Birrifugio
Via Federico Rosazza 6, 00153 Roma
(+39) 06 5830 3189 | birrifugio.com | trastevere@birrifugio.com

(Also at Via Ferdinando Acton 18, 00122 Ostia)

Birrificio Lambrate
Brewpub Via Adelchi 5, 20131 Milano
Pub Via Golgi 60, 20133 Milano
Tel (+39) 02 70606746 | birrificiolambrate.com | birra@birrificiolambrate.com

Notes
1 It’s on a flyer I picked up at Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà? The six are: Ma Che, Birrifugio, Il Serpente (San Lorenzo), Le Bon Bock (Gianicolense), Mastro Titta (Ostiense), Treefolk’s (near the Colosseum).

2 The label says: “Faceva il palo nella banda dell ortica, ma era sguercio non ci vedeva quasi più ed è così che li hanno presi tutti senza fatica, li hanno presi tutti, quasi tutti tutti, fuorchè lui.” Which is standard Italian I think and means something like “He was on lookout duty for the Nettle Gang, but he was cross-eyed and he pretty didn’t see them [the cops], and just like that, they caught everyone without hassle, they took everyone, almost everyone, except him.” Or, in you prefer, in Milanese: “Faceva il palo nella banda de l’Ortiga, ma l’era sguercc, el ghe vedeva quasi pù, e l’è staa inscì che j’hann ciappaa senza fadiga, j’hann ciappaa tucc, ma proppi tucc, foeura che lù.” More info about the song here. In Milanese.

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Pizza al taglio di Eligio Fattori, Monteverde, Rome

Fine selection of pizzas at Eligio Fattori, Monteverde, Rome

Although it’s Gabriele Bonci that gets much of the acclaim in the Roman (and wider Italian) pizza scene for his Pizzarium outlet, in every neighbourhood in the city there are a gazillion other pizza al taglio (“pizza by the slice”) places quietly going about their business. Many of these are mediocre – though even then, they’re better than the majority of pizza to be found internationally. And some of them are even pretty good. Pizza al taglio di Eligio Fattori is one of them.

It’s found in the hinterlands between Monteverde Vecchio and Monteverde Nuovo, not that far from the Gianicolo (Janiculum) and the splendid open space that Villa Doria Pamphili park. For a long time, we’ve been giving our patronage to a pizza a taglio place closer to home (Da Simone on Via G Carini), but when a friend and fellow baker mentioned Eligio Fattori, and its famed long fermentation dough, we had to check it out. And we’re very glad we did too.

Pizza a taglio di Eligio Fattori, Viale di Villa Pamphili, Rome

Sometimes, I meet Fran after work, and walk up from Trastevere railway station, up Viale dei Quattro Venti, paying a visit to the beer shop that’s recently opened up there (number 265; it’s a branch of Gradi Plato), before turning off the main drag and up onto Viale di Villa Pamphili.

Pizza a taglio on Viale di Villa Pamphil Rome, Irish pub beyond

Located just past an unexpected “Irish pub” called Finn MacCumhal, Pizza al taglio di Eligio Fattori looks very ordinary. It doesn’t even have a name, just a little symbol with two illegible letters in the style of the General Electric logo (are they “E” & “F”? Dunno) and “Pizza a taglio” in large green letters. In the summer and fair weather, there are some plastic benches outside. When we were arrived an old couple and some mums and kids were there, finishing feasting on boards of pizza slices.

If you want pizza, ring the bell

Inside, it’s pretty small (Siamo un piccolo negozio con un grande prodotto – “We’re a small shop with a grand product”), but has some character. There’s a bell on the wall with a sign saying “If you want pizza, ring the bell” and there’s a framed quote by John Ruskin (in Italian). This is a nice touch for us, as we lived just off Herne Hill in south London for several years – and Ruskin used to live just up the road (before our time of course….). Here’s an English translation of the quote. Whether this Common law of business balance was even authored by Ruskin is debated, but clearly they’re saying if you feel you’re paying a little more for the Eligio Fattori pizza, it’s because you’re paying for better quality, though prize-wise it seems pretty on a par to other a taglio places.

Ruskin

I’ve got their business card here and it says they have “200 types of pizza” – though not all at the same time. They change seasonally. It also lists their accomplishments, including Pizza campione nel mondo – pizza world champion – 1991 and 2011. I’m not sure it’s the best pizza I’ve ever had, but for a neighbourhood a taglio place it’s great. This is in part because, where many places apparently use factory made frozen dough (Marco Farchioni, of Farchioni olive oil, recently told me), Eligio Fattori make their own – and even boast on their card that they make: L’unico impasto al mondo realizzato metà acqua metà farina, 1 gr di lievito ogni chilo di farina. Senza aggiunto di grassi animali con olio extravergine e soia. 72 ore di lievitazione naturale. That is, “The only dough in the world made with half water, half flour, 1g of yeast for every kilo of flour. Without added animal fats, with extravirgin olive oil and soya oil. 72 hours of natural  leavening.” This isn’t exactly a recipe, and 72 hours seems a little long – surely the yeast would exhaust itself? – but the results are very good.

Pizza a taglio di Eligio Fattori, Viale di Villa Pamphili, Rome

On our visit a few days ago, we had suppli (which were tasty, but not a patch on home-made), and a couple of different pizzas from their extensive choice, which includes many  stuffed styles. I had a one with cherry tomatoes and some chili – and it was delicious. Basic, without too many toppings, is often best as there’s no conflict among the flavours. Fran had speck with a gorgonzola sauce. I didn’t try it, but she said it was “creamy, lovely, with wood-smoky speck, and the sauce over the top, so the dough didn’t get soggy.”

Our platter

I kinda wish we’d got more. I’m making myself hungry just writing about it.

Info:
Pizza a taglio di Eligio Fattori, Viale di Villa Pamphili 46A, Monteverde, Rome
Tel 06 581 2208

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Baladin and del Borgo beers at No.Au bistrot, Rome

Baladin Nazionale, Bira del Borgo Keto Reporter at no.au

Just to the northwest of the faintly grotesque tourist nexus that is Piazza Navona, Rome’s Centro Storico (“historic centre”) offers a maze of streets, alleyways and piazzette. There, it’s possible to wander, get lost, find yourself again, elude the tourists mobs, bump into them again, and even find filming locations from Eat Pray Love (ugh). Among the cobbles and crumbling apartment blocks are numerous bars, restaurants and gelaterie. Our destination last night was No.Au, a bar/restaurant located between the handsome Chiostro del Bramante and the somewhat chichi Via dei Coronari (which even boasts one of Rome’s few cupcake shops these days. Bloody cupcakes).

No.Au, which opened in summer 2012, is a collaboration between several big names in Italy’s craft brewing and food scene who wanted to “recreate the atmosphere of a Parisian bistro, with quality products and good company, in the centre of Rome.” You’ll find the whole spiel (in English), and an explanation of the name of the place, here on the Baladin site. Why is it on the Baladin site? Because one of those (five) big names is Teo Musso, the founder and master brewer of Baladin, Italy’s biggest craft brewer.The bar and taps at No.Au Rome

So key is Musso in the Italian craft brewery scene, a biography has even recently been published. It’s called ‘La birra artigianale è tutta colpa di Teo’ (“Baladin. Craft beer is Teo’s fault” – ie Musso is to blame, ie responsible, for the whole craft beer scene in Italy.) Presumably the title is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but certainly Musso is among the most influential of Italy’s craft brewers. His collaborators here are Luca Tosato (also of Baladin), Leonardo di Vincenzo (master brewer of Birra del Borgo), Paolo Bertani (also of Borgo, and previously Baladin) and Gabriele Bonci (renowned pizzaiolo and TV regular whose company produces the breads for Open Baladin bar. We did a pizza course with him last year).

It’s no surprise, then, that at No.Au, the main beers you’ll find on tap are from Baladin and del Borgo, but they also have others, in bottles, both Italian and international. Beside where we sat was an old box of US brewer Dogfish Head’s intriguing/strange Midas Touch. I stayed with Baladin for my first choice. As I’d tried a lot of the offerings on tap, I went for a Nazionale (6.5% ABV), which the friendly, helpful waitress described as a “simple” beer. It’s described as an Italian Ale – as it’s top fermented and also because it’s made with entirely Italian ingredients. This includes the hops – which was a pleasant surprise, as so many Italian craft beers seem to depend on international hops.

No.Au Rome snacks

This really was a pleasing beer, perfect to accompany the antipasti we’d ordered:  a plate of bufala e prosciutto and some very fine freshly cooked potato crisps/chips accompanied by three flavours of mayo. As the waitress said, it was simple – a golden yellow, with a quickly subsiding soft head, very subtle aroma of ginger and lemon, and a fairly sweet, mildly hoppy smooth taste (27 IBU). Molto beverina.

Fran’s first beer was Keto RePorter (5.2% ABV) from Birra del Borgo. This porter is made with the addition of Kentucky tobacco leaves, but it was also very mild from the few sips I had.

As the beers were served in half-pints, and we’d finished the antipasti, I fancied trying something a little more interesting, so the waitress recommended Baladin’s Open Rolling Stone, which they described as an Italian APA on their blackboard, but as an IPA on Ratebeer. Either way, this beer, branded for the magazine of the same name, is very tasty. It’s relatively strong, at 7.5%, and had a slight perfume of camomile and a reasonable head. At first taste it was soft and sweet, but this gave way to a drier, slightly hoppy flavour (it’s still only a fairly moderate 36 IBU though, according to Baladin’s site). I was enjoying this one, but about half-way through my half-pint it started getting a bit detergenty, losing its crispness.

Wine, food, beer at No.Au Rome

Fran’s second one was a Genziana from del Borgo. I’ve had this before, though didn’t try it last night. It’s a really interesting beer made with bitter gentian flowers.

When some friends arrived, we ordered some more food. The emphasis here is on snacks and food that’s either stirato (“ironed” ) or crudo (“raw”). The ironing takes place on a piastra (flat top grill).  I was slightly surprised to see a lot meat available (such as sandwiches made with burger buns and sliced roast beef), as over at Katie Parla’s site she reports how Bonci’s places are going vegetarian for a month to protest Rome’s lack of appreciation of Lazio’s farmers and producers. I asked the waitress, and she said the menu was in transition. So if you visit any time in late July, there may be more vegetarian food.  I had seppia (cuttlefish), which had been ironed in a folded sheet of parchment, with zucchini. Served with an ink mayo, it wasn’t bad, but I would say this place is more about the drinks and antipasti, more a place for aperitivi or after-dinner drinks.

Talking of after-dinner drinks, when we’d eaten, I ordered one more (hey, that still makes just one and a half pints).  I got Baladin’s Isaac, a 5% blanche made with orange zest and coriander and it was a perfect palette cleanser.

No.Au exterior, note like of sign

All in all, a very pleasant evening. Although the place only started to fill up, and the lights went down, around 8.30-9.00pm, it’s definitely a good place to visit for quality Italian craft beers. And plates of cheese. And maybe even some wine. Oh, and the music was pretty good too. All this within a stone’s throw of Piazza Navona and its thoroughly-worth-avoiding eating and drinking options.

Info
No.Au, Piazza di Montevecchio 16A, 00186, Rome
No.Au blog / noauroma@gmail.com / 06 45 65 27 70

Baladin brewery (English site)

Birra del Borgo brewery (English site)

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Filed under Ale, beer, Bars, pubs etc, Breweries, Restaurants etc

A quick tour of Nomentana neighbourhood and New Morning beer at Kombeer bar

New Morning

My friend Giammarco, teacher, novelist, ghost writer for academics (!), doesn’t much like beer, certainly not proper beer. He’s the sort of guy who’s satisfied with the axis of industrial yuck that is Peroni/Morretti/Menabrea. So I was quite surprised when we met up for drink in Nomentana, a neighbourhood northeast of Termini station and just outside the Aurelian Walls, and he suggested a nearby birreria (beer bar). A new birreria? Come no!

It proved to be an interesting stroll. I already knew the main drags through Nomentana but had never really explored the backstreets. We didn’t exactly explore, but just strolled through. Giammarco dove into a second-hand bookshop where he got a pristine novel for a mere Euro (a book like that would sell for about £5, €6, in the UK). It’s a shame I can’t really read idiomatic Italian… what bargains. We strolled on, past the old Peroni factory, built in 1908-1922. Production stopped there in 1971.

IMAG0032

Apparently the building is being converted into a giant birreria. According to Giammarco. Though it being Roma, even if that is on the cards, it may take 10 years and several changes of local government for it to actually fall into place. Indeed, this site (in Italian) says it was going to be converted into a centre for arts documentation and a cinema, so who knows what’ll happen to the redevelopment plan. Like Battersea Power Station, some developer will probably just get his way to turn it into expensive apartments in the end.

We then passed by the Mercato Nomentano di Piazza Alessandria, a very handsome building with grandly arched entrances and looming pediments. The market was built in 1926 in what Giammarco called a “Liberty” style – that is art nouveau – and inaugurated in 1929. I’m no architectural historian, but it looks more art deco to me, or at least from a kind of transitional style. Check out this old pic from 1940.

PIAZZA_ALESSANDRIA_1940

After a worrying moment where it looked like Giammaroc couldn’t remember the location of the birreria we were looking for, Kombeer, we finally found it…. Closed. It was 5.45pm. This always bemuses me as a Brit because our drinking culture is so much about leaving work and going straight to the pub. Go to any British city and if you’re in an area dense with offices, come 5.30pm, the pubs will like as not be chockablock with people loosening their ties (poor bastards) and forgoing any proper solid food.

We malingered a bit while the Kombeer staff swept up and laid out seating in their little patio area among the parked cars. Before too long we were seated and the waitress came to discuss the beers. Which is all very nice in a hands-on kind of way, but not great is you speak bad (or no) Italian. And not ideal if you’re not acquainted with Italian birre artigianale – which dominate the options here, though there we also some international craft beers, both bottled and alla spina (on tap).

Although I speak some Italian and know some of the breweries and beers, I really didn’t follow… my brain doesn’t work so well when it comes to, like, remembering stuff, so in the absence of a menu I went to the bar to check out the taps. There are about eight, with the sort of temporarily attached labels that indicate regular rotation of new beers. The waitress let me try a few beers, which is always a good sign, and I chose a New Morning (English site) as I remember enjoying it elsewhere many months ago.

New Morning (or Nuova Mattina, depending on which batch you get) is a saison-style beer from Birrificio del Ducato, northwest of Parma in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. This award-winning brewery was founded in 2007 by Giovanni Campari. Their own site calls this food science and technology graduate and former home brewer a “radical and visionary Brewmaster” and certainly the beers of theirs I’ve tried ­– Verdi Imperial Stout, Sally Brown ­– have been tasty and interesting, so fair dues.

new-morning

Anyway, I wasn’t familiar with saison beers before coming to Rome – heck, I’m the first to say I’m an enthusiast not an expert. But from the saisons I have tried, it’s a pretty diverse style (genre?) of beer, though it’s generally defined by fruity flavours, with varying degrees of spiciness and hoppiness and minimal maltiness.

New Morning itself was, at first taste, fairly hoppy, but when a full glass arrived, replete with substantial but quickly subsiding head, the complexity of flavour quickly amended this sensation, with definite spiciness and floral notes. This is unsurprisingly, given that the beer’s made with “wild flowers, chamomile, coriander, green peppercorn and ginger.” My questions for Mr Campari would be – what wild flowers?

Still, such a nagging query didn’t undermine my enjoyment. In fact, while Giammarco sipped one, taking an age with his aperitivo in true Italian style and mourning the rigid state of Italian culture, I – in true British style – went back inside to ask for another. Hey, it’s only 5%. The bar, which is funky in an easy-going way, was still empty at 7.30pm. Which struck me as strange, especially as the neighbouring pizzerias were filling up with the local bourgeoisie. Maybe Kombeer gets rammed later in the evening. I’ll have to re-visit at some stage. Sheesh, so many beer bars to visit, so many birre artigianale to try.

Oh, and apparently Campari named the brew after the 1970 Bob Dylan song.

Infodump:

Kombeer BirreriArtigianale, Via Alessandria 39, 00198 Roma

Birrificio del Ducato
birrificiodelducato.net (English)

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Rome: closed for the holidays

Closed for the holidays

We’ve lived in Rome for nearly a year now. We arrived last August, and soon became familiar with shuttered-up shops and restaurants adorned with various signs saying “Chiuso per ferie”: Closed for the holidays. People, very sensibly, avoiding the heat, humidity, traffic fumes, and stench of garbage cooking in the dumpsters and dog shit dry-fried on the pavements.

Having said that, there’s also something pleasant about Rome in August: it calms down, marginally.

As summer rolled around again this year, the shutters started coming down. In July, the woman in our local pet supplies shop said to me: “When are you going?” “Going where?” I responded, slightly confused. “Vacanze!” Oh, right, of course. She was checking what supplies I needed for our cats as she was going away at the start of August, and wouldn’t be back till the end of the month.

It’s not like every business closes for the entirety of August, but a reasonable proportion still do. Apparently Rome used to be even quieter in August, especially from Ferragosto – the 15 August holiday that traditionally marks the hottest point of the year. (I reckon it’s heading for 40C ish this year.) The word, like ferie, is close to the Latin for festivals, Feriae, but I like to think of it as “ferro agosto” – iron august, when it’s so bloody hot, it’s like being hit with a metal bar. Or metal getting so hot you can’t touch it. Or something.

Anyway, the fruit and veg vendors I favour said bye in late July, and now the market is half-empty, the various metal shacks totally locked down. When we moved into our current flat on 4 September 2011, the big, popular restaurant on the corner was all closed still, but this year I spotted a sign proudly stating they’re open for August. Though maybe they’ll be staggering their holiday, and closing for September.

As a Brit, this continues to tickle me. It’s just such an alien concept. We have a different work ethic, and a different work-life balance. You’ve got to admire these people for retaining the sanctity of holiday, of time with family and friends. If Sunday is the week’s day of rest, then August is the year’s equivalent.

My only point of reference in British culture is from stories by the likes of W Somerset Maugham and EM Forster, describing a very middle-class, or upper middle-class milieu in Edwardian Britain. But even most well-off Brits wouldn’t consider taking a whole month off these days. It’s not like it’s a comparable class issue here though. Many Italians I speak to, from different walks of life, have seaside or country houses, including our neighbours, who aren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination (she’s a perpetuated stressed single mother, for example). Maybe it’s a bit more like the New Zealand culture of the “bach”, a second property to retreat to for a break, be it a shack in the hills or a nice pad on the beach. (Oh, and many Brits are confused by “bach” – well, it’s short for bachelor pad, innit.)

I don’t know whether my friendly grocers have gone to a country retreat, but they’re certainly having a nice long holiday.

A few weeks back, in July, I wanted to get some chocolates for a present from a cioccolateria, and found this sign:

Lucky them

Nearly three months! Respect. Is selling handmade chocs really that profitable? This is in Trastevere, a favourite location with tourists, so maybe it is. Or maybe it’s just a practicality. Perhaps it’s just too messy trying to sell handmade chocolates in the summer.

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Innocenti is bliss

My noble quest to try castagnole and frappe from, well, as many different pasticcerie as possible, continues. Today we dropped by Innocenti, which, for sheer vintage cuteness, is incomparable.

Nestled in Via della Luce, a cobbled backstreet in the slightly less touristy part of Roma’s Trastevere (that is, to the east of Viale Trasteve), the shop is dominated by the vast form of a veteran conveyor oven, which is currently partially stacked with frappe and castagnole.

And very nice they are too. We bought castagnole con crema and yer basic frappe. Just scoffed a load, then managed a bit of self restraint and stashed some for later. That said, better finish them soon, so I can justify sampling some more from another outlet…

Innocenti, aka Biscottificio Artigiano Innocenti, 21 Via della Luce.

And look at all the goodies they sell. Not just biscuits. Yum. Got my work cut out for me.

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Filed under Baking, Food misc, Rome